In March this year, The King Edward VI School was awarded the highly prestigious English Speaking Union (ESU) Oracy Culture Award for secondary schools. This award, which was open to all English secondary schools, recognises the excellent work that we have done to promote oracy over the last twelve months.
Oracy is the ability to communicate effectively. Employers put good oral communication at the top of their requirements for employees. At our school, we are aiming to elevate oracy to the same level of importance as literacy and numeracy. The hard work of our staff and students reflects this principle, as recognised by the ESU through the Oracy Culture Award.
Although our Debate Society has a long and successful history of developing aspects of oracy such as presentational talk, this year we have focused on developing the oracy skills of all students by learning to talk and learning through talk. The introduction of oracy credits into the school behaviour system and oracy assessments for PSHE lessons has been an important way of developing and recognising our students’ speaking and listening skills. All Year 9 students have benefitted from a special oracy unit during tutor time where they have learnt about the particular oracy strands and how to develop fluency. The scheme has been very successful and will form an important part of tutor time for all students in school in the next academic year.
The ESU judges commented that they were particularly impressed with the workshops and clubs that our high school students have designed and run within the first and middle schools in The Three Rivers Learning Trust. These successful projects have allowed our students to build on their own oracy and leadership skills and to share these widely with the future generations of The King Edward VI School students.
Our prize was a full day’s ‘Discover your Voice’ workshop run by an experienced debater from English Speaking Union’s team on the 21st June. Students from across Year 9 to 12 were treated to a wonderful variety of practical activities and skills sessions that were designed to challenge and develop their oracy skills. These focused on tone of voice, use of rhetorical features and how to express complex ideas in a powerful and concise way. They were also introduced to a new format of debating and enjoyed the practical experience of applying this to a series of complex and engaging topics, including politics, sport and the environment.
We came away from the session full of ideas about how to spread these oracy skills to our wider school community and look forward to building on our successes in the new school year.