Aim: To develop oracy in all pupils, enabling them to access a wider vocabulary and improve their written and spoken communication, and ultimately their academic success.
Background: The ability profile of students is significantly below the national average, and the number of pupils who have English as another language (EAL) (28%) or are entitled to free school meals (17%) is rising.
Year 1: Schemes of work for Key Stage 3 were rewritten to ensure that speaking and listening were embedded into the learning process and not seen as an ‘add on’. The Kagan approach was used in all lessons, allowing pupils to discuss and rehearse their answers before responding to the whole class. This helped with motivation and confidence, and improved the quality of the answers given. Pupils were interviewed in small groups, which they preferred to questionnaires, and showed a good deal of enthusiasm for the teaching method, while allowing staff to reflect on what was not popular. However, the project had limited success – the most able students thrived but those with low literacy remained reticent. EAL students made good progress in speaking and listening but this was not reflected in their reading and writing assignments.
Year 2: An English support assistant was employed for those needing additional help, and advice was sought from EAL and Special Educational Needs departments in order to develop more differentiation for lower ability classes. A wide range of pedagogies was tried, and results showed that pupils benefitted from opportunities to investigate, through talk, their assigned task. The discussions were confident and engaging, but more rewarding was the academic improvement in writing that followed. Academy Week activities were used to engage pupils, and proved a great success.
Year 3: The setting of Year 7 was revised to support the variation in pupils’ Maths and English ability, so that pupils could excel where they had strengths. A coherent course from Year 7-11 was planned to allow careful tracking of progress and ensure that all students leave school able to communicate effectively. Academy Week and World Book Day activities were successful, and a subscription to ‘Sound Training’ was taken in order to make the curriculum accessible to the most vulnerable students.
Evidence: Student interviews, written work.
Impact: The KS3 curriculum now has greater coherence and provides students with the skills they will need for lifelong learning. A greater appreciation has been gained of the part played by speaking and listening in pupils’ learning, and students have been enthusiastic. However, lower ability students have not made as great an improvement as those of higher ability.
Reflections: Regular data collection is important, as is frequent interviewing of pupils, which can provide a useful guide in shaping the project’s future. Continual monitoring of the department helps to ensure that all students are having the same experience.
Contact: Andrea Betts, firstname.lastname@example.org