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The re-positioning of oracy: a millenium project

Haworth, Avril (2001) The re-positioning of oracy: a millenium project. Cambridge journal of education, 31 (1). 11 - 23. ISSN 0305-764X

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This paper reviews the history of oracy in the UK over the past decade as it has been articulated in significant national curricular developments, including the National Oracy Project, the National Curriculum for English and the National Literacy Strategy. Starting with Barnes' (1988) evaluation of the political tensions surrounding oracy, I identify conflicting models of oracy embedded in these educational programmes, noting the gradual erosion of the cross-curricular function of oracy in favour of a centralised oracy, controlled by the teacher and related, in complex but subordinate ways, to literacy. I trace these tensions in the classroom discourse of 7-year-old children, speculating about the implications for learners of the competing versions of oracy. Finally, I argue for a reinstatement of oracy as a whole curriculum project and for the recognition of the distinctive role played by small group interaction in realising the kind of whole class 'interactive teaching' nominated most recently in the National Literacy Strategy.

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