A spotlight on Filton Avenue Primary School

“Working with Voice 21 has transformed our school!”


Creating a learning environment where all children could thrive was key for the staff at Filton Avenue Primary School when they began their oracy journey three years ago. 

Now thanks to the hard work and dedication of all staff, we speak to Oracy Lead Gemma Kirk about the transformative effects working with Voice 21 has had on their classes, curriculum and culture.

“We are a large inner-city primary school in Bristol with a very multicultural student population. Working in a deprived area of Bristol means a lot of our children come to school with below-average speaking and listening skills.”

It was with this in mind that the staff at Filton Avenue recognised the benefits a high-quality oracy education could have on their children’s lives. Now all children in the school, regardless of their background, are on a level playing field. Each of their voices is valued and they all have opportunities to thrive in school and beyond.

Before beginning their journey as a Voice 21 Oracy School, Filton Avenue identified a clear gap in their children’s learning and opportunities in school. “We wanted to raise the expectations for our children, with many unable to speak in class and low reading and writing levels.” But the opportunities that oracy could provide also went beyond the school gates. “We wanted to ensure that beyond school our children had the aspirations that they can do anything once they leave school and have the skills to do so.”

Creating an oracy curriculum

Placing oracy at the centre of the school’s teaching and learning meant it needed to be placed at the heart of the curriculum. Weaving oracy into each part of a child’s school journey has provided new opportunities to create a talk-rich classroom. 

“What has made the biggest difference to our children is our curriculum. When we began working with Voice 21 we overhauled our curriculum to make it more enquiry based, focussing on the big questions with each enquiry working towards a talk outcome for the children. We then linked that to our progression maps across the school with different skills for each year group all linked to the four strands of the Oracy Framework which means the children always get opportunities to practise this throughout their enquiry.” 

 

As the children explore different key questions and topics each term, the oracy curriculum provides them with opportunities to learn through talk and become more confident. The questions covered across the school vary but as Gemma explained, always provide new opportunities for the children. “One of our questions in Year 6 was, who are the greatest engineers, the Victorians or Ancient Britain? We worked through this enquiry and at the end our talk outcome was for the children to make a Horrible Histories style play. In some years, when it wasn’t COVID, we invited parents to watch but this year they were able to watch it online!” 

From running exhibitions of oracy each year, and providing children with opportunities to showcase their skills, talking to professionals and learning about the power their voice can have, oracy is now living and breathing across Filton Avenue.

But as with anything the journey hasn’t been easy. It is down to Gemma’s determination and the commitment of all staff at Filton Avenue that it has had such an impact on their children. “Linking oracy to all aspects of the curriculum in all subjects can be harder but we have worked hard with the support of Voice 21 to link it as much as possible. In PE for example we follow Create PE all based on coaching. So we use coaching sentence stems and focus on the vocabulary they can acquire in PE.”

Advice from an Oracy Lead 

The work Filton Avenue has done to ensure all their children have access to a high-quality oracy education hasn’t been taken lightly or introduced quickly. It has been developed with care and sustained over time. If Gemma were to start her journey again this would be the advice she would take forward: 

“Go slow and steady and map out your journey. We began using different talk groupings such as trios and then began introducing our bank of sentence stems and talk tactics and that was our focus for our first year. But then you can begin working with subject leads to embed oracy into each area of the curriculum and support staff with more CPD.”

“Because everyone including senior leaders across the schools is invested in oracy it has become a natural part of the school.”

What next?

Now oracy has become a core element in the curriculum at Filton Avenue. We wanted to know how Gemma is working to take it one step further:

“We are excited to have 26 oracy champions in the school now who are going to act as a champion for each of our 13 curriculum areas, which are different states of being. Rather than the focus being on doing maths our children are being mathematicians. We meet with them regularly and get them involved in showcases, planning a newsletter of our events and running assemblies.”

It is the passion that all teachers have for oracy that is now helping each child to fulfil their potential. By becoming a Voice 21 Oracy School, Filton Avenue, have wholeheartedly committed to creating a culture throughout the school where each child has a voice. 

“It has been inspiring to be part of Voice 21 and everything they have provided us with has been beneficial. Voice 21 has supported me to become a better leader and to think strategically about oracy and it has completely transformed our school. Oracy is now without a doubt a unique selling point for our school and we started from scratch three years ago.”

“If you want to focus on oracy in your school then I would 100% recommend working with Voice 21.”

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