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Literacy news

Charity coalition secures cross party commitment to tackle the UK’s literacy crisis

29 Oct 2014

Nineteen of the UK’s leading organisations have succeeded in their campaign to secure cross party commitment to their vision for a more literate nation. The National Literacy Forum - a charity coalition concerned with raising dangerously low literacy levels in the UK, has today received a ministerial pledge from all three political parties to tackle the UK’s growing literacy gap head on.  

The National Literacy Forum will present its Vision for Literacy in Parliament today, which sets out the key steps Government needs to take during its next three terms for it to meet the ultimate goal: for all children born this year to have the literacy skills they need to succeed by the time they finish secondary school.

The Vision for Literacy is launched at a time when the spotlight on low literacy grows brighter:

  • The Read on. Get on. campaign launched last month highlighted that a quarter of all children left primary school last year unable to read well.
  • Department for Education  figures released last week show that 52.6% of pupils in England gained five A*-C grades this year, down from the 59.2% last year. Disadvantaged pupils were hit the hardest, with just 34% of pupils gaining five good GCSEs in deprived boroughs of the UK.  

The trend of low literacy in disadvantaged areas is intergenerational, and in some pockets of the UK up to 40% of the adult population lack the literacy skills expected of an 11-year-old. According to UK firm KPMG which supports the work of the National Literacy Forum, if nothing is done to tackle the literacy gap, the potential financial hit to the UK could be between £198 million and £2.5 billion.

The Vision for Literacy aligns with the Read on. Get on. campaign and Fair Education Alliance and makes four key recommendations to address literacy:

1: Early Years: Government should create a cross-departmental Early Years Minister to drive forward an integrated education, health, welfare and business approach to early years policy.

2: Schools: Government should invest in new support for teachers, school leaders and governors. This should include the creation of a Royal College of Teachers.

3: Reading for enjoyment: Government should instruct Ofsted to examine a reading for pleasure strategy in every school inspection.

4: The role of business in education: Government should encourage the creation of Local Brokers to build links between schools and local business community, to support young people’s literacy and employability skills.

The National Literacy Forum has secured a cross party commitment to ensure every child is given the chance to reach their full potential in life.

Minister of State (Department for Education), Nick Gibb MP says:

“I am pleased to see this wide partnership of organisations coming together to tackle illiteracy. Nothing is more important in education than making sure every child can read; in fact the whole of society has a role to play in ensuring that children become fluent readers.

Tackling literacy failure is a priority for the Government, and our plan for education is designed to ensure every single child leaves school prepared for life in modern Britain.”

Labour Member of Parliament for Cardiff West and Shadow Schools Minister Kevin Brennan MP says:

It is vitally important that every child should leave secondary school with the literacy skills they need. Education is at the heart of every child’s future and it is up to the forces of Government, charities, schools, parents and communities to unite to ensure that all children receive the best possible start in life.”

Minister of State for Cabinet Office and Minister of State for Schools, David Laws MP says:

 “I warmly welcome the National Literacy Forum’s Vision for Literacy 2025 that aims to boost literacy. It cannot be right that poorer children remain less likely than their wealthier peers to start secondary school with the reading and writing skills they need to succeed.

This is exactly why the Liberal Democrats have introduced the pupil premium – extra funding targeted at the children who need most support – and have given primary school children a larger share of this money.

Teachers are already using the pupil premium to make a real difference to children’s lives, and this campaign can help to generate more debate and focus on how we can boost child literacy.”

Dame Julia Cleverdon, Chair of the Read on. Get on. campaign says:

Good literacy skills lay the foundation for success in education, employment, community participation, individual confidence and wellbeing. But sadly two in five disadvantaged children are leaving primary school without these vital skills. This is the unacceptable consequence of child poverty in the UK which is exacting both a life sentence on these children and a terrible toll on our society.

Low literacy is a ticking time bomb for the UK’s long term competitiveness and in this current financial climate; we firmly believe that tackling low literacy must be a top priority on all political party agendas.”

Jonathan Douglas, Director of the National Literacy Trust says:

“Today’s cross party political endorsement of our Vision for Literacy is an encouraging step in the right direction and we look forward to continuing to work with policymakers to turn the tide on the intergenerational cycle of low literacy. Only then will the country’s poorest families have the chance to secure a better future.”

For more information visit www.literacytrust.org.uk/vision

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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.