Our Aims & Questions

Speaking skills in Britain are under sustained threat. We want to help change that. 

Oral skills are being side-lined in British state schools. Digital technology is contributing to a decline in face-to-face communication. With automation and Covid-19 set to transform the economy, all of this undermines a future workforce for whom communication skills will be increasingly important.

It also poses a crisis of citizenship, at a moment in which ordinary people's voices need to be heard more than ever before.

We are a group of historians and social scientists working together to discover what a deeper knowledge of the past, present and future of speech education can bring to these problems.  


Our research supports organisations lobbying for a greater role for talk in UK education.  

Launched in early 2020, we are working with primary and secondary teachers, The English Speaking UnionVoice 21 and the All Party Parliamentary Group on Oracy to provide new evidence for how citizenship education can be taught through a focus on speech. 

Over the next three years, we will develop these findings into teaching resources freely available on this site, and into workshops that our team will deliver across the UK.

We are hosting a major conference during 2021, and our work will culminate in 2023 with policy presentations at the Department for Education and a special session at the House of Commons 

Check out our introduction to the project here and our blog for the latest contributions from a wide range of contributors. 


Our Research Questions

How have ideas about speaking and listening changed during the era of compulsory education?

What attempts to shape the speech of ordinary people have been most effective and how can this be measured?

What role have changing ideas about 'citizenship' played in these histories? What role might they play in the future?

How is digital technology and social media changing ideas about speaking and listening?

What role should speaking skills play in a post-Covid19 age of automation, and how should educators prepare?

How can humanities and social science research most usefully enrich educational debate?