Oracy Across the Curriculum: The Evidence

Why high-quality oracy education matters in all subjects,
by Rebekah Simon

The average impact of oral language interventions for pupils is 6 months’ additional progress over the course of a year, according to the Education Endowment Foundation. As a part of high-quality oracy education, students should learn both to talk and through talk, deepening their subject knowledge and understanding through classroom talk which has been planned, structured, and scaffolded to enable students to learn skills needed to talk effectively. It is crucial that oracy is implemented at a whole-school level, throughout a variety of subject areas. 

While the implementation of oracy in a variety of contexts is essential, differences in teaching methods and desired student outcomes can be observed from subject to subject. As such, oracy teaching must be adjusted depending on the context. There is, however, evidence to suggest that oracy can be used across many different subjects to increase student attainment and outcomes. 

An EEF report from 2017 found that children in schools participating in a dialogic teaching study (with the aim of improving attainment and engagement through better classroom talk) made two months’ additional progress in English and science, and one additional month’s progress in maths. This article will examine some of the research around talk in science, maths, English, and humanities teaching. 


Oracy in science classrooms is essential for helping students learn to justify and explain their ideas, which is a critical part of science communication. 

Oracy Cambridge conducted a study on the effects of the Learning Skills curriculum (an approach that utilises metacognition, self-regulation, and oracy to improve attainment) on GCSE grades. The study found that Learning Skills students were more likely to achieve higher GCSE grades in science (specifically an additional science) than those who did not participate in the Learning Skills programme; this achievement was particularly pronounced for students eligible for Free School Meals.  

A 2016 project called Thinking, Doing, Talking Science (TDTS), where ‘teachers are trained to develop and teach challenging lessons that incorporate more practical activities, deeper thinking and discussion, and inquiry-based learning’ found that the participating Year 5 students made, on average, an additional three months of progress. Students eligible for free school meals made an average of five months’ additional progress


Oracy is essential for maths attainment because students must learn to justify their conclusions and communicate and respond to the arguments of others. A growing body of evidence indicates that there is a strong link between participating in mathematical conversations and improved maths attainment. 

A 2014 study (Webb, N, et al., 2014) concluded that the best predictor of higher attainment in maths was engagement with the ideas of other students. Another study from 2021 elaborated on these findings, stating that dialogue and class participation in maths led to increased maths achievement for students not considered proficient.

The Oracy Cambridge Learning Skills Cohort was also found to have made additional progress in maths in comparison to their non-Learning Skills peers. This improvement was again particularly pronounced in students eligible for Free School Meals. 

Jodie Hunter (2017)  conducted a study on interactive mathematical talk, and found that students developed a sense of community in the classroom as a result of interactive talk-based approaches. It also found that an emphasis on describing mathematical thinking led to students developing competence at explicitly describing their thinking after lessons. Additionally, it found that students perceived a dialogue-rich maths curriculum as a place for testing and communicating ideas, as well as using different solution strategies

Voice 21 has also conducted case studies regarding maths attainment and oracy. Olive Hill Primary Academy, for example, identified that their maths attainment was passable but were concerned that their students with lower attainment had poor confidence levels and perceptions of themselves as mathematicians. Since introducing oracy strategies, and in particular the ‘Teaching for Mastery’ approach, the percentage of children reaching age-related expectations in KS2 rose by 13%. Additional strategies that increased attainment include explicit teaching and modelling of oracy, scaffolding opportunities for students to practice using subject-specific vocabulary in full sentences, and using games like taboo to help reinforce learning.


Oracy is essential for the development of communication and argumentation skills, which are key to successful English learning. Oracy has also been shown to be an essential part of literacy skills and reading comprehension. 

The Ofsted curriculum research review series for English states that ‘a strong command of the spoken word is a crucial outcome of English education.’ The review goes on to acknowledge the benefits of oracy beyond school, particularly the importance of having a citizenry that has the ability to engage with a democratic society. The review also emphasised the importance of teachers explicitly teaching oracy, both in English lessons and across other subjects.

According to a report by the National Literacy Trust, at age 11, spoken language skills are the most important indicator for literacy skills. ‘One in four (23%) children who struggle with language at age five do not reach the expected standard in English at the end of primary school, compared with just 1 in 25 (4%) children who had good language skills at age five’ (UCL, Institute of Education, on behalf of Save the Children, 2016). 

The Oracy Cambridge Learning Skills cohort was found to have increased attainment in both English and English Literature, as compared with their non-Learning Skills peers. 

High-quality oracy education has also been shown to have a positive impact on reading comprehension. The EEF KS2 Literacy Guide recommends supporting reading skills through improvements to speaking and listening. The recommendation is based on nine meta-analyses that included students aged 7-11.  And, as Beck et al. highlighted in the seminal Bringing Words to Life, oral language is the most effective vehicle for learning new words (Beck, I. et al. 2002).


Dialogue for humanities involves discussion of complex social ideas and issues which revolve around moral values and differing perspectives. As such, the use of oracy in humanities classrooms concerns approaching disagreement through joint reasoning and argumentation. 

Studies have shown that group discussion encourages open-mindedness among students, particularly during discussions of controversial issues. Researchers at Linnaeus University in Sweden conducted a study whose findings indicated that group discussion is conducive to the use of more nuanced reasoning around controversial issues, as well as more reasoned and elaborate writing

Another study of history lessons also concluded that classroom interaction (whole class discussion) can stimulate critical thinking through various mechanisms: it can aid in the process of developing new ideas, which can then be elaborated on or transformed through writing

Oracy is also an essential element of successful citizenship teaching. There is a multitude of evidence suggesting that talk-centered citizenship classrooms foster the skills and attitude necessary for civic participation, as well as the development of high-level critical thinking

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