What is Oracy?

Oracy is defined as “general ability in the skills of speaking and listening".

Researcher and educator Andrew Wilkinson coined the term oracy in the 1960s. The word is formed by analogy from literacy and numeracy. Improved oracy skills support improved literacy skills.

Despite the fundamental importance of oracy, it has never been a subject in the school curriculum. It is perhaps an established view that ‘talking’ does not need teaching, yet recruiters often cite poor communication skills as an area holding employees back.

The skill of using spoken language is not only essential for children to progress socially, but also for educational progress, and for young people to become contributing members of the workforce. While some children may be encouraged to discuss their ideas or participate in a conversation at home, many are not. Without this practice, they may have difficulty applying reasoning skills in a group or social setting.

Oracy relates people to people – one of the prime functions of oral communication

Oracy Australia is a not-for-profit organisation which promotes and offers assessments in Spoken English /  Oral Communication at all levels and for all ages.

The aim of Oracy Australia is to work towards oral education as a central activity whatever the field of study.

If the subject of oral communication is to be educationally valid and valuable, the participants should have essential skills recognised and accredited by assessment in a friendly and encouraging environment.


Our Vision

A world of confident and respectful oral communicators

Our Mission

To champion the importance of the spoken word as a vital life skill

Our Values
  • Empowering: We develop and support individuals to become confident communicators
  • Respectful: We value open, compassionate and respectful behaviour
  • Integrity: We foster genuine, ethical behaviours
  • Empathetic: We respect others feelings and experiences
  • Collaborative: We work in partnership with others to achieve shared goals

Our History

Christabel Burniston MBE (1909-2006) founded the English Speaking Board (ESB) in the UK in 1953. 

She was a pioneer in oral communication and the language arts, who championed the importance of the spoken word as a vital life skill, describing it as ‘enabling effective relationships with others’.

Speech for life

Her vision in creating the ESB was to provide an imaginative framework through which students could be assessed in oral English. With increased personal oral skills students would become more confident in themselves and acquire that precious passport of speech for life.

In WA, interest in the ESB began as long ago as 1955 when Sister Assumpta Jones became so impressed with the format and style of their assessments that she began correspondence with Christabel Burniston in England. Sister Assumpta later met Mary Stuart from England and was employed in a teaching position in speech education in WA.

In April 1969 a meeting of Speech and Drama educators was addressed by Mary Stuart and Sister Assumpta in Perth, Western Australia. As a result of that evening English Speaking Board WA was formed, with an executive including Nadine Owen, Betty Cromwell, Sister Assumpta, Sandra Gorringe, Guy Davies and David Waddell, with Mary Stuart as Director of Assessments. Seven months after the Branch began 200 candidates from 7 different venues had been assessed.

In 1971 the first conference of ESB WA was held.

The highlight of 1973 was the visit of Christabel Burniston who conducted a two-day conference and assessed at various venues. WA was inspired by Mrs Burniston’s infectious personality and benefited from her expertise and experience in the field of Speech Education as a vital part of life.

In 2004 ESB WA became independent and took the name Oracy Australia.

Since its inception in 1969, Oracy Australia has assessed at over 160 schools from Esperance in the South and Kununurra in the North of the State. Over 2000 assessments take place each year.