International Oracy Leaders Case Study - St John’s Academy

Voice 21 spoke with Ronnelle Sanders from St John’s Anglican College about her experience on the International Oracy Leaders Programme.

About the school

St John’s Anglican College is an independent school that serves Kindergarten to Year 12 in Brisbane, Australia and has a high population of English learners. 


St John’s has seen improvement in student test scores, teacher reports of student progress, group work, and feedback from parents about language skills. 

‘Parents have been making comments about what their children are doing now and they’re so amazed at the ability of their own children!’

Through regular analysis of student test scores, St John’s realised that their students were not meeting the standardised age where they should have been. Following an oracy intervention, however, student scores on Renfrew action picture tests, Blank Level of Questioning, and retelling stories assessments have begun to rise. Teachers at St John’s have also reported from their own experiences and observations that students’ oracy skills are improving, and that students are better able to use full sentences and work collaboratively in groups. 

Additionally, parents of students at St John’s have commented on the improvements in language skills that their children are demonstrating. Parents have also reported increased conversational abilities, better story retelling, and their children using higher-level vocabulary. 

The school also found that group work was transformed by implementing a high-quality oracy education; students were not fully engaging or benefitting from group work. However, when teachers started working to explicitly teach the collaborative skills necessary for productive exploratory talk, the students became more engaged and collaborative, and started to gain skills that they will continue using beyond school. 


St John’s identified three areas of the programme to have had the most impact on their teaching practice: first, using Talk Tactics and other oracy strategies for group work, second, the resources that Voice 21 provides in conjunction with the advice and training on how best to use them, and third, learning how to create a curriculum that prioritises oracy.

‘Being able to connect, and having the opportunity to talk it through and discuss the resources that were shared was so amazing.’ 

St John’s had done some work around oracy prior to joining the International Oracy Leaders programme. However, through the Voice 21 International Oracy Leaders  they were able to make oracy achievable and sustainable in their school, and start to cascade oracy practice to other areas of the school. St John’s really valued the resources that they received on the IOL programme, because they were then able to implement oracy in their classrooms without creating a huge workload for any of the teachers. 

After the IOL programme, they began implementing other oracy tactics on their own with the goal of getting the whole school community involved, including parents. The school sent home ‘blossom bags’ with students that contained literacy activities that families could take part in together, and they also started using laminated ‘talk keys’ with sentence stems and conversation starters that could be used 

Tips for other IOL participants 

Ronnelle says that the most important part of the programme is the collaborative aspect. For St John’s, starting with a small group of engaged teachers and having the support of the senior leadership team was key for a successful intervention. 

Because of their participation in the International Oracy Leaders programme, St John’s has been able to support their students to have better linguistic skills, engage more with other students and with their school work, and bring their whole school community along on their oracy journey.

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