Oundle received a Highly Commended award in the English-Speaking Union Oracy Culture Awards, a prize that recognises the efforts and initiatives that schools put forward to cultivate a long-term oracy culture within their school community. The director of education at the English-Speaking Union wrote that the judges had been inspired and impressed by the oracy work being undertaken at Oundle.
Debate and public speaking at Oundle is introduced to every pupil, and opportunities to participate in competitions are available at every stage. The year starts with training workshops for all ages where debating groups meet to train, learn skills and have fun. Senior pupils are active in mentoring the groups, and also organise activities, and minute and chair events.
A highlight of the school calendar is the inter-house debating Mace-style competitions for junior and senior teams that run throughout the year. The Christmas Debates mix age groups for the first time and feature short prep style debates on fun seasonal motions such as: This House Supports an elf’s right to the minimum wage. Specialist debates draw upon issues relevant to a particular department, or set up interesting opposing sides, such as a philosophy debate between staff and pupils.
Pupils participate in eleven national and local competitions from the Cambridge, Oxford and Durham Schools to a Sixth Form Parliamentary Friendly and a First and Second Form Balloon Debate. Public speakers meet weekly throughout the year and take part in the ESU Churchill competition, which Oundle won last year out of a field of 400 schools.
Training for effective oracy has an impact across the whole school curriculum with pupils displaying their skills at Shakespeare Day performances, declamations, poetry recitations, EPQ presentations, Model UN committees and Carnegie Medal presentations.
Whether or not prizes are awarded, the oracy programmes at Oundle succeed when pupils across the school build their skills and determination to listen, question and present reasoned arguments with confidence.
In May 2022, a team of three Fifth Formers won the English-Speaking Union Churchill
Public Speaking Competition at Churchill College, Cambridge.