New focus on spoken language in Ofsted inspection framework

I CAN are pleased to see that Ofsted, from January 2012, now has a spotlight on pupils’ communication skills.  The inspectors must consider how well pupils develop a range of skills, including reading, writing, communication and mathematical skills and how well they apply these across the curriculum’.

This is good news for our cause- it means that schools will have to think very carefully about how they help their pupils communicate well. Some of the schools we are working with have embarked on some innovative work to improve pupil outcomes and improve the quality of teaching by focusing on improving communication skills.

  • Teaching pupils how to work effectively in pairs and groups- rather than just saying work with a partner, for example by assigning them roles with prompt cards to structure their conversations.
  • Focusing on the communication skills of pupils who repeatedly find themselves in trouble at school because they either don’t understand instructions or keep saying the wrong thing at the wrong time.
  • Helping pupils become more independent learners by teaching the sort of language they need to question and challenge.
  • Training some pupils to give feedback to their peers and even their teacher on how well they learnt in the lesson (easier than how well the teacher taught!), increasing their responsibility for their own learning.
  • Focusing on subject specific vocabulary and working across the staff team on some of those key words that crop up across all subjects such as evaluate, summarise and define.

We know too that a school can’t be outstanding unless the teaching is outstanding- and that to be outstanding, pupils need to make rapid and sustained progress. This means that pupils will show have to ‘high levels of resilience confidence and independence.’ Good or better teaching will probably be buzzy, interactive, in part pupil led, with lots of collaborative work and confidence to tackle tasks.  Good communication skills are absolutely key here.

Clive Robson and Mary Hartshorne are running a one day course called Talking the Language of School Improvement on Friday 13th July in central London.  It is aimed at those working in schools to help improve speech, language and communication skills and will focus on how their work can dovetail with the main drivers currently in school- raising pupil achievement,  improving the quality of teaching, improving behaviour, Ofsted, making use of school data to plan for effective interventions (Mary and Clive promise to make the data section fun!)