New political group to focus on literacy
Posted by Jonathan Douglas
Amazingly, Parliament did not have an All Party Parliamentary Group for Literacy until last Tuesday. Which is why I found myself in Dining Room B of the House of Commons explaining how to speak ‘dragonese’ to a backbench MP with a couple of members of the West End show WICKED.
The launch of the Literacy Group brought together a wide range of literacy enthusiasts and experts. Cressida Cowell talked about the power of stories; the cast of WICKED described the powerful writing competition that they now lead for children and young people; and Dr Jenny Bradshaw from the National Foundation for Educational Research instructed MPs and Peers on a nuanced reading of international league table comparisons around literacy.
Gavin Barwell, MP for Croydon Central, is chairing the group and has established a programme for the first year which will examine boys’ literacy, promote best practice in terms of volunteering to support literacy, as well as undertaking campaigning work with colleagues to promote what works in literacy to Parliamentarians.
The need for a cross party group to examine literacy has increasingly been recognised. The National Literacy Trust’s work to support Frank Field’s Poverty Review brought home to us that a sustained cross party focus is needed on literacy, if the deeper issues around low levels of literacy in deprived communities are to be addressed. This was reinforced by the party conference literacy events that the National Literacy Trust hosted this year, where common themes emerged from all political perspectives.
Last week ended with the annual Talk To Your Baby conference. Two hundred delegates were inspired by research and best practice in the promotion of early communication and literacy skills. The theme of developing a sustained approach to literacy that transcends political divisions came through again. The keynote speaker was Dame Clare Tickell, who led the recent review of the Early Years Foundation Stage. She explained how heartened she was by the coalition’s willingness to positively review the early years curriculum established by the preceding government, rather than simply jettisoning it.
The truth is that there are few quick wins in raising literacy levels. The issues that need to be addressed are intergenerational and complex. The more consensus we gain between political players the stronger the likelihood that sustained approaches will be adopted, bridging changes in administration and really getting to the heart of the issue. We hope that the All Party Parliamentary Group will provide a platform for this approach.
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