Plymouth’s most disadvantaged pupils are ‘closing the gap’ on their peers thanks to improved oracy in the classroom, that’s according to a recent report released by the Plymouth Teaching School Alliance in collaboration with Plymouth Marjon University.
Plymouth Teaching School Alliance (PTSA) and Marjon have been working together on an 18-month Department for Education-funded project aiming to improve listening, speaking and feedback skills in the classroom and the findings were published at a dissemination event held on the Marjon campus.
As part of the project, PTSA has been introducing new ways to develop learning in a classroom in 40 schools across Plymouth with the aim of creating a more vocal teaching space, with less teacher talk and more student-led discussion.
Donna Briggs, the Deputy Director of the PTSA, said she was delighted with the impact the project has had across the schools involved in the project.
“There are some great findings that we’re really pleased about for the city of Plymouth,” said Donna, who has previously worked as teacher and Head of School.
“Across the board there has been an improvement in pupils’ progress in the classes where we made oracy a focus. A hugely positive outcome is that disadvantaged pupils have made more progress than their peers, which means they’re starting to close the gap in attainment in subjects across the curriculum.
“What has also been positive for pupils is the improvement beyond the classroom. We’ve found that the project has impacted their emotional wellbeing, confidence, behaviour and even attendance.”
The Plymouth Oracy Project has involved PTSA commissioning nationally recognised professional development at Marjon to help teachers see how the dynamics of a classroom could change to more of a discussion-based format, where pupils are free to explore their own opinions and ideas on a subject.
It has been a process that can be challenging for some, as Donna states: “As a teacher myself I know that when you’re talking you feel like you’re imparting lots of information and that’s how pupils learn. However, we’ve been asking teachers to take on the uncomfortable task of looking at their own practice on video and you can really see the quality of pupil talk in the classroom improves dramatically when there’s a focus on oracy.
“The message to teachers throughout all of our training has been that oracy will have an impact through all subjects taught in the classroom. What’s great is now we have a report that backs that up. It’s not just English skills that are developed through increased talking; oracy is important for children across the whole curriculum, with even their learning attitudes changing as a result of the initiative.”
Plymouth Marjon University has been a research partner for the project, collating data and publishing the research. Gill Golder, the Director of Teacher Education at Marjon, was pleased to be involved in the project which is positively influencing schools across Plymouth.
“Marjon and PTSA work together in a number of areas, including initial teacher education, continued professional development and school-to-school support. We were delighted to be asked to act as the independent impact evaluators for this highly significant School Self Improvement Project,” said Gill.
“Schools face constant scrutiny of how they are closing the gap in attainment of the most disadvantaged learners and it’s great that this report shows the focus on oracy has helped close that gap. Another pleasing finding that the project saw was the transformative nature of education using other measures of student success like confidence, emotional literacy and pupil wellbeing.
“Plymouth Marjon University, with PTSA, will be disseminating the findings of this project further via conference presentation and journal publication over the next 18 months to raise awareness and encourage academic debate on the issues raised and possible solutions.”
The culmination of The Plymouth Oracy Project doesn’t spell an end for the provision of oracy-focussed workshops in the city, with PTSA launching an Oracy Hub in Plymouth, with the aim of continuing expert development for teachers on oracy in the classroom.
Donna said, “With the 40 schools we’ve been working in I know that oracy is very embedded within the school now. Teachers are talking less and pupils are talking more. Pupils are expected to have a voice, to talk and have an opinion.
“Creating a PTSA Oracy Hub we will help us continue this great work. We have a strong team working on it and we’ll be starting an offer for the city in the Summer term. Going forward we hope to make the South West a strong oracy location, where teachers can open their doors to show how oracy works in the classroom.
“The awareness of the impact of oracy in the classroom is increasing across the country but Plymouth is definitely at the forefront of this locality. Thanks to the Plymouth Oracy Project, we will have pupils who are citizens of our city but also citizens of the world who are happy to speak out and share what is important to them.”
After 18 months of work on the project, Donna wanted to pay tribute to the schools who got involved and successfully implemented oracy in their classrooms.
“Thanks to all the schools, teachers, leaders and children who have taken part in this project. Although we’ve delivered it, they’ve gone back to schools and embedded it in their teaching. It’s a credit to them that the project has been so successful and what the pupils are now able to achieve within the schools,” concluded Donna.
Want more detail on the report? Find it here.
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