Our Rhetoric Roadmap

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Yesterday we published this document, sending it out to parents. Since working with Martin Robinson on our Trivium-fueled curriculum, Rhetoric has been high on the agenda.  We appointed a Director of Spoken Literacy – Andrew Fitch, our 2 i/c in English – and he has produced some superb guidance for structured speech events in the classroom – as captured here. We have also promoted the idea that teachers should teach student to speak properly – very explicitly, as captured in this post.

However, our feeling was that, despite the guidance and encouragement, it’s too easy for this important idea to be left to chance.  I don’t want it to depend on a particular child’s unique combination of teachers as to whether they get a regular diet of opportunities to develop their capacity for rhetoric.  We needed a plan.  Using our CPD structure we asked all departments to contribute to the Roadmap – Andrew’s excellent term for what is needed – and here it is.  I love it.  This is going to be brilliant.   In March/April, every student in Year 8 will engage in Project Soapbox where they have to give a five minute speech from memory on a subject of their choice.  This is the launch of what will become, we hope, a defining feature of our curriculum.  And, yes, Andrew did visit School21 and took a lot of ideas from there!

From a leadership perspective, this has been an interesting process.  It’s demonstrated the need for both culture and systems; for sowing seeds to build enthusiasm and for direct leadership to drive an idea through to fruition.  We now have a plan that needs to be delivered.  It’s the start of what will be a long-term development process.  The final test will be the quality of the outcomes and how they improve over time.

But now, the vision is clear:  Highbury Grove students – Philosopher Kids, out in the agora, telling the world how it is and how it should be.




  1. Great stuff, Tom. I do think this is one thing the independent schools I’ve worked in have done particularly well. Do you have any partnership arrangements you could drawn on to tap into that experience too? Just a thought.


  2. An interesting idea and one which creates opportunity for developing the skills needed to unlock the rhetoric of others. Society’s inability to interrogate ideas and articulate opinions has given rise to the empty sound bite and laziness across the population (e.g does anyone read manifestos any more?). However, I wonder what your thoughts are about assuming “every student…” should be made to speak publicly; this is not the only method of devolving am understanding of rhetoric. Forcing some students to speak publicly may have the opposite effect and could stifle their voice/opinion….


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