Why public speaking is such an important life skill to teach children

A child practises public speaking Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

A child practises public speaking Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Speaking in front of an audience is something many adults find daunting, so how are Ipswich schools helping children ‘find their voice’?

Watching a 6 year old recite the complete “Owl and the Pussycat” poem on the stage at the Wolsey Theatre last week was a very special moment.

In front of an audience of proud parents, families and friends, children from 10 Ipswich schools came together to celebrate ‘finding their voices’, demonstrating their ability to speak aloud, to perform with their voice and to learn through talk.

I wonder whether many people would be able to recite a complete poem in front of an audience with such confidence?

Many adults find speaking to an audience daunting. Your heart beats faster, you find yourself speaking too quickly, you can’t find the right words, it makes you panic and you probably decide it’s not for you.

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Having the confidence and the ability to speak clearly in front of a group of people is not something that most of us learnt to do when we were at school. In fact, it was probably school days that put us off doing it at all - even ‘reading around the class’ we felt under pressure.

And yet it is an essential life skill - one that is required in many occupations and probably at some point in everybody’s life, even if it is just a one-off speech at a wedding.

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Being able to clearly articulate your views, experiences and ideas will separate you out from others when you are applying for a job.

The ability to explain in a logical and orderly way will stand you in good stead in many walks of life.

Arguably it is more important than many other subjects you can study at school. Those of us who work in state schools admire the confidence and rich vocabulary that young people emerging from the private sector display. And we want that for our children.

The performance at the Wolsey Theatre was the culmination of a year long project bringing oracy skills to Ipswich children.

It was funded entirely by the Department for Education, through a Strategic School Improvement Fund bid submitted by ASSET Education.

Schools were eligible to apply because Ipswich is designated as an Opportunity Area. The funding was used to buy in Voice 21’s Oracy Development Programme to develop pupils’ use of speech to express their thoughts and communicate effectively.

Teachers in the 10 schools involved in the project have received first class training across the year, they have undertaken audits of their own school’s provision and have trained staff in strategies and teaching techniques to promote speaking and listening in the classroom. The impact is being seen across these schools, from the early years through to secondary. Some of the teachers are taking their specialism to the next level to become trainers themselves, enabling the project to become sustainable into the future. It is just one example of the benefits that being in an Opportunity Area school can bring and it is proof that the additional funding that is coming to Ipswich through the Opportunity Area has the power to transform the life chances of a generation of children.

It was heartening and uplifting to see children on stage demonstrating their new found skills and clearly feeling proud of their achievements.

I felt extremely proud for them, and particularly pleased that this project was only possible because four of our local Multi-Academy Trusts were contributing and working together for the good of all local children.

• Clare Flintoff is CEO at ASSET Education, a local Multi-Academy Trust (MAT).

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