Case study: Voice 21

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Creating confident communicators in primary and secondary school

Voice Liverpool offers a fantastic opportunity for schools to work collaboratively; refining teaching skills in spoken language to ensure disadvantaged children have the best possible stepping stones to success.

Neil Verdin Headteacher at Pleasant Street Primary School, Liverpool

The big idea

Giving teachers the skills they need to help low-achieving disadvantaged children to find their voice as they move from primary to secondary school.

Why it’s needed

Teachers do their best to help children develop spoken language. But with a packed curriculum to manage, they often find it hard to give students the platform to ask questions and explore ideas. In fact, studies have shown that a child aged six to 18 asks only one question per month in each class they attend, while the average teacher asks children 291 questions per day1. If children aren’t encouraged to talk constructively, they then get the message that it holds no value2.

Children also currently spend much more time on gadgets and social media, limiting opportunities for face-to-face interaction with family members and friends outside of school. In a recent study, three-in-five parents said they felt their child asks to use devices more often than they would like3

High-quality talk inside and outside the classroom can improve children’s achievement in maths, science and English. It can also help to build social and emotional skills4. Plus, employers typically look for strong communication skills and a recent study has found that 60% of managers rate this as a top priority5. If children aren’t encouraged to speak and explore ideas at an early stage, they may not develop the communication skills and confidence they need to succeed in life.

Hand on heart, I believe that attending the Little Explorers sessions has made me the parent I am today.


How it works

Voice 21 and SHINE have launched ‘Voice Liverpool’, a city-wide project to boost the spoken language skills of over 15,000 low achieving disadvantaged children in primary and secondary schools across Liverpool.

Voice 21 has selected 36 schools across Liverpool to become leaders in spoken language. Teachers in these schools will be trained up to build communication skills into the curriculum. Leader schools will collaborate with an additional 60 schools across Liverpool and build a city-wide network of excellence in classroom communication.

Thousands of disadvantaged children will be encouraged to express their opinions in the classrooms of primary and secondary schools. They will be show how to articulate questions and ideas, and engage in conversations with their peers, without this being seen as a negative. They will also be invited to lead their very own TED-style talks and speak at conferences and events.

The impact

By investing in communication skills, Voice 21 and SHINE will support the school achievement of thousands of low achieving disadvantaged children across Liverpool.

  • By helping schools to become spoken language specialists and spread best practice, Voice 21 is supporting school improvement that can be sustained for many years to come.
  • A previous evaluation of their programme has found teachers reporting pupils’ communication skills to have improved and a high proportion agreeing that it would work in most schools with minimal adjustments.


  1. Gregersen, 2014
  2. Time to Talk: Implementing outstanding practice in speech, language and communication, Jean Gross, 2013
  3., Look Both Ways, 2019
  4. Education Endowment Foundation, Oral language interventions evidence summary, 2019
  5. CBI, Educating for the Modern World, 2018