Three Bridges Primary School - Voice 21

David O’Connell, Assistant Headteacher, Three Bridges, Southall reflects on their pedagogical shift towards oracy.


What motivated you to introduce oracy into your classroom/school?

Over the last 6 years, there has been a pedagogical shift at our school, which has seen dialogue at the centre of learning. We did away with expectations around written marking and placed an emphasis on other forms of more effective feedback. Our own research lead us to pursue teaching practices that encouraged pupils to talk, challenge, and build upon each other’s thinking to drive on learning in the classroom. Over time the talk outside the classrooms improved dramatically, but this happened organically and we sought ways in which we could place more of an explicit focus on oracy practices across the school. After researching oracy, we came across the fantastic School 21 and saw the incredible things, and we were hooked.

How have you embedded oracy into your teaching practice and across your school? 

We used our Topic lessons to begin to make staff feel comfortable with the oracy framework and the different strategies to promote talk. Each lesson has an ‘Oracy Task’, which includes an ‘Oracy Prompt’ (something for the pupils to discuss) and an ‘Oracy Strategy’ (how the children will discuss the prompt: trios, partners, traverse, etc…). The intention was to focus in on one element of the lesson an aspect of oracy to make staff feel comfortable with the strategies and the ways in which to promote talk. Very quickly, we saw these strategies being used across the curriculum to great effect. Every lesson at Three Bridges is now an oracy lesson.

We’re now also hosting a Professional Research Community at Three Bridges to further develop our oracy work. This entails a series of development days aimed at class teachers and subject leaders looking to develop their pedagogy, subject knowledge, and action research skills alongside teachers and leaders from a variety of schools. For more information, please visit: 

What impact has this had on your students?

Since adopting a more explicit focus on oracy, our pupils’ confidence has grown exponentially. For example, our Year 6 cohort has recently held ‘House Captain Elections’ where they are required to write a speech and deliver it to the rest of the school to earn votes to become their colour house leader. The first unit in English is dedicated to planning, writing, and delivering an effective speech. In previous years, about 40-50% of our pupils have decided to run for House Captaincy. After refining our focus on oracy, this year, over 90% of our pupils wanted to deliver their speeches to the school. The speeches were exceptional and the focus on oracy in-lesson was clear to see in each pupil’s delivery.

What has been your experience of working with Voice 21? 

We have sent staff on both the Voice 21 Pioneers and Leaders Programmes, which have been exceptional CPD in oracy. There has been a great balance between research and practical ideas to use in class. Natasha Palladino, who has led a number of CPD sessions, has been invaluable in both her knowledge and experience of using oracy and her sessions have been thought-provoking and engaging. Tabeetha Sun has been extremely helpful in sorting any issues and keeping us updated on all things oracy and this has been hugely beneficial to our school.

What advice would you give to other schools who are prioritising oracy for the first time? 

Read ‘Transforming teaching and learning through talk’ by Amy Gaunt and Alice Stott. Send staff on Voice 21 training. Share and connect with other schools using oracy.

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