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Project information

Words for Work

Words for Work (WFW) is the National Literacy Trust's innovative speaking and listening project, which brings together secondary school pupils and business volunteers to explore the use of speaking and listening skills in the workplace and develop these skills via a series of creative workshops.

The pilot began in September 2009 and continues until August 2011. We will then roll the project out across the country, making it available to many more schools.

Charity information: National Literacy Trust

National Literacy Trust logo
  • Need


    Research has shown that speaking and listening are the literacy skills most used in the world of work, yet employers have expressed concerns regarding the poor communication skills of young people entering the workplace. With ineffective speaking and listening skills young people’s confidence and future employability are severely compromised, so it is essential that these skills are targeted before entering the workplace if young people are to lead successful careers.


    At WFW sessions, pupils work through tasks with business volunteers that stimulate thought and discussion around communication and how good skills may be important for their future. Pupils are challenged to re-evaluate their communication methods, putting their speaking and listening skills into practice whilst gaining an insight into the world of work. Business volunteers act as positive role models and utilise the skills they have developed in their career to inspire and empower pupils.

  • Aims

    Aim 1

    To reach 450 disadvantaged year 9 pupils in 13 schools this year


    » Work with 13 schools to recruit volunteers and run Words for Work with year 9 pupils

    What success will look like

    Success will be...running 13 WFW programmes in schools across the UK by August 2011.

    Aim 2

    Participating pupils improve their speaking and listening skills


    » Pupils take part in sessions which unlock, use, and improve speaking and listening skills.
    » Projects create a friendly, creative, and informal environment to facilitate the development of these skills.

    What success will look like

    Success will improvement in the speaking and listening skills of 50% of participating pupils.

    Aim 3

    Increased awareness, amongst pupils, of the importance of speaking and listening skills at work.


    » Pupils consider their current knowledge and attitudes towards communication skills and their own skills.
    » Pupils work with business volunteers to investigate the impact of speaking and listening skills in the workplace.

    What success will look like

    Success will increased awareness of the importance of speaking and listening skills in the workplace for 75% of participating pupils.

    Aim 4

    Pupils’ increased awareness of the career choices available to them.


    » Business volunteers share their experiences of the workplace.
    » Business volunteers act as positive role models for pupils.
    » Career choices are opened up through increased confidence concerning speaking and listening skills, and by improving these skills.

    What success will look like

    Success will increase in successful work experience choices and placements for participating pupils when in year 10.

    Aim 5

    To engage local businesses in the skills development of their future workforce.


    » Select businesses from the local community to partner schools.
    » Involve business volunteers in workshops, where they will share their experience and vocational communication skills with pupils.

    What success will look like

    Success will be...working with 150 local business volunteers.

  • Impact


    WFW will improve social mobility by helping some of the UK’s most disadvantaged young people acquire the skills they need to succeed in the workplace and live comfortable and independent lives. WFW will also help to create a workforce occupied by skilled, confident, motivated individuals.

    Pupil, teacher and business volunteer evaluations and questionnaires for all participants will enable us to gauge improvements in speaking and listening skills, confidence, and career aspirations.


    Developing and managing relationships with corporate partners traditionally takes time, and we must work quickly to progress the relationships from a contact provided by the school, through to an understanding of the aims of the project, to a commitment to take part. However, once businesses understand WFW’s goals, they quickly see the potential benefits to themselves and the pupils taking part.


    All donors will receive our supporters' newsletter with information about the work of the National Literacy Trust, including regular updates on the Words for Work programme. We will also confirm to donors what area their money is being spent in.

  • Budget

    Budget - Project Cost: £88,000

    Loading graph....
      Amount Heading Description
      £5,000 Business volunteers Training and recruitment of business volunteers
      £7,350 Communications Research, evaluations, surveys, questionnaires, newsletters, publications
      £15,000 Creative Project resources
      £37,000 Salaries Staff members, and staff development
      £15,000 Expenses Travel, subsistence, costs
      £8,650 Cost recovery At 15%

    Current Funding / Pledges

    Source Amount
    Paul Hamlyn Foundation £54,587 Guaranteed
    Wates Foundation £25,000 Guaranteed
    UBS £3,015 Guaranteed
  • Background


    We undertook a national survey to identify regions of need and will be focusing on schools in these regions, including Lambeth, Stoke, and the West Midlands. When working with schools we measure disadvantage by the percentage of free school meals provided (a standard measure of children from low-income families), numbers of pupils with English as an additional language, level of unemployment in the community and transience of pupils.


    Year 9 pupils whose literacy skills mean they are at risk of failing at school, becoming disenfranchised with education, and entering the workplace unprepared. Schools will benefit from innovative resources to target speaking and listening. Business volunteers will have a development opportunity to improve core competencies, including coaching skills. Companies will benefit from an improved corporate social responsibility record and a skilled workforce for the future.

  • Why Us?

    Why Us?

    Thanks to a recent survey of secondary schools, we are aware of the type of speaking and listening provisions already in place and general attitudes towards a project of this kind. A survey of nearly 7,000 8 to 16 year olds in summer 2010 gave us an invaluable insight into young people’s views of their communication skills, and we have in place another programme, Talk for Writing, which also targets speaking and listening skills with a view to facilitating the writing process.

    Read more about the Charity running this project.


    Sally Melvin

    A former secondary teacher, Sally devised the WFW pilot and has been instrumental in developing the programme for its second year.