Oracy APPG – Speak For Change Interim Inquiry December 2020

The Oracy APPG (All Party Parliamentary Group) exists to co-ordinate research, promote best practice and encourage the overarching principles of Oracy in education and society at large. Oracy is where learning totalk meets learning through talk. The APPG is supported by members of the Oracy Network, including Noisy Classroom.

Earlier this month, the Oracy APPG released its interim report on its ‘Speak for Change’ inquiry, which was launched to build on the current momentum to improve Oracy in our education system. Noisy Classroom was proud to contribute to this report. In total, 120 written contributions were received and the final version of the report will be released in spring 2021

The interim report made the following findings:

  • Value and impact

Oracy underpins academic outcomes – as one teacher put it: “if they can’t talk about it, they’re going to struggle to write about it.”

  • Provision and Access

Children from disadvantaged backgrounds have lower levels of language development compared to their peers. It is these groups that see the most significant impact of Oracy education. A lack of access to these skills – which is all too common in this demographic – can have a detrimental impact on these groups.

Oracy has a critical role to play in our young people’s futures, whether it relates to higher education or employment. Noisy Classroom is quoted in the report on this point:

“Seminar teaching at university expects the ability to articulate your thoughts within a wider academic dialogue. To critically engage with material, assess evidence and to compare the different interpretations and approaches is at the heart of so much of the study of the humanities, arts and social sciences. If a student’s prior experience of this is limited they are ill-prepared for the rigour of higher level academic practice.”

  • Barriers to improving Oracy education

Oracy provision in schools is inconsistent – in some schools there is still an ethos that communication skills are ‘caught not taught’, which is at odds with the evidence that Oracy needs to be taught.

The National Curriculum statutory requirements for spoken language, which are perhaps not emphasised enough, are not enacted in all schools.

The removal of the speaking and listening component at GCSE suggested a downgrading of its importance. It is often not prioritised as assessed subjects take priority.

Teachers don’t always have the confidence to implement an Oracy strategy in their classrooms, and so it gets marginalised.

Oracy has always mattered to the individual and to society as a whole, but the report demonstrates why it matters more than ever since the COVID-19 pandemic. This is because:

  • The word-gap is widening as a result of school closures
  • Communication skills are regressing
  • Well-being has been severely impacted – Oracy plays a significant role in this. We all need to be able to articulate our feelings, emotions and concerns.
  • The inquiry has take place against a backdrop of seismic social and political upheaval. It is critical that young people have a voice and Oracy can empower young people by giving them the tools to stand up and be counted.
  • Unemployment has rocketed and employers place great emphasis on communication skills.

Noisy Classroom looks forward to reading the final report in the spring, and continues to champion Oracy in the classroom as we have always done. You can read the full report at www.oracyappg.org.

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