A spotlight on Trafalgar School

Trafalgar School is a co-educational secondary school in the city of Portsmouth with their core values of respect, aspiration, resilience, inclusion and community at the heart of everything they do. Trafalgar School has recently become a beacon school for relational practice. Now coming to the end of their first year as a Voice 21 Oracy School, they have already made great strides towards embedding oracy within their curriculum.

In this Spotlight School, we speak to their Oracy Team: Sarah Swaffer, Rebecca Davies, Holly Reid, and Thalia Bothma-Lubbe.

Becoming a Voice 21 Oracy School was something that staff at Trafalgar School were incredibly passionate about. For Sarah, “oracy sits alongside each part of our school ethos and helps us to build and develop our core values”. By providing each student with access to a high-quality oracy education, staff are passionate about “preparing our students not just for school, but for life beyond school.” What drives each member of staff is their passion that oracy will equip students with the skills to be aspirational, confident and successful young people.

As a relational school, developing the oracy skills of their young people provides teachers with opportunities to deepen the learning of students. “Allowing our students to articulate how they are feeling and be able to resolve issues between themselves is really powerful. Our students have the confidence and understanding that their voice is valued and is fundamental to being an active part of our community.” 

“Oracy is part of our ethos and school culture”

By making a commitment to oracy, staff at Trafalgar School were determined that it would be embedded across the curriculum. “We want students to be able to articulate themselves and take charge of their learning. If they can’t speak it they can’t write it down so it is paramount that across all subjects they have opportunities to develop their oracy skills.”

Placing such value on oracy has meant that all of Team Trafalgar understand the importance and positive impact these skills can have for their students. “It is important to have all staff, including support staff, invested in oracy. We place a lot of focus on connecting before content so the children receiving support and interventions can build a relationship with the adult and engage more meaningfully with what they are doing.”

For the Oracy Team at Trafalgar School, staff investment is vital. “We knew that if we didn’t get staff on board then we would struggle to sustain change over time. We began with a whole school INSET day to build enthusiasm around it and we found it was hard for staff not to pick up on our own passion! We used a carousel to introduce strategies to staff which they could use in their teaching straight away.”

Oracy has become embedded in our whole school quality assurance practices. When the Oracy Team walk around the school they can hear the difference this is making. Staff are dedicated and passionate about giving each young person access to these opportunities. Already, staff and students are becoming more confident as teachers and learners.

A selection of highlights so far 

Looking back at the practices and tools they have introduced, the Oracy Team at Trafalgar has seen huge progress from their students. We asked them to reflect on what has worked well and what they have all learnt from their first year as a Voice 21 Oracy School.

Student engagement with oracy has been transformed. The respect our students have developed when they’re taking turns in talking, actively listening and responding is evident to see.”

“A real highlight is creating an environment where it is safe to make mistakes and to disagree. We are all there to share opinions and each of our students has an opinion. They can now say how they feel without questioning if their response will be seen as different because they are all welcome.”

“Oracy is now becoming embedded into our curriculum in all subjects. This cascades down to our students and the skills they develop in each subject transfer to the others. Having that consistency is key!”

What has also worked well is creating a strong team of oracy champions. “We all have our strengths and approach it from different perspectives so we have a strong team who can build the foundations for oracy at Trafalgar School.”

When looking back on their journey so far we asked the team to reflect on what advice they would give to other teachers beginning their oracy journey with Voice 21.

“Be open to change. You need to welcome oracy into all subject areas. There is a lot of room for oracy in all subject areas you just need to dig a bit deeper in some to find it. Include it in your improvement planning and generate enthusiasm and buy in amongst staff. There is always room for oracy!”

Now as the team at Trafalgar School look to the end of this academic year and onto the next they continue to go from strength to strength. There is a whole school focus on providing a high-quality oracy education to each of their students. There is passion, drive and commitment and for Trafalgar School, oracy is not an add-on but a long-term, sustained approach to their teaching and learning.

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