Oracy in home learning

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I’ve been limiting my news consumption recently; after a first week of isolation checking what felt like almost constantly it seemed a good idea to slow it down. As much as possible in current situation, anyway!

In and amongst, though, there’s been some stories about who’s likely to suffer long-term impacts of covid-19 the most in the Western world and, unsurprisingly, it’s predominantly women and the under-25s. The BBC reports that 17% of female employees work in what they call ‘shutdown sectors’ – retail, leisure, customer service industries – compared with 13% of men. Women are also more likely to have lower paid and part-time jobs, meaning if furloughed their wages plummet even further. Women are likely to take on more caring responsibilities at home, even when both are full-time employed – meaning they’re most often the ones who take time to care for sick children, for example – so with many home-working, how much of this care is now falling to women? I was asked twice in my outing to the supermarket by men whether this product was what they were looking for; maybe it’s uncharitable but it definitely seemed like they’d never done this before and being female was my qualification for knowing. I’m guessing their partner was at home with the kids. Again, maybe uncharitable but statistically likely.

Financially, women get hit harder by major life events like divorce, home moving etc – so it also stands to reason they’ll be hit harder by this. It’s the nature of female employment. Perhaps ironically, many keyworkers though will also be female – the NHS, teachers, supermarket workers all have a majority female workforce (once again, skewed when it comes to pay – NHS grades 2-7 are 80% female, consultants are 63% male).

What’s this got to do with education?

It seems like teachers are having an ever-mounting list of things to think about for when we return, from closing inevitable gaps to supporting more grieving children than ever to rebuilding a social community for our schools to flourish. A feminist approach still needs to be on that list. It’s not a frivolous extra; it’s essential. Equality is better for everyone. Valuing feminine attributes like kindness, compassion and nurture is more important than ever. #bekind can’t simply disappear into the background.

It’s difficult to know what to do right now to make a difference, but I think students’ oracy is one place where we could think about putting some of our distance learning resources. I’m going to be thinking a lot more about this over the next few weeks as well.

If they have mobiles or a laptop, they can submit voice recordings instead of some written work. They can make explanation videos. They can record a conversation or group discussion if they’re able to collaborate remotely.

If they don’t have access to technology, they can tell stories, or read aloud, or present for two minutes on a topic of their choice to someone in the house – even to a stuffed animal or bath duck – it’s good enough for Google! Harnessing the power of teaching someone else through speaking aloud is also great for retention of knowledge. They can have conversations – if need be, set them prompts or something to research. They can create games like Taboo, Articulate or Just a Minute and play them. I think it’s also important to think about how much our students might be speaking now, compared with a normal day. With drastically reduced physical contact, has all their communication become digital text?

For girls in particular, oracy is important. Speaking up, to have confidence in your voice and feel able to take up that space, really matters. And we’ll need those voices when this is over to ensure that we can continue making our world a more equal and compassionate place.

What do you think?

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