Literacy rates among disadvantaged pupils – July 2015

I appreciate and share many of the concerns raised by the campaign regarding literacy levels among disadvantaged pupils, which I know has helped raise awareness of this very serious issue.

Although there has been welcome progress in recent years, unfortunately too many children still leave school without basic literacy and numeracy skills and there remains a significant achievement gap between disadvantaged children and their better-off peers. Indeed, a quarter of all children still leave primary school without reading well each year, and that figure rises to two in five among poorer children.

I agree that we must do more to address this and to ensure that children from all backgrounds leave school with necessary skills in reading and writing. I also recognise, as the Read On. Get On campaign emphasises, that reading and education can be the best route out of poverty for many people.

I note that the Read On. Get On report makes a number of recommendations, including for parents, carers and other family members to read with children for at least 10 minutes each day, for volunteers and employers to support reading programmes, and for political parties to embrace the 2025 literacy goals. I hope the government carefully consider this report and look at ways to both close the attainment gap between disadvantaged children and their peers and to work toward all children reading well by age 11.

I know the Read On. Get On campaign also called for the Chancellor to support investment in early years education in the emergency Budget, which took place on July 8. I agree that we should support vital early years learning and that is why I stood on a manifesto at the General Election that included a commitment to protect the entire education budget, including the early years, schools and post-16 education, so that it rises in line with inflation. I was therefore disappointed that the Chancellor failed to make any specific mention of early years education in the Budget.

I can assure you that I will continue to follow this very closely and any related announcements that are made following the Budget and in the subsequent Spending Review. I will also continue to bear in mind the points you raise and press the government to do more to improve education and literacy for all children.