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Speaking & Listening Syllabus Matches Rose Report Findings

30th April 2009 – Southport, United Kingdom – For fifty years, The English Speaking Board (ESB)has promoted good listening and communications skills, providing accreditation for pupils throughout schools in the UK and Europe. This registered charity has taken a keen interest in the report on primary education prepared by government advisor and former Head of Ofsted, Sir Jim Rose, which is published today. In the last year, The English Speaking Board independently developed a new syllabus, which coincidentally closely matches the skills gaps identified in Primary school children by the Rose report. Today, The English Speaking Board announces the launch of its new school syllabus, giving schools time to plan and budget for a September start.
Sir Jim Rose stated that children should be able to ‘recognise when to use formal language’ and The Rose Report emphasises the vital importance of Speaking and Listening in the Primary School. He recommends these should be taught as separate subjects with dedicated time devoted to them. The English Speaking Board offers schools a modern set of graded oral examinations, leading to an accredited qualification. Participating schools teach children at any age from six upwards to prepare four elements for an external examiner: a talk, after which questions are answered by others in the group, a memorised poem, reading aloud from a book of their own choosing……and active listening. These are precisely the required skills identified.

Public speaking has recently received much attention thanks to Barack Obama’s election success and children’s oratory skills are the subject of BBC’s ‘The Speaker’ programme, a televised competition to find Britain’s best young public speaker. However, Chief Executive of ESB, Lesley Cook, is quick to point out the differences between ‘The Speaker’ and ESB assessments. She observes ‘The Speaker’ is aimed at public-speaking which is for the few, whereas our work focuses on improving communications skills at ALL levels for ALL children. Secondly ‘The Speaker' is highly competitive which is controversial and can be very negative and damaging to young children. Children who are dropped each week may feel publicly humiliated. Depending on their character and the level of support around them, they risk being made to feel inadequate or even a failure. If a child’s confidence is driven out of them at this young age, it may be killed forever. However, there is documented evidence that if you build a child’s confidence early enough, they will have that confidence for the rest of their lives – and that is where ESB’s focus lies – praise for what the pupil does well and support in weak areas. Our motto is that every student benefits!‘

State and Independent schools which use the ESB syllabus both testify to the benefits Rose identifies. Their pupils are more confident and enjoy greater success in all aspects of learning. Avril Newman is headteacher at Sir William Burrough Primary School in London’s unfashionable Tower Hamlets. She says, ‘It’s the only way to equalise the life chances of children from less privileged backgrounds.’ The Speaking and Listening skills for children from eight to ten years old are assessed and accredited by ESB. Over 80% of her pupils have home languages other than English, and 20% are in the early stages of learning the language; they have all found the ESB programme extremely beneficial.

External examiners play a key part in the success of ESB’s examinations. Lesley Cook stresses that ESB’s examiners support the work of teachers by ‘raising the status and profile of Speaking and Listening in the classroom, and proving their teachers' skills in the process.’ She adds ‘Schools sometimes pay lip service to listening skills, but our emphasis on listening skills is what sets us apart. We have a structured and focused way of assessing how well a child takes information on board. This feedback means teachers also benefit from ESB’s tailor-made training and assessments.’

Debbie Newman, a former President of the Cambridge Union and an ESB assessor helps children at Sir William Burrough School. She says ‘Primary Schools are absolutely the place where it should be starting. Secondary children are already self-conscious.’
Sir Jim Rose’s primary curriculum proposals challenge schools to give oracy a new emphasis. The English Speaking Board is poised and able to help schools meet that challenge, to the lasting benefit of all our children. Depending on the child’s entry level, the exam cost is roughly equivalent to an average school outing - between £15 and £20 per child (reduced fees for children from low-income families). For more information see or call +44 (0)1704 501730.


For press interviews, jpegs and further details, contact:

Rhona Jack MCIPR
Blue Click PR Ltd.
Mobile: +44 (0) 7866 546221
Tel: +44 (0) 1793 635147

ESB Chief Executive: Lesley Cook ( on 07879 408177
ESB Schools Development Managers:
Bryony Huntley ( on 01275 332755 or
Peter Gibley ( on 01603 465733

Editor’s notes:

English Speaking Board (International) Ltd.

Founded in 1953, the English Speaking Board (ESB) is an educational trust whose assessments are accredited by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority. Its headquarters are in Southport on the North West coast of England between Liverpool and Blackpool. With a turnover of nearly £1 million in 2007/2008, around 125 staff cover the UK and Europe, with expansion into China as the next growth challenge. Over 100 examiners carry out assessments in centres at home and abroad throughout the year.

ESB exists to promote and assess effective, confident and constructive oral communication skills for all levels and all ages. The emphasis is on spoken English as a practical and enjoyable life skill with the focus, during assessment, on the candidate, both as a speaker and as an active listener, sharing knowledge, enthusiasm and ideas with others.

Half the organisation is devoted to helping develop the skills of schoolchildren. The UK government’s focus on immigration and passing an English examination as part of the Citizenship qualifications, have driven significant growth in English as a Second Language (ESOL).The rest of the work revolves around adult learners and those with moderate to severe [learning difficulties.

Independent research by Newcastle University discovered that prisoners who sat ESB adult exams were significantly less likely to reoffend than those who had followed parallel education programmes.

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