Spoken language in the curriculum

What does the national curriculum say about spoken language?

The current national curriculum for mainstream schools became statutory in 2014. While spoken language features in both the primary and secondary curriculums, it's important to remember that these skills underlie all aspects of education. They should therefore be explicitly taught and developed, not assumed. 

Find out more about what the curriculum says and how No Pens Day Wednesday can help you to meet the guidelines below. 

 

There is now a spoken language programme of study in the primary curriculum (instead of a 'speaking and listening' strand), and oral language skills are further integrated within other areas of the curriculum.

Level descriptors outlining progress towards attainment are not specified and schools can use their own ways of monitoring and reporting on progress in spoken language within the curriculum.

Full details can be found throughout the full National Curriculum for key stages 1 and 2 document here:

  • In the English programme of study, there is a statutory spoken language programme of study. This has twelve statutory requirements which cover the whole of the primary age range. Guidance outlines that schools should teach the content for these statements at a level appropriate to the age of the pupils and build on the oral language skills they have been previously taught.
  • There is also a strong focus on all elements of language skills in the other 3 areas of the English curriculum. These aspects focus more strongly on oral language in the earlier years and lead more onto written language in the older year groups.  Two other programmes of study (curriculum areas), Maths and Science, have a paragraph relating directly to spoken language in their introduction. These paragraphs identify the importance of spoken language throughout both Maths and Science.
  • Spoken language skills are also a feature within many of the remaining programmes of study (computing, design and technology, geography, history, languages, music, physical education) where there is overt reliance on language development, for example, where it is identified that pupils must ‘ask questions’, ‘discuss’ etc. This tends to be more prominent in the younger age groups.
  • In later stages of the primary national curriculum, there are statutory requirements requiring verbal comprehension of the task, a good grasp of the meaning of the vocabulary, word retrieval, auditory memory, sequencing, narrative skills etc. These are spoken language skills, important in their own right, but also to support written language.
How can No Pens Day Wednesday help you to meet statutory requirements?

No Pens Day Wednesday provides:

  • A chance to spend time specifically developing the skills which are part of the spoken language programme of study – with lots of ready-made lesson plans and activities to help
  • An opportunity to try out and share lots of different ways you could include a focus on spoken language, not just today but every day.
  • A mechanism to consider how you weave spoken language skills through the whole of your curriculum
  • An incentive for discussing spoken language as a whole staff team – looking at how this area of the curriculum can be supported by everyone in the different aspects of their work
  • The occasion to support reading and writing through focusing on the oral skills essential for underpinning written language

The role of spoken language is highlighted in an introductory section on language and literacy in the secondary curriculum. Spoken English is a defined part of the English programme of study and oral language skills are further integrated within other areas of the new secondary curriculum. You can access the curriculum document in full here.

Level descriptors outlining progress towards attainment are not specified and schools can use their own ways of monitoring and reporting on progress in spoken language within the curriculum.

The following changes were made to how spoken language should be taught in 2014:

  • The English programme of study for each key stage is divided into reading; writing; grammar and vocabulary and spoken English
  • Spoken language continues to be assessed as part of GCSE English, however it does not contribute to the overall grade and is reported separately
  • Oral language skills have been more integrated within other areas of the new secondary curriculum, especially Science and Maths which each have a specific paragraph describing how spoken language skills are required as underpinning skills for these subjects
  • The curriculum states that “Teachers should develop pupils’ spoken language, reading, writing and vocabulary as integral aspects of the teaching of every subject. English is both a subject in its own right and the medium for teaching; for pupils, understanding the language provides access to the whole curriculum” (paragraph 6.1)
How can No Pens Day Wednesday help you to meet statutory requirements? 

No Pens Day Wednesday provides:

  • A chance to spend time specifically developing the skills which are part of the ‘grammar and vocabulary’ and ‘spoken English’ programmes of study – with lots of ready-made lesson plans and activities to help
  • An opportunity to try out and share lots of different ways you could include a focus on spoken English, not just today but every day.
  • A mechanism to consider how you weave grammar and vocabulary and spoken English skills through the whole of your curriculum
  • An incentive for discussing spoken language as a whole staff team – looking at how this area of the curriculum can be supported by everyone in the different aspects of their work
  • The occasion to support reading and writing through focusing on the oral skills essential for underpinning written language

 

We encourage schools to take their focus on spoken language and listening further to help their pupils achieve their potential in education and beyond. The Communication Trust's Communicating the Curriculum resource breaks down the programme of study statements in relation to the typical stages of language development. It can help primary schools define and monitor children's progress in spoken language.

Want to improve communication skills in the classroom? Find out what else you can do after No Pens Day.

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