No buts, children should be taught to speak eloquently, says leading headteacher

 

Education Editor

Talking is just an important a skill to learn as reading and writing to combat the image of the “grunting, monosyllabic teenager”, a leading headteacher and former senior adviser to Tony Blair says today.

Peter Hyman, who runs School 21, a free school for four- to 18-year-olds in Newham in the East End of London, said learning to speak eloquently had now become a “moral issue” for schools.

It was the key that could unlock the door to helping young people find their way in the world and to employment, he argues in today’s Times Educational Supplement.

The image of the monosyllabic teenager has been stoked up by fictional TV characters like Little Britain’s Vicky Pollard with her catchphrase of “Yeah but no!” and comedian Harry Enfield’s teenage character Kevin who asserts that everything is “so unfair”.

Mr Hyman said that talk was “an undervalued area of literacy” which wrongly received less time in the curriculum than reading and writing.

He also criticised exam regulator Ofqual for deciding to remove marks for speaking and listening from the GCSE English exam, pointing out that oral exams were being give more weight in modern foreign languages qualifications. Yesterday Ofqual announced speaking would account for 25 per cent of the marks in modern languages.

“Speaking eloquently is a moral issue because to find your own voice both literally and metaphorically and be able to communicate your ideas and your passions is crucial to how they [young people] are going to be a success in the world,” he said. “If you can speak and articulate yourself properly that will happen.”

He added: “We’ve got to dispel the myth of the grunting teenager, the monosyllabic teenager that makes employers say ‘I’ve got this person who I know on paper is quite good but they can’t string a sentence together’."

He said that some people believed “the silent classroom is the good classroom” when in reality it meant “the death of learning, unless there’s a particular reason for it”.

He said he liked to go round classrooms in his school and hear children talking to each other, discussing things, debating and questioning. “High quality talk” was at the centre of his school’s day - from morning assembly to round table classroom discussions with the spoken word “built into the DNA of the school”.

Mr Hyman called for a “bigger debate” about the issue, adding: “I think there’s too much of a fashion now of saying ‘the quieter the better, that shows you’ve got behaviour under control’.

“I think that is completely the wrong way to go and we’ve got to put speaking up there on a completely equal footing with reading and writing.”

His school has just begun a pilot project with Cambridge University aimed creating and testing a range of ways teachers can boost and assess their pupils’ speaking skills.

It is one of a number of initiatives aimed at boosting young people’s skills in debating, public speaking and other areas of speech.

Janine Ryan, of the English-Speaking Union, which has run 50 workshops in schools under the theme “discover your voice”, said: “If the young people are silent, it doesn’t mean they don’t have anything to say... it can be that no-one has ever asked them for their opinions before.”

Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
scotland decidesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping First Minister up at night?
Arts and Entertainment
Rosalind Buckland, the inspiration for Cider with Rosie died this week
booksBut what is it like to be the person who inspires a classic work of art?
Life and Style
techApple has just launched its latest mobile operating software – so what should you do first?
News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
newsThe 'extremely dangerous' attempt to avoid being impounded has been heavily criticised
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Messi in action for Barcelona
filmSo what makes the little man tick?
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: An undercooked end (spoiler alert)
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
Sport
Cesc Fabregas celebrates his first Chelsea goal
footballChelsea vs Schalke match report
Arts and Entertainment
Toby Jones (left) and Mackenzie Crook in BBC4’s new comedy The Detectorists
tvMackenzie Crook's 'Detectorists' makes the hobby look 'dysfunctional', they say
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Maths Teacher

£90 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Science Teacher (mater...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for an ...

Maths Teacher

£22000 - £37000 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: A West Yorkshire School i...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week