Sutton Park Primary, RSA Academy - Voice 21

Angela Crawley, headteacher of Sutton Park Primary RSA Academy in Kidderminster, West Midlands, shares her experience of using student presentations to their parents as a means of raising parents’ expectations.

I am the headteacher of a one-form entry primary school in Kidderminster in the West Midlands. Our children come in far behind in terms of national expectations – this year’s baseline data showed that 22% were at expected levels at reception year. Our children are up against it in terms of their life skills. I joined the National Oracy Leaders Programme because it became very clear to me that communication and the spoken word will give pupils the biggest returns for life after school. If you are articulate, whatever you go on to do, you will do a better job. Oracy is such an important life skill. 

Since starting the Programme in September, there has been one project in particular where we have seen a clear impact on the student’s oracy skills: presentations to parents during their termly consultation meetings. 

Raising expectations of student oracy with their parents 

The problem we were having was one of the very low aspirations from our parents on behalf of their children.  I do ‘school drive duty’ daily and can see the issue quite clearly. Often, children who behave beautifully all day with fantastic attitudes to learning turn into something else completely as soon as they are off the school site – Jekyll and Hyde! When feedback had been positive during consultation meetings, often parents would remark: “you must have the wrong child, you can’t be talking about my son/daughter!’

Normally, parent’s consultations are led by our teachers and attended by parents, students are rarely present. Realising that this could be a new opportunity for students to present their learning, I discussed the idea of a child-led parent’s consultation. Both the parents and children agreed to give it a go, though the children were nervous and the parents didn’t seem to think that it would work.

I selected four children from Year 2 and four more from Year 5.  They were chosen either because their parents had expressed concern over how withdrawn they feared their children were or because they had expressed low ambition for their child’s ability previously. 

I worked with the children to complete a really basic prompt sheet to guide their presentation.  They looked through their books and selected two pieces of work that they were particularly proud of out of each book (6 pieces in total), before they rehearsed the reasons they had chosen them with me. Although I sat with the child for reassurance during the presentation, they led it by themselves.  All of the selected group attended their consultations and the feedback was really positive.

‘I didn’t realise how well he was doing, it’s great to hear him being proud of work in maths, I thought he hated it, I certainly did when I was at school.’ Year 5 parent

‘It was scary but I was proud of myself for doing it.’ Year 2 child

Despite the small scale, parents’ consultations have never had such an impact. One Year 5 child with dyslexia absolutely nailed it! His mum’s perspective of his school day is that he finds everything difficult. He’s not keen to read at home. But when he gave his presentation, he knew exactly what the learning was. Mum was able to see that yes, he does find some things hard, but he’s also doing some fantastic learning. He also clearly really enjoyed it. 

Another Year 5 child, who is very quiet, to the point that Mum is worried she makes no noise at all in school, gave a  really very strong presentation once she got going. Mum realised that she shouldn’t worry, her child does have a voice and she knows what she’s learning. 

 The project has made us reconsider the format of all parent consultations, particularly because it emphasises the most important part: enabling students to share the work they are particularly proud of. At the moment, the books are there and parents flick through, but they’re not sure what they’re looking for – a child talking through the learning they did, that’s so much more powerful. 

Considering the emphasis we have in school on oracy, all staff could easily prepare for that with all of their children with minimum input.  It doesn’t add to teacher workload but it does make such a difference. For future consultations, we will emphasise the involvement of pupils, they need to speak and have things to add! Our children have got this, and it’s about time their parents believed that and aimed higher. 

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