A spotlight on Highwood Primary School

As an extra-large primary school in Reading, Highwood Primary School supports over 450 pupils from Nursery to Year 6. Now in their second year as a Voice 21 Oracy School, they are continuing to provide opportunities for all their children to develop their speaking and listening skills across the curriculum.

Here we speak to Oracy Lead and Deputy Head Roxanna Capp about what the school has done to deliver a high-quality oracy education.

Highwood Primary School educates children from a variety of backgrounds across Reading. With children from over 57 different countries, the school celebrates the diversity it has at its very core. As Roxanna explained the school teach their children through a 3D curriculum. “This means that we have big ideas which are revisited throughout our children’s time at school. It builds on prior knowledge we teach, rather we give the children access to the skills and knowledge they need to unlock the next piece of learning. This might mean we deliver more history-based activities in the Autumn term but it is all working on developing and supporting their knowledge.”

But within this curriculum, the staff at Highwood noticed the gap in their children’s opportunities to use and develop their speaking and listening skills “in a multitude of subjects and social situations. Across the curriculum the children’s vocabulary skills were poor and we noticed the expectations for oracy weren’t as high as they should have been.” By shifting the focus in school to developing a high-quality oracy education they are now providing opportunities to each child in the school from Nursery to Year 6. 

Opportunities to progress in oracy 

By becoming a Voice 21 Oracy School, Highwood Primary, knew that they would get the support they needed to equip all children with the skills they needed to thrive in school and beyond. What has enabled them to do this by ensuring that their children can make progress in oracy. “We want to know what it actually looks like across age ranges but also it is important for us to help our children build on the progress they make throughout their time at school.”

“One of our priorities is to develop the skills of our staff, through resources, development days and give them the support to help their children make progress. We are also trying to build our curriculum around oracy so we have oracy outcomes throughout the school not just in the early years.”

With the children always in mind and a newfound focus on ensuring that the learning outcomes are focussed on oracy, Roxanna has been able to support staff to develop oracy in their classrooms and think about what they want their children to get out of each lesson and activity. “It is all about the little changes to make it part of the culture. By supporting teachers to think about what their children get out of it at the end they have been able to notice and understand the difference.”

“Children really value the importance of oracy and know how important it is for them in school and throughout their lives.”

Staff at Highwood now have oracy front and centre of their teaching and learning. This is one of the biggest highlights for Roxanna since becoming a Voice 21 Oracy School. “Raise the profile of oracy as it wasn’t something that was spoken about before. Having recognition from OFSTED in our recent visit as they noticed how it was understood by all staff and in all subjects and that speaking and listening was now promoted across the whole school.”

At the beginning of their journey with Voice 21, “we had teachers ranking oracy really low when asked about it is central to the school’s approach to teaching and learning but now most staff are ranking it at the opposite end of the scale. It is now central to children’s learning and seen as a tool for them to learn!”

What has worked for Roxanna has been placing oracy at the centre of their school. This includes the provision they provide outside of the classrooms. “We’ve changed our provision at lunchtimes to promote oracy with different stations and activities such as arts, ball games and a calm zone. We have recently introduced play leaders supporting adults to manage these zones and supporting them to interact with the children in these activities.”

An impact that matters 

Providing a high-quality oracy education and becoming a Voice 21 Oracy School has given all staff at Highwood Primary School the opportunity to champion the voices of their children. “It has also given us a lot of tools and resources to teach in different ways. You can see that the children if we taught the same learning objective before but without oracy, the children now get much more out of it than they did before.”

Highwood continues to work hard to emphasise the importance of oracy. They now celebrate and champion it within their school, with their children and with their parents. It is thanks to the passion and dedication of Roxanna and her colleagues that as she says, “oracy is really celebrated here which is phenomenal!”

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