Image Source: Pedro Szekely
Rebecca Wayman

Businesses come together in London to tackle the UK's literacy crisis

Last night, business leaders gathered in London to show commitment to tackling the UK’s growing literacy and social mobility crisis by signing the Vision for Literacy Business Pledge 2018.

UK companies, like Costa and Penguin Random House, attended the annual Pledge seminar - supported by education secretary, Justine Greening.

In the following year, the Pledge is to focus on closing the early years attainment gap to give all children the best possible start. So far, 54 businesses have pledged support.

Greening said: “I want to make sure that everyone has the same opportunity to reach their potential, regardless of where they are growing up or their background.

“Making sure children can read fluently helps give them the best possible start and through our raised standards and emphasis on phonics, an additional 154,000 six-year-olds are on track to becoming fluent readers.”

However she admitted: “But there is more to do to tackle social mobility and businesses have a vital role to play in this, so it is encouraging to see so many leading organisations signing the Vision for Literacy Business Pledge.”

It was first established two years ago in 2015 by the National Literacy Forum, led by the National Literacy Trust. It aims to give support to businesses tackling literacy issues in the workplace, local community and across the nation.

According to the Literacy Trust, young people in the UK have some of the poorest literacy skills in the world - particularly those from the most disadvantaged areas.

Far from being restricted to regions with low income, high unemployment and social deprivation, analysis by Experian and the National Literacy Trust shows that serious literacy issues exist in 86 per cent of constituencies in England.

Jonathan Douglas, director of the National Literacy Trust, said: “Business has a powerful role to play in improving the literacy skills of all children and young people, regardless of their backgrounds, before they reach working age.

“The Vision for Literacy Business Pledge gives businesses the tools and support they need to really make a difference. Whether you have one employee or thousands, low literacy is an issue your business can’t afford to ignore.”

To address these challenges, the Department for Education’s Opportunity Areas programme is targeting local and national resources in the 12 areas with the greatest social mobility and literacy problems.

The Social Mobility Commission estimates that it will take 40 years at the current rate of progress to close the attainment gap between the most and least disadvantaged five-year-olds.

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