Why is illiteracy such a problem locally?

I have just seen a report from the Sheffield on the success of the Governments strategy on literacy

The latest evidence on reading shows 17 per cent of 16- to 19-year-olds are functionally illiterate and Professor Brooks of Sheffield University said this had also been the case for at least two decades

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“People at this level can handle only simple tests and straightforward questions on them where no distracting information is adjacent or nearby,” his report says.

“Making inferences and understanding forms of indirect meaning, e.g. allusion and irony, are likely to be difficult or impossible. This is less than the functional literacy needed to partake fully in employment, family life and citizenship and to enjoy reading for its own sake.

This seems to bear out a frequent complaint from employers that so many young workers lack basic communication skills such as an ability to read.

How can we have arrived at a situation after 13 years of New Labour and the refrain of education, education, education that we have such a large proportion of the nation’s youth can lack basic skills following such a massive investment?.

This is a problem that has a direct bearing on our local scene. I recall a major article in the Sentinel last October where the blame for the very low literacy is fixed firmly on parents. An investigation carried out into why there is such a failing in achievement levels in Key Stage 1 concluded that the lack of assistance by parents in getting their children to read, write and add up. One Councillor accused Stoke parents of refusing to engage with the “system”. It is true that the City scores very badly against bench marked similar Councils.

I do some voluntary reading at a school in leek and the range of reading skills especially for boys is extremely marked.

The latest assessments of seven-year-olds show two per cent more Stoke children are reaching at least level two in reading and maths, and one per cent more are reaching this level in writing.

It means out of 2,515 pupils, 1,936 achieved the standard expected for their age in reading 1,810 achieved it in writing and 2,087 in maths.

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