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Rethinking Curriculum: Oracy toolkit

4 min read

What is oracy?

Oracy refers to the development and practice of speaking and listening skills. It emphasises the ability to communicate effectively, articulate thoughts, and engage in meaningful discussions. A focus on oracy aims to cultivate students’ confidence in verbal expression, active listening, and the ability to construct and convey coherent arguments. It plays a crucial role in language development, critical thinking, and overall communication proficiency within the context of the curriculum.

Wilkinson (1965) coined the term ‘oracy’ to emphasise the importance of speaking and listening, advocating that it should be on par with literacy and numeracy in the education system. He defined oracy as ‘the ability to use oral skills for speaking and listening’ (Wilkinson, 1965, p. 13), largely reflecting the definition we continue to use today. Vygotsky is often cited as another early advocate for oracy. He stressed the importance of oracy skills, stating that once a child acquires language, their thinking is profoundly changed and irrevocably transformed (Vygotsky, 1962). Mercer (2013) validated this, stating that engaging in high-quality spoken dialogue from early childhood can support the development of a variety of skills, including problem solving, comprehension, reasoning and relationship building. 

Oracy and education

In our modern world, the value of oracy is recognised by politicians, education systems, teachers and researchers across the globe. Research evidence highlights the important role that oracy can play in raising academic attainment, developing social and emotional skills and improving life chances and career opportunities, particularly for our most vulnerable students. However, oracy experts argue that the explicit teaching of speaking and listening skills is too often overlooked in schools. Voice 21 (2019) has criticised the lack of focus on developing oracy skills in the national curriculum, and the limited teacher training to support effective oracy instruction in the classroom. Unfortunately, they argue that students’ oracy skills are often left to chance (Earnshaw, 2016). 

This toolkit is aimed at school leaders looking to develop their understanding of an oracy-rich curriculum. It also seeks to support leaders to reflect on their current approach and make informed decisions to improve oracy education in their setting.


Earnshaw B (2016) Start talking at the back…middle and front of the class. In: Speaking Frankly: The case for oracy in the curriculum. London: English Speaking Union, pp. 11-16.

Mercer N (2013) The Social Brain, Language, and Goal-Directed Collective Thinking: A Social Conception of Cognition and Its Implications for Understanding How We Think, Teach, and Learn. Educational Psychologist 48(3): 148-168

Voice 21 (2019) The Oracy Benchmarks. Available at: (accessed 6 June 2024).

Vygotsky  L (1962)  Thought and Language. MIT Press: London.

Wilkinson A (1965) The Concept of Oracy. Educational Review 17(4): 11–15

Tools and resources  

As part of this project, we have created a number of bespoke resources to develop your understanding of an oracy-rich curriculum. These resources are designed to explore the research evidence underpinning this approach, understand what this could look like in practice and make informed decisions about whether this might be appropriate for your school and students.

We encourage you to engage with the following:

Read this research review

This review summarises some of the research evidence around effective oracy education, exploring the impact and implications for primary school practice.

Read this case study

Hydeh Fayaz of St Michael’s Primary School has written a case study to share her school’s journey in implementing an oracy-centred curriculum in their school. This case study could be used to understand the process further but is not intended to be replicated as we strongly believe that all schools should be delivering for their community and circumstances.

Read more case studies

Voice 21 have also kindly provided two case studies from schools they have been working with to implement an oracy focussed curriculum.  These have been working with the Voice 21 resources specifically but many of the challenges and implementation methods can be universally seen in schools who have focussed upon oracy. Thanks go to Voice 21 for sharing these with us and also to Crab Lane Primary, Manchester and Pendle Primary Academy, Lancashire for sharing their journey for us to reflect upon.

Watch this webinar 

We hosted a webinar with Voice 21, Rachel Higginson and Hydeh Fayaz to explore and share experiences of implementing an oracy-rich curriculum. This recording could be re-watched with your school leadership or teaching teams to consider the purpose and application of an oracy-centred curriculum. To support with this, we have prepared a range of reflective questions to facilitate discussion and consider actions forward.

Listen to this podcast

We are delighted to share a short podcast with Hydeh Fayaz, Assistant Headteacher at St Michael’s School, Birmingham about why the school identified an oracy focus to their curriculum and how they implemented this.

Use this evaluation tool

We have created an evaluation tool to be used with your school leadership teams to develop understanding of where your current curriculum is in terms of introducing and embedding an oracy focus in your curriculum. The aim of using this tool is to celebrate and acknowledge the work you are already doing but also to refine actions going forward. 

This tool could help with reviewing the curriculum at a whole school level, ensuring that expectations of experiences within the curriculum are relevant and catered for effectively. It could also support teacher development in the planning and application of the delivery methods- the importance of leaders understanding this.

[To follow]

Further reading and resources

We have created a list of further reading and resources to deepen your understanding of developing an oracy-rich curriculum. These include research articles, case studies and webinars. We have ensured that all resources are open access or available to members of The Chartered College of Teaching. Please click the link below to continue your learning:

Oracy: Selected reading

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