‘Forgotten Third’ Commission Calls for greater focus on oracy


Just as schools reopened for the new academic year, ASCLs Forgotten Third Commission released the findings from their year-long inquiry into how outcomes can be improved for students who don’t reach a ‘grade 4’ in English and Maths GCSE. Chaired by Roy Blatchford, the Commission made wide-ranging conclusions from how the discontinuity between primary and secondary teaching compromises the teaching of English to the need for a new ‘competency-based qualification’ to replace the current English Language GCSE.

Central to the recommendation are calls for speaking and listening to be seen as an ‘integral part of the curriculum across all subjects’. Commissioners found that too often teachers assume students arrive with developed speaking and listening skills and do not teach these skills to students.

“Phrases from the teacher along the lines of ‘get into groups and discuss’ are common, but when and
where do we teach students the skills necessary to discuss effectively? How and when do we teach
keen and active listening skills; or the skill of reading body language to gauge opinions; or the skill of
practising empathy”

The Commissioners highlight the importance of modelling high quality oracy in the classroom to support student’s in learning how to express themselves, underpin writing and build students’ confidence especially if they do not experience much conversation in the home. The report cites the practice of Voice 21 as having ‘much to teach us about how oracy can be structured in schools across all phases’ and suggests that training in oracy should be made available in all schools so that teachers can ‘develop a repertoire of effective speaking and listening technique’.

In addition to championing the value of oracy across the curriculum and school phases, the Commission calls for the current GCSE English Qualification to be replaced with a new qualification titled ‘a Passport to English’. Addressing concerns from teachers and employer organisations that the current English Language GCSE is not fit for purpose, a proposed new qualification would include a ‘significant oracy component’ with the potential assessment based on Voice 21 and Cambridge University’s Oracy Framework.

Voice 21 welcomes the findings of the Commission and the recognition of oracy as a golden but all too often under-valued thread of education from early years to employment. We hope that the Oracy APPG will consider the conclusions of the Forgotten Third Commission in their Inquiry and we will support ASCL in advocating for action on these timely priorities to end a system which accepts the failure of a third of young people as a necessary cost for the success of rest.

Read the full report on ASCL’s website here.

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