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Communication - Our year!

posted 10 Nov 2015, 07:06 by Craig Nicholson   [ updated 17 Nov 2015, 08:50 ]
To communicate is to ‘purposefully interact to exchange information with others, to both receive and deliver intended meanings’. This is perhaps one of the most important life skills we need to promote within primary schools.

This year at North Ormesby Primary Academy, we have launched a ‘Year of Communication’ it is intended that this focus will highlight the skills that are needed for children to use language successfully.

Ofsted commented upon the learning culture within the Academy during their recent visit, in May 2015.

“They have created a culture where everyone loves to learn. Teachers have high expectations and provide stimulating activities that engage pupils so that they make rapid progress in a wide range of subjects.”

We strongly believe that when children are engaged in learning, they will want to communicate not only with adults about that learning, but perhaps more importantly, with one another. It is the responsibility of staff within the Academy to ensure that every child, regardless of his or her starting point, is able to communicate effectively to the best of their ability.

The Communication Trust summarises, quite simply that; “Poor language is linked to poor behaviour, even in very young children. 2 in 3 language delayed 3 year olds have behaviour problems.”

It is widely recognised that behaviour problems create barriers to learning. We are determined that a delay in language, should not restrict our children from receiving the very best outcomes from their education.

The launch of our ‘Year of Communication’, took place on the same day as ‘No pens Wednesday’, which is an innovation launched by the Communication Trust. We saw this as an ideal opportunity to enable the children to understand that communication comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. There is no set way in which to communicate effectively. In fact, the more competent our children become in a variety of communication tools, the better! “No Pens Day Wednesday encourages schools and settings to put down their pens and to run a day of speaking and listening activities.” 

 We did just that! We hosted a visit from a Town Crier, who officially launched our ‘Year of Communication’ via a proclamation and explained to children the origins of communication prior to the written word. We enjoyed a show from a ventriloquist who gave the children examples of the skill of ventriloquism, the children learnt more about Braille and sign language from another local school and spent time engaging in a variety of activities with our peers.

As an Academy we work hard to find activities and events that are high profile but can be used to enhance learning. One of these is ‘World Nursery Rhyme Week’. This provides the ideal opportunity to promote communication within the Early Years, so that all can succeed from their initial starting points. The need for positive roles models in the Early Years is absolutely essential in order to create competent communicators. Children from disadvantaged backgrounds come to school having heard less nursery rhymes than their more advantaged counterparts. As a result, they begin their academic careers lacking in the skills required to successfully begin Nursery. During our recent Ofsted it was noted that

“Children start the academy in Nursery with skills and abilities that are much lower than those usually found, particularly in their language and communication skills. The vast majority of pupils make outstanding progress in all areas of learning throughout early years so that they are ready to make a good start in Year 1.”

Taken from the document ‘Rhymers are readers’, Tony Stead, senior national literacy consultant for Mondo Publishing in New York, described research showing that in 1945, the average elementary school student had a vocabulary of 10,000 words. Today, children have a vocabulary on average of only 2,500 words. This highlights an alarming decline in children’s vocabulary over a number of years. 

Children require a wealth of varied vocabulary so that they are able to conduct and hold different conversations, regardless of the audience. This is something which is key in our minds on our journey throughout this academic year. We wish for our children to have the required skills to communicate effectively with any audience. We provide the opportunities and the children respond accordingly, whether this be class assemblies, presentations of their work, Inspire days, in which their parents are invited in to school or productions, such as at Christmas.

Through the use of ICT, more specifically through the use of iPads, we are breaking down the barriers to those ‘hard to reach’ children. Children are teaching one another in ways we have never witnessed before, they are having meaningful discussions and impact on one another’s learning. In order to lead effectively, you must be able to communicate succinctly and clearly. Staff are facilitators to the learning, children are the leaders. Staff have really risen to the challenge and fully recognise the need to put communication skills at the forefront of everything we do. 

Every academic year, we set out to achieve a new goal, a new aspiration, with our children as the driving force. We have already begun an exciting journey with our ‘Year of Communication’, striving to ensure that our children are fully equipped to be part of a 21st century world and way of communicating. 

Stacey Todd (Year 5 teacher/English leader) - 10th November 2015