AO of the year

English Speaking Board (International) Ltd. contributes 70 years of evidence to the Oracy Education Commission

English Speaking Board (International) Ltd. is delighted to support the Commission on the Future of Oracy Education in England by sharing its 70 years’ of evidence of the value of oracy for children, young people, and adults across all educational settings.

The Commission, an independent body chaired by Geoff Barton and hosted by Voice 21, recognises the growing importance of spoken language in children’s learning and life chances and concerns the impact of the inconsistency, quality and accessibility of oracy education in schools across England.

ESB’s evidence aims to inform the Commission’s efforts to define the purpose of oracy education in schools and propose a blueprint for delivering effective oracy education as a fundamental component of every child’s statutory education.

ESB has submitted evidence based on both research and practice around the following themes:

Oracy education directly affects specific subject outcomes

Our recent research shows that by focusing on developing the specific knowledge and skills of speaking and listening, learners not only become more confident and adept in these areas, but they also increase their capacity to articulate their learning. 

Oracy education and skills development must include all learners

Oracy education is for every young person at school, in post-16 education, at specialist providers for learners with special educational needs and disabilities, and in inclusion, exclusion or pupil referral units. 

ESB International assessments are communication-rich experiences for learners in a supportive group setting

ESB International assessments, which deliver a recognised qualification, usually take place in groups of six learners, and each learner is assessed individually whilst interacting with the group, teacher and the assessor. Face-to-face assessments are held in person, with a trained, standardised and moderated assessor coming to the centre. The ESB International 2021-22 Impact Report has shown that external oracy assessment taken in peer groups can play a valuable part in developing young people’s speaking and listening skills by creating communication-rich situations, which reflect best practice classroom group learning; signpost post-16 and higher education group projects and seminars, and model an interactive, discursive workplace.  

Teachers’ comments (from ESB’s 2021-22 Impact Report):

  • ‘By giving the students a chance to practise their speaking and listening in an assessment that was not ran by school staff, students learned to step up, overcome their fears about presenting, and talk about something they chose.’
  • ‘Overall, this built students resilience, speaking ability, listening ability, teamwork, and independent working skills.’
  • ‘Children’s speaking skills really came on by having to go through the process of learning texts and being able to speak them aloud as a group. It was lovely to see.’

The links between oracy and employability are well-documented and evidenced

  • The ‘Skills Builder Universal Framework’ includes ‘Speaking’, ‘Listening’ and ‘Teamwork’. All levels of this framework are addressed in ESB international oracy qualifications, from ‘Getting Started’ at Level 1 and below, to ‘Mastery’ at Level 3.
  • A teacher of post-16 learners with special educational needs and disabilities states, many of our adults achieve supported, paid employment and for others volunteering in the community becomes more achievable, so these qualifications have been invaluable in preparing them for employability and volunteering. 
  • Data collected for the ESB International Impact Report 2021-2022 shows that preparing for and completing our Level 1 and Level 2 Speech for Employability qualifications, improves learners’ transferrable, employability-related skills and abilities.  For example, at secondary level, 62% of learners made progress against their starting point in their ability to ‘work well in a group, staying focused and collaborating with others’.
  • In more recent, unpublished ESB data, learners and teachers have reflected upon specific aspects of their qualifications and the value they hold for their futures and careers:

“It is an excellent qualification to build life skills for the workplace.”

“It has taught me how to speak confidently without stuttering and it has helped me be more confident in memorising… Now I can probably speak confidently during a job interview or a presentation.”

“Completing this assessment has helped me better understand an interview situation and how to better develop my answers.”

Oracy education develops learner agency and self-advocacy and can level the playing field for learners from a range of backgrounds, starting points, and different lived experiences.

Our assessments are based on a child-centred approach, where there are no set texts or detailed prescribed topics. Our founding philosophy was to use spoken language to foster human connection and to achieve this by the learners choosing their topics, texts and role models, which ESB International has been proud to hold as our core ethos for over 70 years. Indeed, to succeed in our qualifications the individual needs to hold up and encourage those around them through listening and interaction. 

The ESB International Impact Report 2021-2022 investigates the impact of the emphasis on personal choice, which provides an authentic opportunity for the exercise of learner agency. Agency and advocacy both empower individuals to assert their rights, needs, and interests. When people have agency, they are better equipped to advocate for themselves and others. Conversely, advocacy often aims to enhance people’s agency by challenging systemic barriers and injustices that limit their ability to act autonomously. 

About English Speaking Board (International) Ltd.

English Speaking Board (International) Ltd. (ESB International) is an Ofqual-regulated awarding organisation, which has been assessing speaking and listening of learners in primary, secondary and tertiary education, and employees in workplace settings for over 70 years. This history of assessment practice allows us an exceptional insight into the value and impact, provision, access and barriers in oracy education during successive periods of educational policy and societal change.  

You can read our full National Impact Report here: ESB-INFO-C70-Oracy-Assessment-Impact-Report-2021-22-v1.pdf (

With the Commission’s final report due in September 2024, ESB looks forward to providing the Commission with its full input, as we look to collectively positively impact the future of oracy education in England.