Plymouth Oracy Project

Plymouth Teaching School Alliance

1. Overview 

“Oracy is what the school does to support the development of children’s capacity to use speech to express their thoughts and communicate with others, in education and in life” (Alexander, 2016 cited in Menzies and Millard, 2016). Empirical evidence and local data identifies a link between poverty, language development, and learning. There is a causal relationship between oracy and progress and attainment, behaviour, social mobility, mental health, and parental engagement.

The project improved teachers’ theoretical and pedagogical understanding of dialogic talk for learning, with a particular focus on disadvantaged pupils’ oracy development and educational outcomes. Other Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) included pupil attendance, behaviour, maths reasoning, reading, writing, and, in the second phase, parental engagement. Expertise from several providers in oracy were drawn on. The project was based on existing collaborative teaching projects across schools in Plymouth, school to school support through specially trained Senior Leaders of Education (SLEs) and external evaluation from Marjons Higher Education Institute (HEI). In addition, to promote a regional focus and prepare for scalability, SLEs were trained from other TSAs in Cornwall, Torbay, North Devon, Swindon and North Wiltshire who piloted the project in their own locality.

2. Good practice to share with others interested in running school improvement projects to ensure projects deliver the intended outcome.

The main practices of the Oracy project, those that are transferable and recommended to other projects are:

  1. The project ensured the Senior Leadership Teams (SLT) and Headteachers (HTs) were involved with all key training as well as teachers and support staff. This ensured that the SLT had a good understanding of the project and ensured it was embedded within the school vision and strategic planning.
  2. SLEs and National Leaders of Education (NLEs) were used to visit schools following training sessions to support the implemenation of learning within each unique school setting.
  3. A large variety of national and international experts on the Oracy topic were used rather than only relying on local knowledge or one point of contact for the development.
  4. A project manager who has a background in teaching and can therefore understand the needs and challenges of schools was important for project success.

3. Lessons learned - What the project may do differently in the future

  1. Now that the project is running in other areas, the content and order of the training have been considered and adapted to reflect this. It is also important to have a range of cross phase, as well as separate, primary and secondary training.

4. Sustainability measures taken by projects to ensure improvement are sustained beyond the funding period.

The Project has several suggested recommendations for ensure improvements gained throughout the project are sustained beyond the funding period.

As a result of the SSIF 1 Funded Plymouth Oracy Project, there are a number of actions and activites in place to ensure sustainability of Oracy development within the South West. These include:

  1. A PTSA Oracy Hub which will provide national and local CPD to schools in Plymouth and the South West. For 2019-20 this CPD includes Oli de Botton, Carol Sattherthwaite, Neil Mercer, Lyn Dawes, Michael Rosen and many more.
  2. PTSA Oracy training will be disemmintated to a number of regions within the South West, incorporating evaluations from previous sessions and lessons learned on the journey. The first areas this will be delivered in are Torridge and Taunton.
  3. Key research projects will continue in Plymouth schools for oracy development and these will be used to inform future practice.
  4. The Plymouth Oracy Project is presenting at a number of national events and conferences, including the national ResearchED conference in London in September. This project has developed a number of expert speakers, who are developing skills and practices further.
  5. In collaboration with Plymouth Marjon University, there are a number of article submissions on the work of the project. The first to be approved is an article in the CCT Impact magazine in September 2019. Other submissions will be made to BERA and further research institutions.
  6. The Plymouth Oracy Project 'Outcomes and Lessons Learned' have been presented to the SW REP board in July 2019 and also Region D Teaching School Meetings.