Today Roger Francis, MindLeaders director HR & services, comments on a recent speech by the new Ofsted chief inspector highlighting how the UK is falling behind in literacy standards.
The UK literacy crisis is back in the headlines following a recent speech by Sir Michael Wilshaw, the new Ofsted chief inspector. Whilst overall literacy levels have improved slightly over the last 20 years, every year 100,000 children are failing to achieve the expected standard by the time they leave primary school and over 5 million adults lack the necessary literacy skills to enable them to cope satisfactorily with every day life.
Moreover, other countries are making significant improvements and as a result, the UK has dropped from 7th to 23rd in the world literacy rankings. Countries such as Estonia, Poland and China are now outperforming the UK.
As Sir Michael says “Too many young adults lack the functional skills to make their way in the modern world. They are more likely to be unemployed, unwell, in prison, or supported by the state.”
His concerns were echoed by Neil Carberry, CBI director for Employment and Skills policy, who in his response to the speech said that “Businesses will welcome the fact that Sir Michael Wilshaw has shone a light on worryingly low literacy levels. We need to ensure functional literacy skills are taught more effectively.”
It is both timely and appropriate that both Sir Michael and Neil Carberry used the word “functional” to describe the skills that are required. We are now less than 5 months away from the mandatory introduction of Functional Skills into the Apprenticeship framework. At the same time, the government intends to switch funding for standalone basic skills programmes to Functional Skills.
The launch of Functional Skills has been a slow and at times tortuous process but for those of us who are genuinely concerned about the literacy and numeracy crises in the UK, its introduction cannot come soon enough. By giving young people the opportunity not simply to improve their maths and English skills but to understand how those skills can be properly utilised in many different situations, I’m sure we will start to move up the world league tables. At the same time we’ll be providing young people with the opportunity to develop satisfying careers rather than remaining in dead-end jobs, and competing effectively on the global stage.