“Grime gave me a voice.” Year 11 students lecture their teachers in a public speaking showcase

“Grime gave me a voice.” Year 11 students lecture their teachers in a public speaking showcase

On Thursday 17 January, Year 11 students took to the stage to deliver entertaining and informative lectures to an audience of their parents, teachers and peers.

Teacher of English Christina Whittingham was originally inspired by the online phenomenon TED Talks, and thought that academy students could do that…and better. She said that what emerged was not a copy of TED Talks, but a series of lectures which revealed “something very Manchester, something honest and something vulnerable about our students. They really put themselves out there. I couldn’t be more proud”

The topics that students picked reflected their wide range of interests: Grime music, how to be funny in 2019, the concept of ‘cuteness’ in art, the future of drones, the importance of sports, whether insects are the future of sustainable diets, the heroic nature of motherhood, the wonder of hydrogen and the magic of Maths. Students worked with their GCSE teachers to see how these topics linked to their studies, but their talks took the audience on a journey far beyond the curriculum.

Oracy and public speaking has been a priority for the academy since 2014, when Ofsted inspectors found that “students sometimes have limited opportunities to develop their oral skills, extend their vocabulary and talk about ideas.” Since 2014, staff have pursued a range of initiatives to increase opportunities for developing speaking skills in and out of lessons. Christina Whittingham, who leads efforts to improve oracy skills across the whole academy says, “Students would cringe when asked to respond in assembles. This was an academy where no one would talk in assembly or share their feedback in lessons. The change has been gradual, but now so many more students are confident in sharing their opinions and thoughts, and do so with eloquence.”

The lecture event was judged by governors, including from the academy’s sponsor the Co-op, and from school oracy experts Voice 21. 

16 year old Samuel gave his talk on Grime, explaining how music stars like Stormzy gave him a voice, and helped him to express himself and discover more about the political and social issues in the UK. But the winner was 16 Year Old Georgia, whose talk on ‘cuteness’ in art delivered an entertaining and surprising insight into how artists use proportion and exaggeration to manipulate feelings and emotions.