Research School Network: Time to Talk The crucial role of developing Oracy in Primary Education


Time to Talk

The crucial role of developing Oracy in Primary Education

by Derby Research School
on the

Thumbnail pro M Kd Ihn Ng

Anna West

Saint Benedict Catholic Voluntary Academy, Ralph Sherwin Trust, Derby.

Director of Learning for Performing and Creative Arts

Read more aboutAnna West

The crucial role of Oracy

As Head of Performing and Creative Arts in a Secondary school and the Performing Arts lead across a Trust of schools, I have seen the vital role Oracy plays in developing student communication, cognitive development, social and emotional skills, and confidence which contribute to their overall academic success. I also recognise the challenges Oracy presents for many teachers surrounding classroom management, maintaining discipline and assessment.

In the current contemporary educational landscape, explicitly teaching Oracy is an essential skill that all students should have as an entitlement. For this to happen there needs to be a shift in the understanding that Oracy does not sit solely within the English and Drama Curriculum, to a culture of knowing that it is the responsibility of all teachers to find ways of ensuring that purposeful scaffolded talk happens regularly in their classroom.

For this to be effective and long lasting, teachers must be provided with targeted ongoing CPD to understand the impact oracy has on student progress and wellbeing and that they are also given time to plan for dialogic teaching and purposeful talk in their lessons.


Research by the EEF shows that on average, that Oral language approaches have significant impact on student outcomes: up to 6 months additional progress.

The EEF’s guidance on Improving literacy in KS2’ highlights seven evidence-based recommendations to improving literacy for disadvantaged students.

These include:

Purposeful speaking and listening activities
Fluent reading
Teaching reading through modelling and supported practice
High quality structured interventions
Articulating ideas verbally before writing
Opportunities for high quality dialogue in the classroom between teacher and pupils to support their thinking and use of language

Make It Relevant

I was keen to understand how this research framework could support primary schools within our Trust where weaknesses in Oracy were highlighted as areas of concern from Foundation Stage to KS2.

Teachers felt that this inequity was limiting student progress and their wider communication with other children and adults, which was vital for their language and cognitive development and their relationship building. Having experienced first-hand the impact of the Arts on student’s Oracy skills, I began to consider how Drama techniques could be used to support primary teachers to develop their oracy provision.

My initial findings from Shotton Hall Research School on the impact of Readers Theatre’ demonstrated that role-play and drama successfully provided opportunities for students to communicate without relying solely on producing their own oral language. Through physical performance, use of script and group improvisation activities, students developed confidence in communicating or performing with their classmates.

Uploaded: - 186.8 KB - pdfOpens in a new tab

5 Minutes on Fluency – Shotton Hall RS

Read more about
Uploaded: - 361.2 KB - pdfOpens in a new tab

EEF Readers Theatre

Read more about

The opportunity to rehearse language that was part of a role play, a script or Reader’s theatre text enabled students to build fluency in English and build positive relationships with their peers.

The EEF Improving Literacy in Key Stage Two guidance supports this stating that Readers Theatre provides an authentic reason for rereading texts and developing Oracy.” Stayter & Allington (1991)

Screenshot 2024 05 16 175003

Building a Partnership

With this research in mind and in partnership with Derby Theatre, we were successful in achieving a grant from Paul Hamlyn’s Teacher Development Fund’ to develop Oracy through Drama for EAL and disadvantaged students across six schools in our Trust.

Paul Hamlyn Foundation (PHF)
currently supports work in six key areas, one of which is Education and Learning through the Arts. The charity focuses on supporting learners experiencing disadvantage and explores how arts-based pedagogies can support high standards of teaching and learning across the curriculum, achieving positive outcomes for pupils’ engagement, attainment, personal and social skills.

The Teacher Development Fund directly supports the development of primary school teachers, in building their knowledge, skills and confidence to embed arts-based approaches into their everyday practice and the wider school curriculum. Within this model, artist practitioners are employed to facilitate CPDL for teachers and school leaders, supporting them to achieve a sustainable approach to embedding learning through the arts.

Speak Out! Project

Our two year Speak Out!’ project launched in September and involves 12 teachers, 6 Head teachers and 6 drama practitioners working collaboratively to develop Oracy across the curriculum using drama methodologies and structured, purposeful opportunities for talk.

As a cohort we recognise the gaps in teaching Oracy in our schools and we are determined to overcome this to ensure our students have the knowledge, ability, and confidence to thrive academically and personally in all that they do.

In my next three blogs I will share our cohort’s learning journey over three terms, which will include tried and tested methods of how to introduce Oracy into the classroom, the impact of these strategies on targeted students and on teacher confidence and our plans for school wide CPD to create a long lasting and sustainable change.

If you would like to find out more about this project, you can sign up to Derby Research School’s Oracy in the Primary Classroom where I will be sharing our case study and resources.

Sign up below

Related Events

Show all events

More from the Derby Research School

Show all news

This website collects a number of cookies from its users for improving your overall experience of the site.Read more