MPs back charity's literacy vision

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The National Literacy Forum has secured cross-party commitment for its campaign for a more literate nation.


Stephen McPartland MP chairing the event

It has called for a cross-departmental early years minister, along with investing in new support for teachers, school leaders and governors.

As a result of campaigning from its 19 member organisations, the charity coalition has received a ministerial pledge from the three leading political parties to tackle the dangerously low levels of literacy in the UK.

The charity presented its Vision for Literacy in Parliament earlier this week, outlining important steps for the Government to address during its next three terms.

Figures released last week from the Department for Education showed a drop in the number of pupils in England gaining five A*-C GCSE grades, from 59.2% of students in 2013 to 52.6% in 2014.

DfE figures also reveal a trend of low literacy in disadvantaged areas. Figures show lower grade results for disadvantaged pupils, with 34 per cent of students living in deprived boroughs of the UK gaining five good GCSEs.

The National Literacy Forum has set out steps towards an ultimate aim that all children born in 2014 must have the literacy skills they need to succeed by the time they finish secondary school.

Its four key recommendations include: early years, schools, reading for enjoyment, and the role of business in education.

It calls for a cross-departmental early years minister to drive forward an integrated education, health, welfare and business approach to early years policy; new support for teachers, school leaders and governors. This should include a Royal College of Teachers.

Other recommendations for improving key areas include having Ofsted examine a reading for pleasure strategy during school inspections and the creation of local brokers to build links between schools and local business community, in order to support young people’s literacy and employability skills.

‘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,’ said school reform minister Nick Gibb.

‘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,’ said David Laws,  Cabinet Office and schools minister.

Shadow schools minister Kevin Brennan MP said, ‘It is vitally important that every child should leave secondary school with the literacy skills they need. Education is at the heart of every child¹s 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.’

A figure from The National Literacy Forum’s website shows that the trend of low literacy is intergenerational, as in some underprivileged areas of the UK as many as 40 per cent of adults lack the literacy skills expected of an 11-year-old.

Jonathan Douglas, director of the National Literacy Trust, said that the cross-party political endorsement was ‘an encouraging step in the right direction’ towards rectifying this.

He said, ‘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.’

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