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Arlene Holmes-Henderson MBE pictured outside the Department of Classics and Ancient History

The Commission on the Future of Oracy Education in England officially launched today at the Voice 21 Speaking Summit.

Professor of Classics Education and Public Policy, Arlene Holmes-Henderson’s work has been a key contributor to the development of the Commission, which has been supported through her British Academy Innovation Fellowship, held at Durham University.  

With support from Professor Holmes-Henderson’s fellowship, funding was provided for YouGov polling, also released today, showing that over 80% of business leaders and parents support more time being spent on the development of young people’s spoken language and listening skills at school.

Key findings 

Increased access to technology is fuelling concerns among employers and parents, with 69% of business leaders and 63% of parents of children 18 and under believing it has a negative impact on children and young people’s speaking and listening skills. 

The polling also indicates that spoken language and listening skills are becoming increasingly valuable in the workplace. YouGov found that:  

  • 71% of business leaders would back the introduction of oral examinations counting towards young people’s qualifications. 
  • 68% of business leaders agreed that the growth of technology and AI will make spoken language and listening skills more important for progression at work. 
  • 83% felt that strong spoken language skills unlock more opportunities to advance in their sector. 
  • 56% of business leaders state that these skills are more important for staff in their business now than five years ago, and 64% believe that these skills will be more important in five years. 

Professor Holmes-Henderson has a long relationship with the national oracy charity Voice 21. Prior to her British Academy Innovation Fellowship, she supported Voice 21 as secretariat to the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Oracy during their national inquiry, ‘Speak for Change’. Acting as expert advisor, Professor Holmes-Henderson shared research evidence on classical rhetoric and international comparative approaches to oracy, which shaped the final report.

Speaking at the Summit about the Commission, Professor Holmes-Henderson said: “It’s wonderful to have this new YouGov data to understand better how employers and parents perceive oracy. The launch today of the Oracy Education Commission builds on years of effort by hardworking educators seeking to raise the profile of speaking and listening in schools and communities. The commission will gather evidence to inform future policy and practice. To be part of the national conversation, championing the needs of those across the North East, is a privilege and a pleasure."  

Learn more:

Find out more about the Commission 

Professor Holmes-Henderson's British Academy Innovation Fellowship and research

Professor Holmes-Henderson in TES 

Department of Classics and Ancient History 

Introduction to rhetoric (free resource for teachers /students )