Building confidence and oracy skills from Year 7

Withernsea High School

Making a successful move to high school is vital for young people’s confidence, engagement and academic achievement. A key element of this process is learning how to communicate confidently and effectively

To help prepare them for the five years of secondary school ahead, and the world of further education and work beyond, Withernsea High School’s brand-new Year 7 cohort were recently given the opportunity to work with expert trainers from Talk The Talk – an organisation whose aim is to develop students’ communication skills through oracy intervention.

Defined as the means to ‘express oneself fluently and grammatically in speech’, oracy is the ability to articulate ideas and engage with others through spoken language. It is a powerful tool that extends far beyond academic achievement and employability, to encompass social, emotional and interpersonal skills.

Through their ‘Talk about Transition’ workshops, Talk The Talk supports students using oracy-based activities and strategies to enhance self-confidence, resilience and empathy. Among these activities are a number of tasks that encourage students to step out of their comfort zones, away from people they knew at primary school, to interact with others who are relatively new to them.

For Withernsea’s Year 7s, partnering with someone outside their existing friendship circle offered an opportunity for students to interview each other and get to know someone different. They then introduced their new-found friends to their peers through structured talks.

Working within small groups, students were also given a platform to share their thoughts about starting high school and to set themselves goals for the year ahead. They were asked to identify what they see as the opportunities and challenges facing them, before suggesting the means to embrace and overcome them respectively.

Throughout the days’ activities, which took place on Thursday 15th September, Year 7 were accompanied by their form tutors who were on-hand to offer support. The involvement of tutors enabled them to learn more about their new students, helping to create a bond that will support them in the delivery of pastoral care.

Commenting on the success of the day, event organiser and Withernsea High School Careers Leader Viki Foster said: ‘Working with Talk The Talk we wanted students to discuss their transition to high school and build relationships with fellow students and their form tutors.

The day provided lots of opportunities for staff and students to start creating relationships which will support them throughout their time at Withernsea High School. New friendships were forged and skills were developed as students came out of their comfort zones to speak in front of their peers.

Such communications skills are essential for young people to learn and develop, which will not only help them through school but will also be tremendously useful as they move into the workforce of the future.

We are incredibly proud of the students for the confidence and maturity shown and we would like to thank Talk The Talk for delivering such a fantastic and useful workshop.’

Leading the days’ activities were Mike Doody, Rowena English and Nicola Vincent from Talk The Talk, who commented: ‘Transition to secondary school involves changes that can be both exciting and a cause of concern to students. Moving on from the safe haven of primary school – one classroom and often one teacher – to a much larger school and the feeling of being a ‘small fish in a large pond’ can cause worry and anxiety. Our programme embraces this change and allows students to talk about their concerns and how to overcome them – but also the fantastic opportunities that await them – and how best to embrace these.

We found Withernsea to be a really welcoming school. The students were engaged, fun and a fantastic representation of their school. They were very positive and willing to try new activities. It was lovely to see quiet, unsure students demonstrate great oracy skills talking in front of the whole class, and staff created a very supportive environment for students.’  

As one of England and Wales’ most popular providers of oracy intervention, Talk The Talk have worked directly with over 138,000 secondary school students and delivered over 5,500 workshops.

Set up in 2013 by John Bothamley, founder of the grant-making Four Acre Trust, Mr Bothamley was concerned that many children were unable to communicate confidently. He established Talk The Talk, inspiring children to listen, speak up and express themselves verbally.

In 2019 Talk The Talk became its own charity and has gone from strength-to-strength training young people to become confident communicators for life

Meanwhile, Withernsea High School’s Year 7 cohort will shortly have an opportunity to put their enhanced communication skills into practice as they participate in their first careers event of the school’s five year Careers Education Information Advice and Guidance (CEIAG) programme.

This will take the form of a ‘Business Breakfast’ to be held next month. The event will bring together representatives from local businesses and education providers who will enjoy an informal breakfast with Year 7, allowing students to ask questions and find out more about their future options.

The event has been a fixture of the school’s comprehensive Careers Programme for a number of years, offering the school’s youngest students an introduction to the programme which will guide them through the next five years and prepare them for further education, training and employment beyond.

Withernsea’s long-standing inclusion of Year 7 in their careers activities has put them ahead of the curve nationally. Since September 2013, local authority-maintained schools in England have been under a duty to provide impartial careers guidance to pupils from Years 8 to 13 (ages 12 to 18). On September 1st this year, the Education (Careers Guidance in Schools) Act 2022 came into force which extended the duty to all pupils in state-funded secondary education, meaning that schools must now also include independent careers guidance for students in Year 7 (age 11).

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