Helping Our Pupils to Find Their Voices

24 March 2023

All of us at Downe are thrilled that one of the leading educationalists speaking at our Academic Conference in June will be Clare Wagner, Head of The Henrietta Barnett School (HBS) in north London. HBS is consistently one of the top state schools in the country and it has an exemplary local and national reputation for academic excellence.

The theme of the Conference is Maximising Pupil Progress and each of the guest speakers will be focusing on different ways in which their schools aim to achieve this goal. Clare has chosen a fascinating topic: helping our pupils to find their voices.

Clare says: “All the research indicates that helping our pupils to speak clearly and articulately inside and outside of lessons helps them to progress.

“We don’t want our pupils simply to be passive recipients of knowledge. Their level of knowledge and their enjoyment of learning increase when we help them to articulate their understanding.

“This can happen in many ways, but at HBS we believe it is important to build discussion and debate into our lesson plans. One of the strategies we like to use is ‘Think, pair, share’.

Clare has written extensively on ‘oracy’, which is defined as the ability to speak eloquently, articulate ideas and thoughts, influence others though talking, listen to others and to have the confidence to express one’s views.

Two leading academics who have led research in this area are Neil Mercer, Emeritus Professor of Education at the University of Cambridge, and Robin Alexander, Professor of Education Emeritus at the University of Warwick.

“I’m particularly interested in this area for two specific reasons,” says Clare.

“First, our pupils’ academic progress and their enjoyment of learning is maximised if we focus on improving their oracy skills.

“Second, helping our pupils to be more articulate increases their levels of confidence in general. As Head of an all-girls school, I am especially keen to encourage my pupils to speak up. It is so often the case that girls are compliant but perhaps less confident than boys in this respect.

“If we are to help our girls to close the gender pay gap and make the maximum impact in modern society, then we need to help them communicate effectively and confidently.

“It is also the case that children from more challenging socio-economic backgrounds are likely to lack confidence in this respect.

“One of the traditional strengths of independent schools is that they have imbued their pupils with confidence, and this has often helped to propel themselves forward in society. At HBS, we know there are many things that teachers can do in the classroom and beyond to achieve this goal.

“I am looking forward to exploring this area during our breakout session at Downe House’s Conference on June 13.”

Clare Wagner will be speaking alongside fellow Head Jane Lunnon (Alleyn’s in Dulwich). Their talk is titled ‘Helping our pupils to find their voices’.

Keynote speakers at the Conference on Tuesday 13 June are Katharine Birbalsingh CBE, Headmistress of Michaela Community School, and the Minister of State for Schools, The Rt Hon Nick Gibb MP, will be our keynote speakers. Their keynote addresses will be followed by a ‘Head-to-Head’ Q&A session.

The other breakout sessions with leading educationalists are:

Helping our pupils to find their voices | Clare Wagner (Head, The Henrietta Barnett School, London) and Jane Lunnon (Head, Alleyn’s, London)

Building the culture and values of a school | Ron Skelton (Headteacher & CEO, Broadway Academy, Birmingham) and John Moule (Warden, Radley College, Oxford)

Putting effective principles of learning into practice | Gemma Piper (CEO, Kennet School Academies Trust, Berkshire) and Andrew Atherton (Director of Learning & Research, Downe House, Berkshire)

Governance: Learning across sectors | Andrea Arlidge (Chief Executive of Futura Learning Partnership, South West England) and Jaideep Barot (HMC Chair Elect & Headmaster, Bristol Grammar School, Bristol)

Developing character through pupil leadership | Mariella Ardron (Principal, Chelsea Academy, London) and Charlotte Harmer (Head of Schools, Oppidan Education)

More information about the Academic Conference can be found on this Eventbrite booking site. Tickets are £75 with an early bird incentive of 50% discount for a second ticket (offer ends 31 March).

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Mr Matt Godfrey

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Book your tickets | Academic Conference – Maximising Pupils’ Potential | Thursday 13 June 2024
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