Speakers Trust welcomes the Oracy Education Commission

By : Russell Findlay | March 15, 2024

Speakers Trust believes that every young person should have the confidence, skills and opportunity to speak and be heard.

We have now helped over half a million young people to develop their speaking and listening skills.  We have witnessed the opportunities that a good oracy education provides.  However, we have also learned much about the barriers that prevent too many young people benefiting from these opportunities.

The creation Commission, following on from Keir Starmer’s commitment to speaking lessons in schools is a welcome move in a year which promises to be exciting for oracy in schools.

Russell Findlay, CEO of Speakers Trust said

“We welcome the new Commission, and applaud its mission to drive a systemic shift in access to oracy education in England.  Every day, Speakers Trust helps hundreds of young people to develop their speaking skills.  The impact can be transformational.  I look forward to sharing our learnings from the last twenty years with the commission.”

We believe this is increasingly important to young people’s employability, their engagement with society and their mental wellbeing.

In a workplace that is increasingly becoming dominated by automation and artificial intelligence, it is the human skills, like speaking and listening, that are least able to be replicated by machines, that will become even more important for success.

Equipping young people with effective communication skills is a key driver of social mobility and economic growth in the UK, by ensuring that we prepare a diverse future workforce capable of innovation, leadership, and collaboration.

Empowering young people with speaking skills is not only important for their careers, but essential for mental wellbeing, and community engagement.

We know that speaking and listening skills can be taught.  Every day we meet hundreds of students such as Chiara, whose story was featured in the Observer.   Through building their speaking skills, we enable them to take steps towards overcoming anxiety, building a positive self image and realising that their voice counts.

This is why we advocate for the systematic teaching of speaking and listening skills within the formal education system.  This will ensure that these essential competencies are integrated into the curriculum and practised across all subjects.

 About Speakers Trust:

Speakers Trust creates and supports opportunities for young people to develop, practise, and showcase their speaking and listening skills.  Working together with more than 600 state secondary schools, we will work directly with over 40,000 young people this academic year.

By complementing a curriculum enriched by speaking and listening skills, programmes like Speak Out Challenge build confidence, support positive mental health, and provide young people the opportunity to have their ideas and perspectives shared with their community.

About the Oracy Education Commission: 

The Commission on the Future of Oracy Education in England is an independent commission, chaired by Geoff Barton.

Its commissioners include

  • Sally Apps – Education Director, Cabot Learning Federation.
  • Jeffrey Boakye –  educator, broadcaster, journalist and author of books including author of I Heard What You Said and Black, Listed
  • Stephen Coleman – Professor of Political Communication, University of Leeds and author of How People Talk About Politics: Brexit and Beyond.
  • Christine Counsell – curriculum thinker, historian and author.
  • Rob Drummond- Professor of Sociolinguistics, Manchester Metropolitan University and author of You’re All Talk: Why We Are What We Speak.
  • Sarah Houghton- Director of Mental Health Workforce Development, Place2Be.
  • Rufus Norris– Artistic Director and Chief Executive of the National Theatre.
  • Sonia Thompson– Head Teacher, St Matthew’s CE Primary School and author of An Ethic of Excellence in Action.

The Commission is responding to the growing recognition of the importance of spoken language to children’s learning and life chances and increasing evidence and concern as to the impact of the inconsistency, quality and accessibility of oracy education in schools across England.

With the demands of a global economy, the surge of artificial intelligence, and the persistent and pernicious achievement gap and inequality in life-chances, there is a pressing need to ensure that all children and young people benefit from an education that builds their language, understanding and confidence to find and use their voice to thrive in their learning and life beyond school. The Commission will shape recommendations to lead to a systemic shift in access to oracy education in England.

The Commission launches a call for evidence on Friday 15 March, with a final report and recommendations published in September 2024.