Solving literacy problems key to addressing social exclusion

The National Economic and Social Forum has reported that one in three children in disadvantaged areas has severe literacy problems.

Literacy levels among children are very closely linked to outcomes later in life, and children who do not read or write effectively are far more likely to end up leaving school early, becoming unemployed, or being drawn into crime and anti-social behaviour.

I agree with the NESF conclusion that a national literacy strategy is now needed. In fact it is astounding that there is no such strategy already in place. Any such plan can only work if it has input and commitment from a wide range of Government Departments and other public agencies

Labour has proposed a number of substantial and workable proposals that should be included in any national plan to tackle poor levels of literacy. We should:

  • Give every encouragement to primary school teachers to undertake more intensive training in literacy and education, with additional training available to teachers in disadvantaged schools.
  • Encourage public libraries to increase their opening hours and to have outreach programmes aimed at maximising community literacy.
  • Provide all possible funding and training support for family literacy schemes.
  • Work with local authorities to incorporate educational facilities, such as space for homework clubs, into local authority housing developments.
  • Require schools to develop whole school literacy policies and target outcomes for class groups and individuals.
  • Make provision for homework clubs run by trained tutors in schools with low achievement in literacy and numeracy.