A spotlight on Fieldhead Primary Academy

Creating a school culture where the children understand the power of their voice was central to Fieldhead Primary School’s approach to oracy. We spoke to Emily Fletcher, Voice 21 Oracy Champion and Shelley Wilby, HLTA and Oracy Champion about their journey and key takeaways.

“When we first began our journey with Voice 21 our children said that they didn’t feel confident to stand up and speak in front of anyone. After 1 year, 60% of our pupils said that they now felt confident, and with the help of Voice 21 we now have 90% of pupils saying they are confident speakers!”

Fieldhead Primary Academy works with children from Nursery through to Year 6 in Birstall, Kirklees, West Yorkshire. When the school began their journey with Voice 21 they knew that one of the biggest challenges their students faced was the variety of language they had been exposed to. As Emily explained, “many of our children have not had a wide variety of language experiences to develop their language repertoire.”

Giving their children the best start in life sits at the centre of the school’s passion for oracy. Everyone from SLT to Support Staff is determined that the challenges their pupils face would not hold them back. “Oracy is a key point to allow our children to go further in life. We hope oracy will help them realise that there is life beyond what they know and value that.” The whole school’s commitment to oracy is also reinforced through their oracy leadership team with Emily and Shelley working as part of the teaching and teaching assistant teams respectively. 

Seeing the children get excited about oracy 

When the school first embarked on their journey as a Voice 21 Oracy School they wanted to ensure that they valued the voice of every child. To do this Fieldhead had to equip their staff with the skills to teach oracy and embed it across the curriculum. It was the level of support the school have received from Voice 21 that has really helped to facilitate this.

“We wanted to provide the staff with the tools to be able to teach oracy and for our children to understand that talking and listening are important skills. It is vital that they knew that their voice can be heard at school, at home and in the future.”

As Emily continued to explain “the way our Voice 21 Oracy Consultant has worked with us on our journey has been amazing. They’ve worked with us as an individual school and understand that not every school is the same. There are always people at Voice 21 to support us and working with our consultants have given us an insight into all the opportunities oracy opens up for our children.”

“It’s given our students a real voice”

Now in their second year as a Voice 21 Oracy School Emily and Shelley are both able to walk the corridors and hear and see the difference it is making.

As a HLTA Shelley has seen this difference across the year groups and among all students. “We have seen a great impact on all of our children especially those with lower attainment. They now will speak in front of their peers, they’re not afraid to put their hand up and answer questions and are able to speak in full sentences. In year 4 for example they are now excited for oracy and want to share their ideas. It’s given our students a real voice!”

When asked to reflect on their time as a Voice 21 Oracy School Emily and Shelley shared what they have learnt and has made the biggest impact on their students.

1. Equipping all staff in the school with the tools they need 

“Shelley and I have been able to equip all the staff with the tools they need. This includes everything from discussion guidelines to the toolkits that Voice 21 shares with us at training. We have taken these back to staff and supported them with implementing them into classrooms. Now it is just the norm and rather than oracy being a stand-alone it is embedded across the curriculum.”

2. Creating a more calm learning environment 

As a school and within their wider academy trust there is now an awareness and appreciation for oracy. Everyone has now noticed a change in their children speaking up in class and behaviour. “The whole school is a much more calming environment where children now are able to communicate with each other and solve conflicts and resolve problems amongst themselves because they have a voice.”

3. Oracy floor books 

A key tool that Fieldhead has introduced is their oracy floor books. They give everyone a chance to showcase what they have been working on. “These floor books are full of photos and pupil voice including snapshots of oracy in action from our children be it in a standalone oracy skills lesson or Oracy that has been embedded across the curriculum.” It is with these books that the school are able to reflect and appreciate the work that they have put in. 

As a result of the school’s commitment to oracy teachers are now more equipped, children now understand what it means to have a voice. The school can really see how much progress has been made.

“We are excited to continue doing what we are doing, embedding oracy across the whole school” 

As their oracy journey continues, Emily and Shelley are now looking to embed oracy further into their school culture. 

“We are now going to begin working with our parents and focussing on other areas of school life. For our children, few of them sit down at home with the family and have conversations at the dinner table. So in school, we are going to work with lunchtime staff to create sentence starters and discussion guidelines to create a culture of talk at lunchtime as well. Once we have worked on this in school we are going to invite our parents in to get them involved and showcase what their children have been doing.”

Both Emily and Shelley are excited to continue to drive Fieldhead’s oracy journey forward. With the support of Voice 21, we are looking forward to seeing where it takes them!

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