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Recent reviews of child poverty[1] and the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS)[2] have identified early language and literacy as building blocks for children’s lives and a vital consideration in narrowing the gap in life chances between rich and poor. Parental influence continues to be highlighted as the most significant factor in life chances.

Government policy over the last 15 years has striven to engage parents in the education of their children. However, the bulk of investment in literacy has been via statutory provision (particularly through the National Strategies). This investment achieved increases in literacy standards but results show that across England improvements have now plateaued[3]. The gap in attainment between children on free school meals and their peers remains an issue and research consistently demonstrates the supreme influence of the home learning environment in educational outcomes.

Any policy aiming to improve literacy standards cannot be limited to formal educational settings where children spend only a small proportion of their time. It needs to embrace the family as a whole and recognise the opportunities to engage and support families which exist across the whole community and across all services. The National Literacy Trust recommends policy makers recognise how all of these opportunities can enable parents to be partners in their children’s education from the very beginning of their children’s lives. The National Literacy Trust aims to increase parental confidence and increase their access to advice, information and resources which can help them support their children’s early language and literacy as recommended in the EYFS review.

[1] Department for Education, Frank Field (April 2011) A New Approach to Child Poverty: Tackling the causes of disadvantage and transforming families' lives.
[2] Department for Education, Dame Clare Tickell (March 2011) The Early Years: Foundations for life, health and learning.
[3] Data suggests national increases in standards in English at Key Stage Two 2000-2007 with standards reaching a static level from 2007 onwards. 


The National Literacy Trust is a registered charity no. 1116260 and a company limited by guarantee no. 5836486 registered in England and Wales and a registered charity in Scotland no. SC042944.
Registered address: 68 South Lambeth Road, London SW8 1RL.