HUNDREDS of children across Liverpool have been helped to find their voice by an ambitious city-wide project involving dozens of city schools.
The Voice Liverpool programme was designed to boost students’ verbal communication skills while also improving their confidence and wellbeing.
Over the last three years, teachers at primary and secondary schools all over the city have worked with experts from charity Voice 21 to develop oracy – speaking and listening skills – within their classrooms and across their schools.
It is hoped the £180,000 project, which was funded by education charity SHINE, will have a long-term impact, particularly on the outcomes of children from disadvantaged backgrounds.
When they start school, disadvantaged children’s spoken language development is significantly lower than their peers, which can lead to them falling further behind in their learning. When they leave school, they are also less likely to find employment and more likely to suffer from mental health difficulties.
Evidence shows that by improving the spoken communication skills of disadvantaged children, their learning and life chances can be transformed.
Thanks to Voice Liverpool, teachers have built the confidence of their students and enabled them to become more effective speakers and listeners.
Voice 21 CEO Rebecca Earnshaw said the project, the first city-wide initiative of its kind, had been ‘daring’ and ‘ambitious’, and she praised the teachers who have taken part.
“Throughout the three years, we’ve been struck by the commitment of individual teachers and school leaders and how their commitment to transforming children’s learning and life chances through talk has remained constant.
“If anything, the pandemic has highlighted the vital importance of oracy in setting children up for success in school and in life beyond.
“This focus on impact – on using oracy to support children’s confidence and wellbeing, their engagement in learning and their attainment, their relationships and employability – takes us back to our original plans and ambitions.”
The programme focused on four hub schools – Longmoor Community Primary School, Palmerston School, Archbishop Blanch High School, and King’s Leadership Academy Hawthornes – although more than 70 schools across the city were involved.
One of the children to benefit from Voice Liverpool, seven-year-old Molly, said:
“Standing in front of the class and showing everyone what I know now and sharing the knowledge I have learnt made me extremely proud.”
Another primary school pupil, aged nine, said:
“Everybody has a voice, and talking gives us democracy in our classroom.”
A third added:
“In our school, we don’t get nervous because we know we’ve got each other to help out.”
Some of the students and teachers taking part shared their stories at a celebration event held to mark the culmination of the project.
Elisabeth and Abigail, 15-year-old students at Kings Leadership Academy Hawthornes, spoke of how their confidence had grown.
Elisabeth said she was much more confident about speaking in front of her class:
“Over Year 9 and 10, the confidence just built up, and whenever I had something to say, I would always raise my hand and contribute, without fearing what people would say.”
“It gives us the confidence to tell the class as a whole, and we don’t feel that we’re going to get it wrong and be embarrassed.”
Sarah Evans, a teacher at Longmoor Community Primary School, said:
“The impact of the oracy project has been fantastic, and there have been so many success stories. It really has supported inclusion for all pupils and has given the children the tools they need to make a real and impactful difference to not just their academic achievement but to their lives. Pupils have grown in a whole range of social, emotional, interpersonal skills, including self-confidence, self-awareness, resilience, and empathy.
“Overwhelmingly, all of our teachers agree that the most positive impact was on pupils’ confidence to speak up and believe in themselves.”
Helen Rafferty, CEO of SHINE, said:
“While the importance of literacy and numeracy are well understood, our lives are mediated through the spoken word, and our children’s ability to express themselves verbally is key to their future success, emotional wellbeing, and place in the world.
“Voice Liverpool has been a transformative programme that we’re very proud to have supported, and it’s been wonderful to see the collaboration between schools and the engagement and commitment of the teachers. We’re excited by the prospect of so many Liverpool children experiencing the benefits of an oracy-rich education and the long-term impact on how schools work with their students across the region.”