Ipswich primary school praised by MPs for improving pupils' speaking skills

A packed Waterstones hear poems read by pupils from The Oaks Primary School. Picture: RACHEL EDGE

A packed Waterstones hear poems read by pupils from The Oaks Primary School. Picture: RACHEL EDGE - Credit: Rachel Edge

An Ipswich school has been praised in a national report highlighting the urgent need to improve children's speaking skills.

The parliamentary report singled out The Oaks Primary School in Chantry for its outstanding work and projects to use speech to help pupils build essential language skills for their futures.

The report looked into problems with oracy - the ability to articulate ideas, develop understanding and engage with others through social language - in the nation's schools and the necessity to prioritise children’s spoken language development.

Oaks Primary School serves an area of a relatively high level of deprivation and in seeking to improve academic outcomes for KS2, the School Leadership turned to oracy in 2018.

Children from The Oaks Primary School read their poems in front of their teachers and parents. Pictu

Children from The Oaks Primary School read their poems in front of their teachers and parents. Picture: RACHEL EDGE - Credit: Rachel Edge

It saw oracy as a strategic way of increasing ‘talk rich’ environments for their students who often lacked these at home, and in class, pupils take on talk 'roles' such as 'summariser', 'questioner', 'balancer,' builder', 'challenger' and 'motivator.'

Headteacher Jeremy Pentreath said "It’s still early days, but we are seeing some improvements in written work as well as obviously in spoken language. We were [also] seeing improvements in their maths reasoning skills.

"To actually see tangible outcomes in mathematics, particularly in reasoning which is an area that has traditionally been a challenge for us, has been very exciting and we’ve now seen those improvements in other areas of the curriculum as well.”

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Mr. Pentreath’s enthusiasm is shared by his teaching colleagues - staff at the school agree that oracy has had a positive impact particularly in areas such as vocabulary, Pupil Premium underachievement, engagement, positive learning behaviours, and retention of facts.

Ipswich MP Tom Hunt, a vice-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Oracy which produced the Speak for Change report, said: “The focus on Oracy is crucial to the development of children of all backgrounds and is a vital skill that will enable students to thrive.

"The pandemic this year has affected children in countless ways, but it has been particularly hard on some of the most disadvantaged students and those which don’t have English as their first language at home.

"I know that the Oaks Primary School in Ipswich has focused on oracy to drive improvements in literacy and language, so I am delighted to see them feature in this report.

"I visited them very recently and they explained to me all the work they have been doing. They have done a fantastic job at effectively implementing their Oracy programme and it is clear they are seeing the results.

"The report shows just how key Oracy is to pupil’s development in school but also for their social and emotional wellbeing. It’s been clear from the dislocation a lot of young students have felt this year, that the social aspect of improving these skills cannot be understated.

"I found it particularly concerning as highlighted in the report that 66% of primary teachers and nearly half of secondary teachers have said that school closures during the pandemic had a negative effect on the spoken language development of pupils eligible for free school meals.

"In my role on the Education Committee this year we have spoken at length about how to best support students in making up lost learning and I believe that making Oracy a key focus is crucial to this."

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