Many akonga at Burnside Primary were unable to label body parts, finish sentences with an opposite word, use pronouns correctly, or even join sentences together using ‘and’ or ‘but’. Inspired by the great results being achieved at School 21 in England, Year 0 – 2 team leader Trudi Browne and SENCO/Year 5 – 6 team leader Nic Rickard were keen to develop their own Oracy Framework and build expertise through professional development.

“School 21 was making a difference for their students by focusing on oracy across the curriculum. We saw this as a need and wanted to develop something that was culturally appropriate, and relevant to our setting and the New Zealand Curriculum,” says Trudi.

As recipients of one of The Education Hub’s 2018 Bright Spots Awards, Trudi and Nic received the perfect opportunity. Through the award programme, the school has been granted significant funding to support the development of the initiative, as well as professional learning and expert hands-on assistance from The Education Hub.

“It has given us resourcing and time to develop the project fully, using the expertise of Spark and The Education Hub. It has also provided us with a wider team to keep up the momentum and drive the project forward. The Bright Spots Awards have shown us that something worthwhile can be developed internally within the school, without requiring outside professional development.”

Currently halfway through the two-year innovation project, Burnside Primary is already reaping the benefits.

  • The framework has been extended to encompass level 2 and 3 of the curriculum, and includes goals written in “kids’ speak”
  • A group of Oracy Champs has been developed within the school, including Reading Recovery and ESOL teachers
  • Professional development around oracy has been undertaken
  • Initial data collection, including student voice, has been collected so that the impact of the framework can be measured at the end of the year
  • Awareness of the importance of oracy has increased among both staff and students
  • Students are using visuals and talking strips alongside the framework to work on oracy goals across the curriculum

“Having access to the Education Hub to support, encourage and research elements that we weren’t sure about has been invaluable,” says Trudi. “They have also been able to use their connections in the academic world to move the project forward.”

Teachers have learnt a lot, including how to plan out a project with timelines, and the importance of looking at stakeholder perspectives. Even more crucially, working as a team has helped sustain motivation and Trudi and Nic believe change is now much more likely to embed within the school.

But perhaps best of all is the fact that several other local schools have now articulated a need to boost oracy levels and are interested in finding out more about Burnside Primary’s innovation.

“We hope that eventually preschools, local primary schools and intermediates will all want to use this framework to begin their own oracy journey. It would be fantastic if the historical importance that oracy has played in many cultures becomes a priority in our diverse learning spaces.”

Back at Burnside Primary, the hard work continues as teachers press on with trialling and developing this innovative new practice – a practice which they hope will have a far-reaching and significant impact.

“We aim to raise the status of oracy to that of literacy and numeracy, so that our children finish Burnside Primary being able to confidently articulate their thoughts and participate as members of their community.”

Applications for the 2019 Bright Spots Awards are open April 29 – June 14. The Bright Spots Awards support the development, evaluation and sharing of innovative practice in schools and ECE centres. For more information and to access the application form, go to www.theeducationhub.org.nz/brightspots

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