Update regarding ESB assessments for ESOL Skills for Life and Speech Qualifications

English Speaking Board (International) supports the Oracy All-Party Parliamentary Final Report

Emma Hardy MP, Chair of the Oracy All-Party Parliamentary Group

English Speaking Board’s assessment methodology has been endorsed as a valuable part of teaching Oracy to learners in the Final Report published by the Oracy All-Party Parliamentary Group Inquiry ‘Speak for Change’.

Whilst the inquiry heard a spectrum of views as to whether oracy should be formally assessed, there was general agreement that the absence of currency and accountability undermined oracy’s status and value.

As a proud contributor to the inquiry, ESB fully supports the report’s recommendations to raise the status and priority of oracy in education by calling for a shift in values, policy and practice.

ESB’s Chief Executive, Tina Renshaw

Tina Renshaw, ESB’s Chief Executive, says: “I am delighted that these recommendations pave the way forward to improve oracy education in schools. We have been successfully offering oracy assessments to learners for many years and know its value as a valid pathway to promote oracy in schools.

“We take a learner-focused approach to assessment, recognising and encouraging the potential of all. We do not only assess what the young person knows or says, but what they have become. Clarity of communication and an ability to express thoughts simply, sincerely and persuasively, are qualities needed by everyone in this specialised, competitive world. Along with other examples of established practice, the report recognises that ESB’s assessment frameworks can act as a scaffolding tool for embedding Oracy into a school curriculum.

“The report also highlights the positive impact that oracy education has on progression. Preparing today’s learner for tomorrow’s world is something ESB is passionate about. Our assessment process provides feedback for every learners to allow them to build on their skills and for the schools to receive validation and feedback on their teaching and learning.”

With the pandemic having had a devastating impact on oracy, particularly on the spoken language development of disadvantaged learners, the report acknowledges how a greater focus on oral language improves outcomes for the most disadvantaged students and uses an example from an ESB learner to illustrate the point:

As someone from one of the most marginalised groups in the country I believe that it is even more important that the children and young people from marginalised groups have a voice, and one that is going to allow them to have a place in the world. One that is going to allow them to create better opportunities for themselves in education and in the world of work and self-employment. Good oracy empowers children, young people and their teachers to communicate more effectively. The benefits of this are tremendous.”
Young person from Reclaim, English Speaking Board, evidence to the Inquiry, pg. 31

Says Tina:

Here at ESB, we are steadfast in our determination to support as many disadvantaged groups as possible from the charity and community sectors, as well as educational centres and we are passionate to help close the disadvantage gap, as demonstrated by the launch of our new 70/70 Campaign.

ESB is coming up to its 70th anniversary in 2023, and to honour this milestone, we are aiming to find and financially support 70 new centres where their learners, children, young people or community members face disadvantage and would be supported in their aspirations if they could achieve an ESB qualification.

The 70/70 Campaign is part of our purpose to stretch the most able and support the least confident and to realise the potential of all by closing the disadvantage gap.

Please click here to read about this exciting initiative in more detail.

The report also emphasises strong support for increased focus on oracy and demonstrates how it can improve access to and subsequent inclusion in education for children with speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) and with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), again hearing from an ESB learner:

“Oracy skills, developed from an early age, can help bridge the social mobility gap for people like me, with disabilities such as Autism.”
Young person, English Speaking Board, evidence to the Inquiry, pg.30

ESB’s suite of speech qualifications for learners with special educational needs and disabilities help remove barriers to learning by enabling access to a wide range of curricula, building relationships and a sense of belonging, and developing self-esteem and a positive self-identity.

Echoing the view of others that there is lack of specificity and ambition for oracy in the National Curriculum, Tina is quoted in the report:

“There is not enough differentiation in the current National Curriculum for English in terms of spoken language to facilitate the delivery of high-quality oracy education, and the guidance given is insufficient for such a crucial skill set. The requirements focus largely on formal speaking and listening (presentations, speeches, debate, performance) and do not make enough reference to the broader range of talk possibilities.”
Tina Renshaw, English Speaking Board, evidence to the Inquiry, pg. 36

The report calls attention to the debate about whether Ofqual should reinstate an improved form of English Language GCSE spoken language assessments as a contributory element of the GCSE grading.

“This is something we would wholeheartedly support as teachers have asked for it and we know that there are forms of valid assessment that could be reintroduced”, says Tina. “We feel we could contribute to the success of this reintroduction as ESB assessments are a clear path for oracy success with each level building on learners’ development from the previous level, providing a perfect journey to progress to GCSE level”.

It’s great to see that our views presented two years ago were echoed and amplified by the many voices raised as part of the APPG on Oracy. Please read ESB’s written submission below.

APPG’s Recommendations
The report advocates a shift in educational culture and values, policy and practice to:

1. Raise the status and priority of oracy in education.

2. Agree shared expectations for oracy and increase understanding of how these can be achieved.

3. Equip and empower teachers and schools to provide sustained, and comprehensive high-quality oracy education.

Please click here to read the full report.

If you missed the report launch, you can watch the event here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2hTuYBQT5MQ.


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