A spotlight on Wybers Wood Academy

Wybers Wood Academy is a two-form entry primary school in Grimsby. They began working with Voice 21 in the last year, but are already noticing the difference a high-quality oracy education can have on their children. 

We speak to Oracy Lead and Year 6 Teacher Louise Burgess about their journey and what they have learnt so far. 

Becoming a Voice 21 Oracy School in light of the pandemic was incredibly important to teachers and support staff at Wybers Wood Academy in Grimsby. Despite having lower than average numbers of students in receipt of pupil premium as Louise identified, “we want to help all of our children have the same opportunities as each other…in our current cohort we have a number of children who when they joined in reception were naturally picking up language but because of COVID most of them didn’t as they missed out on so much of their early years support so we realised how important oracy is to all of our children.”

Before explicitly focussing on oracy in their classrooms and curriculum Louise and her colleagues recognised the importance of talk. “We are a very talky school, we focus a lot on activities being discussion-based. But, we wanted to go further because we want to support our children to have higher standards for themselves. We know that in the future employers will look at their communications skills so at Wybers we want to set them up for the future as best we can.”

It was with this in mind that Wybers Wood Academy began working with Voice 21. 

Beginning with a focus on presentational talk 

The school began by focussing on presentational talk. “We have always done Christmas plays but these opportunities for presentational talk always seem to only be once a year and the children don’t have access to other chances to develop their skills at other points.” So the school placed presentational skills at the heart of their oracy outcomes in all classes across all subjects. 

They did this by: “using the tablets to record vlogs for subjects and topics that we explore in lessons. By capturing their work in this way we get a real idea of what they have picked up from lessons, it gives them the confidence to share what they have learnt and develop different aspects of the Oracy Framework.”

Recently Louise has been teaching her children in Year 6 about Hinduism in RE. “We don’t live in an area where our children have exposure to a variety of other religions. But by giving them a focus in lessons they really wanted to work hard to learn more about the religion to create a vlog that they were proud of. They worked as reporters over several weeks and then produced a vlog at the end of it.” Using these videos as an engaging outcome at the end of topics has allowed Louise and other teachers to explicitly teach the oracy skills needed to create high-quality videos but also assess the progress each child is making. 

Another focus and success across classrooms at Wybers Wood has been the introduction of Talk Tactics. “By using the tactics for discussions they can plan and all have a list of ideas they can then contribute to discussions. In Key Stage 2 the children are able to lead discussions completely and teachers are now able to sit back and observe and help develop their learning further. It is amazing to see how they can support one another in the discussions and summarise at the end.”

“If I had asked the children in September to stand up in an assembly to talk they would have all said no way”

“But now, I have got a list as long as my arm of children desperate to stand up and have their voice heard which is fantastic.” Children across the school are now realising the value of their voices, they know they will be heard and also supported to develop their skills further. “We’ve got a little boy who has got special educational needs and has a stutter, but he wants to be able to present in an assembly as just like all of our children he wants to get up there and be heard. Before he would have shrunk back and never been confident enough to do that.”

Louise is now able to notice the impact oracy is beginning to have across the school. The children’s enthusiasm is also having an impact on their teachers who value how much they are now getting out of lessons. 

A real highlight for Louise has been the success they have had showcasing presentational talk as part of Speech festivals. “During the autumn and spring term, a team of six children from lower KS2 worked incredibly hard preparing for the Bradley youth festival. With the support of the marvellous Mrs Purdon, they learnt the poem ‘A dragon in the classroom’ by Charle Thompson. The children really made us proud and stole the show by winning 1st, 2nd and 3rd place!”

Oracy is now becoming embedded across Wybers Wood. Children are excited to have more opportunities to learn and access a high-quality oracy education. Throughout their journey so far Louise has learnt that getting her colleague’s buy-in has been vital. But by getting students involved this has come naturally. “It is important that you are implementing and sharing strategies and then checking and supporting teachers to do that. By making as much noise as I can about oracy more of our staff have jumped on board. Children ask their teachers for opportunities to develop their skills, and because the children are waiting for it the teachers want to give them these opportunities.”

As Wybers Wood Academy continue to develop oracy across their school we are excited to learn more about how it continues to impact their children. We are excited for Wybers Wood to become a truly talk-rich academy.

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