Voice 21: Reflections on 2020

As we look back on 2020 and forward to the year ahead, we’d like to say a huge thank you for your support, continued commitment and belief in the power of oracy to transform the teaching, learning and future opportunities of students across the UK.


There’s not an easy way to summarise this year, or how we have individually experienced it, but as it comes to a close, there is a shared feeling of gratitude in the Voice 21 team. Amidst the disruption, grief and anxiety that this year has caused for all of us in different ways, there have been so many significant and humbling milestones both for us as a team and for our wider network of Voice 21 Oracy Schools.

Looking back at 2020 

As the year began, we were wedded to our face-to-face delivery days, well-versed in modelling our approaches in realtime and committed to travelling across the country to see the impact of oracy in classrooms in-person. Unsurprisingly, we hadn’t planned for a pandemic and by March we were – along with the rest of the nation – anxious about what the rest of 2020 would bring. As we navigated the first national lockdown, it quickly became apparent that a focus on oracy remained vital and we faced a significant overhaul to move to operating remotely and online-delivery.

It’s now become clear that we had much more reason to be hopeful than we initially thought, a testament, no-doubt, to the resilience of our team, the continued backing of our supporters and the sheer dedication of the teachers and schools we work with. So, as we reach the end of a very difficult year, what are some of Voice 21’s highlights of 2020? 

1. We launched our new school improvement offer 

Building on last year’s publication of the Oracy Benchmarks, and with support from Impetus, we unified our programmes to develop a single, comprehensive whole-school offer with impact at its heart: Voice 21 Oracy Schools. If you know a school that might be interested in joining our national network of Voice 21 Oracy Schools, you can find out more here.

2. We supported the evidence gathering for the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Oracy 

In 2018 the Oracy APPG was launched to investigate the current provision of oracy education in schools, assess the value and impact of oracy education and identify the barriers to children accessing and receiving high-quality oracy education. This week, the inquiry’s interim report was released culminating evidence from hundreds of educators, organisations and leaders from across society, including Voice 21’s submission. You can now read the full report here. 

3. We hosted our first virtual headline event, Oracy October! 

Having come to the difficult decision to postpone our usual annual event, The Great Oracy Exhibition, in the summer term, we were delighted to host so many of the original speakers and teacher contributors to virtually present at Oracy October later in the year. Highlights included the Teacher Masterclass deep dives into oracy in action in classrooms nationally and panel events on oracy, accent and dialect, wellbeing, race and gender. If you missed it you can catch up on the highlights here. 

Looking forward to 2021

As we reflect on these highlights, we must also recognise the hugely detrimental impact that Covid-19 has had, and will continue to have, on the most disadvantaged students. According to a report on the vocabulary gap, released in October, 92% of teachers believe school closures have contributed to a widening of the gap and we know from previous research that students from the most disadvantaged backgrounds are least likely to catch up. Moreover, research from the Education Endowment Fund found that progress made to narrow the attainment gap between the most and least advantaged students since 2011 is now likely to be reversed.

In this high-stakes context, in which students must learn more in less time, it is important that we continue to champion the value and importance of oracy, both as a tool for learning and as a means of supporting wellbeing. At Voice 21, we will continue to support teachers to navigate these challenging circumstances and find new ways to place oracy at the heart of every classroom. We are delighted that over 125 new schools will be joining us in January to begin their oracy journey and join our existing network of member schools. 

We’ll be back in touch in the New Year but, until then, we hope you have a restful Christmas break. 

Voice 21 

 

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© 2020 Voice 21. Voice 21 is a registered charity in England and Wales. Charity number 1152672 | Company no. 08165798