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UK schools 'need greater focus on spoken communication skills'

10/11/2016 Joanna

A new campaign has been launched to push for a greater emphasis on spoken communication skills in UK schools.

Voice 21, an organisation linked to the London free school School 21, has allied with the educational charity the English-Speaking Union to establish the Oracy Network, a campaign group that will call for extra training and support to help teachers develop speaking skills among their students.

According to their research, 68 per cent of classroom teachers consider the development of oracy skills to be very important, a figure that rises to 84 per cent among headteachers. However, this is not a discipline that currently receives the same level of focus as numeracy or literacy.

Of more than 900 teachers polled by the organisations, it was revealed that 57 per cent said they had not received any training in oracy in the last three years, while 53 per cent said they would not know where to look for more information on this subject if they were seeking it.

Moreover, it was shown that independent schools are presently more likely than state schools to feel oracy contributes a great deal to their pupils' linguistic development, with independent schools also much more likely to have debate clubs, work with external organisations to support oracy, and to speak to parents about the standard of their children's verbal contributions in lessons.

The Oracy Network will therefore be launching an inquiry into the future of speaking skills in January 2017 to help give this issue a higher profile.

Beccy Earnshaw, director of Voice 21, said: "If we are truly committed to empowering every young person regardless of their background with the belief that their voice has value and the ability to articulate their thoughts so others will listen, then it is time to get talking in class."

Recent Comments
As well as how to articulate themselves, children of all ages would benefit from learning how to choose their words carefully and speak compassionately with each other. The teachings of Dr Marshall Rosenberg's Nonviolent Communication (based on the theory that violence isn't only physical but also verbal) focuses on non-judgement and speaking at the level of needs rather than perceptions and is powerful in raising children who are able to articulate their feelings and needs and empathise with others' feelings and needs. I train businesses in this method, but also did a volunteer session with our local primary school and the pupils took to it so easily and it really made a difference.
Penelope Newton-Hurley, 11 November 2016
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