Oracy APPG responds to Cracks in our Foundations: a report on the attainment gap in primary schools

The Oracy All Party Parliamentary Group responds to The Centre for Social Justice report 'Cracks in our Foundations', which addresses the longstanding attainment gap in England’s primary schools.

In February 2023, The Centre for Social Justice published the ‘Cracks in our Foundations’ report, which addresses the longstanding attainment gap in England’s primary schools. The Oracy All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) welcomes the findings in this report and its key recommendations. 

As the Oracy APPG’s secretariat, Voice 21 is on a mission to transform the life and learning chances of children through the power of oracy and spoken language. Voice 21 works in partnership with schools and teachers to deliver and increase access to high-quality oracy education in classrooms. Voice 21 is passionate about closing the attainment gap using high-quality oracy education. 

The report describes the attainment gap standing at its widest level since the last decade. Thousands of students leave primary school every year without having reached the expected standards in foundational skills, such as literacy, numeracy and oracy, leaving them ill-equipped and unprepared for further learning in secondary school. The gap is even wider for children from disadvantaged backgrounds. In 2022, 57% of children from disadvantaged backgrounds left primary school without reaching expected standards in foundational skills. 

Why does oracy matter? 

Along with literacy and numeracy, the report recognises oracy as being a foundational skill. The Oracy APPG welcomes this recognition and is pleased to have seen its definition of oracy being used in the report. The Oracy APPG defines oracy as ‘the ability to speak eloquently, to articulate ideas and thoughts, to influence through talking, to collaborate with peers, and to express views confidently and appropriately’. The report describes oracy as a third foundational skill. It found that poor language skills development at age five significantly impacts children’s literacy and numeracy skills at age 11. 

The report highlighted studies which showed that one in four pupils who struggled with spoken language at age five did not reach expected standards in English at the end of primary school. In comparison, only one in 25 pupils with good language skills failed to meet expected standards. One in five children with poor language skills at age five did not reach expected standards in maths at the end of primary school, compared with one in 50 who had good language skills. 

The demand for national oracy training in schools

The report showcased the national demand for professional development for teachers to improve students’ oracy skills. It is found that while teachers in primary schools agree that it is their job to teach children foundational skills, many teachers do not feel equipped with the knowledge or skills to effectively deliver on oracy outcomes. 

The Oracy APPG secretariat, Voice 21, was listed within the report as one of the organisations working in partnership with schools across the nation in providing access to high-quality oracy education. Voice 21 is set to work with 2,000 primary and secondary schools by 2025, and its growth is showing the increasing demand for high-quality oracy education in schools. 

Key Recommendations 

The Oracy APPG welcomes the number of recommendations made by the Cracks in our Foundations report which align with some of the Oracy APPG recommendations in our Speak for Change report

  • Recommendation 11 in the cracks in our foundations report sets out that the Department for Education (DfE) should introduce a ring-fenced fund for continuing professional development (CPD) focusing on improving foundational skills in the classroom. This is important in overcoming the issue of teachers feeling ill-equipped and unprepared in teaching foundational skills such as oracy in classrooms. 
  • Recommendation 14 calls on the DfE to introduce new National Professional Qualifications (NQPs) for leading numeracy and leading oracy. 
  • Recommendation 15 of the report calls on the DfE to put oracy education on an equal footing with literacy and numeracy by introducing oracy in the national curriculum and piloting new Oracy Hubs, in the style of English and Maths Hubs. 

These recommendations are important in putting oracy on equal priority as literacy and numeracy as the report findings emphasise the importance of oracy and spoken language skills in closing the widening attainment gap in England’s primary schools. 

For any questions or for more information about the Oracy APPG, please email secretariat@oracyappg.org.uk