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How can young people find their voice for success in school and beyond?

Voice 21

London, United Kingdom
Voice 21 is a charity that exists to enable teachers and schools to provide a high quality oracy education. They deliver teacher development and school improvement programmes and as campaign for oracy to have a higher status in the education system.
Introduction

What is Voice 21?

Oli de Botton, Head Teacher, School 21
“Every student has something to say. It’s the job of a school to help students find their voice, confidence and poise. Voices have the power to shape viewpoints, resolve differences and overcome obstacles.”

Oli de Botton, Head Teacher, School 21

The capacity to communicate clearly, the ability to articulate thoughts and ideas eloquently and the confidence to speak in a wide range of contexts are fundamental to success in life and work. Yet too few young people are taught the skills and knowledge they need to thrive as confident speakers.

Evidence shows that improvements in speaking skills, or oracy, have significant positive impacts on academic outcomes, employability, wellbeing, self-esteem, civic engagement and social mobility. But there is no shared understanding or common expectation for oracy across schools. As spoken communication has no explicit currency within the UK school system, oracy is often viewed as a peripheral or optional undertaking by schools.

Young people from poorer backgrounds suffer a double disadvantage in relation to oracy. On average, they have significantly lower levels of spoken communication skills when starting school and are less likely to attend a school that has a focus on oracy. This means that, all too often, these young people are denied the opportunity to learn how to articulate their ideas effectively and gain the confidence to find their voice. 

Through a focus on oracy in school, children and young people learn how to express themselves and communicate clearly. They become able to explain ideas and emotions to other people, not only in a school setting but in their lives outside the classroom too. They develop the skills to listen effectively, discuss and respond with meaning, and debate and disagree agreeably. They gain the confidence, self-belief and courage to speak in public and share their thoughts, intellect and creativity with the world.

Voice 21 was launched in 2015, based on methods and approaches developed at School 21 in East London. 

At School 21, oracy is at the heart of teaching and learning. Assemblies are restructured, grouping students into discussion circles for greater participation and debate. Classrooms are talk-rich, with discussion guidelines and talk roles helping students to navigate new ideas and build on each other’s understanding. Harkness discussions, where students sit at seminar-style circular tables to explore and challenge new topics, are commonplace. Reception pupils are taught the techniques of storytellers and from age 8 and all pupils deliver TED-style talks to an audience.

Inspired by this approach and by the growing demand for oracy education, Voice 21 was launch to support teachers and schools across the UK to develop the capacity of all teachers to embed oracy into their teaching and learning. 

Working with School 21 and Oracy Cambridge, a research center at the University of Cambridge, Voice 21 has created a framework, curriculum and teacher toolkit for oracy. 

Voice 21 now works with thousands of teachers every year, offering professional development programmes, resources and research to ensure the development of excellent oracy teaching practice. 

They are also part of the Oracy All Party Parliamentary Group currently running in the UK to investigate the current provision of oracy education in the UK, assess the value and impact of oracy education and identify the barriers to children accessing and receiving quality oracy education..

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Innovation Overview
ALL
Target Group
-
Children/Users
4
Countries
2015
Established
For-profit
Organisation
4 274
Views
Tips for implementation
The roots of a high quality oracy education are in the classroom. Teachers are best placed to develop their students’ capacity to discuss, deliberate and reason effectively. Voice 21 offers professional development programmes, resources and research to enable excellent practice in oracy teaching.
Connect with innovator
Lizzie Lynch
B
HundrED Review
Innovativeness

Voice 21 is all about bringing a lost teaching technique back into the classroom. One of the biggest barriers students face is a lack of communication skills. Voice 21 aims to give students confidence in oracy again.

Impact

Voice 21 has trained thousands of teachers, worked with hundreds of schools across the UK and dramatically increased the resources available to support oracy teaching and learning.

Scalability

Currently, Voice 21 works predominantly in the UK. Their resources have been used across the US, Australia, Europe and Asia.

Media

See this innovation in action

Post | Voice 21 | Oracy | United Kingdom
Oracy in the Classroom: Strategies for Effective Talk
https://www.voice21resources.org/

Milestones

Achievements & Awards

Map

Spread of the innovation

Steps

Inspired to implement this? Here's how...

01
Build an understanding of oracy
Normalising the language used to structure and teach oracy helps to embed oracy in the culture of a school.
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02
Make oracy part of the school culture
Embedding oracy across the whole school emphasises the value of speaking and listening and ensures that students' voices are recognised and respected at every opportunity.
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03
Facilitate classroom practice
Planning for talk ensures that students are gaining the most from talk activities.
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04
Plan an oracy curriculum
An oracy curriculum should provide students with lots of different opportunities to practice different types of talk and develop their oracy skills.
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05
Offer assessment and feedback
The Four Strands provide a useful way to assess a student’s performance in oracy and understand how they can make progress.
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