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VOICE 21: Raising our voices for Oracy

11 November 2016: posted by BigChange

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Big Change Founder Holly B and Karl Lokko at The Oracy Network launch.

With funds raised by the Virgin STRIVE Challenge 2016, we will be continuing our partnership with Voice 21 – an exciting project born out of School 21 which is working to have oracy and communication skills valued as highly as literacy and numeracy in our schools.

We all know that verbal communication skills are important; we use them everyday at home, at work, and with our friends and family. As it stands, employers rank oracy as the number one most important employability skill, but currently students that come from low socio-economic backgrounds speak on average just four words per lesson. Voice 21 operates on the belief that every young person should be given the opportunity to find their voice, giving them a better and more equal chance at success later in life.

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Holly & Karl amongst students and guests at the Oracy Network Launch.

Last week, we attended Voice 21’s launch of The Oracy Network in partnership with the English-Speaking Union (ESU) at the House of Lords. Both Voice 21 and the ESU share a passionate belief in the importance of oracy and communication as an area of education, and have established the network as a place where teachers, educators, and policy makers can share support and reinforce each others work. The hope is that by creating this platform, the great work happening in the area of oracy can inspire and enable other educators around the UK to follow suit.

With the help of Big Change, Voice 21 also published their new research report, ‘The State of Speaking in Our Schools’, which shines a light on the current state of oracy across schools in the UK. The report focuses particularly on the statistics around oracy, teachers’ understandings of the concept, how it’s supported in the classroom and the main barriers to delivery. It also sets out recommendations for how we can improve the quality and consistency of verbal communication in schools.

One of the findings in the report that struck us was that a high percentage of teachers, 68% classroom and 84% head teachers, believe oracy to be incredibly valuable to a young persons education and development. It helps young people to increase confidence, develop understandings of particular subjects, express emotions, and expand career opportunities – yet it still fails to be given the same status as literacy and numeracy. According to the report, this came down to teachers’ lack of time, competing priorities, lack of expertise and more.

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Statements in Voice 21’s report from teachers on the importance of Oracy in education.

This is where Voice 21’s tried and tested curriculum, developed with Cambridge University, comes in. It’s clear that oracy is a highly valued skill, and that we need to raise it’s profile in our education system more broadly so that all young people have access to the opportunity to develop it. Voice 21 has tailored an effective curriculum, and now they are ready to share it around the country to help create this change.

The launch of the Oracy Network and the research report will also be following by Voice 21’s campaign in collaboration with Big Change to raise the profile of speaking in education. It has been so exciting to watch Voice 21 grow from and idea to a concrete curriculum, and now to a movement that we think has the potential to change our education system for good, empowering more young people to find their voices.

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School 21 Student Ava delivers a passionate ‘Ignite Speech’ – an assignment that all students are required to do at the end of each year.

While speaking at the event, Head Teacher of School 21 Peter Hyman described the cause behind Voice 21 as a moral one; saying that “oracy is an engine of social mobility.” Much more than just a skill, it could be the key to a brighter future for many children, and we look forward to continuing to support Voice 21 in making that a reality.


Read the report. 

Find out more about Voice 21.

Read about other Big Change project partners.