Where do you think Oracy belongs in a school’s curriculum?
For most of us, we immediately associate Oracy with English lessons. At Speakers Trust, we have been delivering oracy programmes with schools for over 15 years. It is true that most often, we are signposted to the English or Drama departments.
But if this is where Oracy starts and ends in a school, then there is a missed opportunity to developing speaking and listening skills in young people. A recent Report delivered by MPs and Peers, as part of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Oracy, has shown that speaking and listening skills are critical to the prospects of young people. They support students academic attainment, their employability skills and their ability to influence the society around them.
Confining Oracy to the English dpeartment would also mean that students miss the opportunity to learn through talk. The Covid pandemic, and the dash by schools to set up Zoom lessons, have illustrated so clearly the need for students to be able to learn a range of subjects through talking, not just writing.
This is why Speakers Trust and Royal Museums Greenwich have created a cross-curricular oracy project to inspire young people to speak out on the issues that matter to them. The programme, funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, uses oracy not only to develop young people’s speaking and listening skills through Art, but is helping them explore History, Art and Citizenship.
The programme focuses on the Armada Portrait, which is an iconic piece of history rich in themes, ideas and images that resonate with many of the things that still matter to young people today – from gender equality to the environment, power to fashion, privilege to family.
This project encourages young people to identify and understand the themes of the Armada Portrait and find what resonates with them.
“It’s given an opportunity to show that oracy is not just an ‘English’ area- but one that should be addressed across all subjects.” Ms Howlett, Epping St Johns
The first few workshops have already shown what an important project this is. The approach is succeeding in increasing knowledge and understanding of the historic context. Early workshops show that, over 90% of students have increased their understanding of the historical significance of Queen Elizabeth and the symbolism in the Armada portrait. Over 80% of students are also reporting an increase in confidence and communication skills. The workshops are having a lasting impact too. Teachers have reported how this has empowered their students, and positively developed their teaching.
For us at Speakers Trust, it is a model of teaching and learning we would encourage other Museums and cultural organisations to take up. Not only has the project shown how teachers can be inspired to use cultural and heritage assets to develop important life skills, but students are building an important understanding of and appreciation for Britain’s cultural assets.