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Question for Department for Education

UIN HL18031, tabled on 3 October 2019

To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they intend to take to ensure that everybody living in the UK is able to read and write English to a competent standard.

Answered on

8 October 2019

Ensuring children are taught to read well is vital to spreading opportunity. There is a substantial body of evidence that shows that systematic phonics is a highly effective method for teaching early reading.

This answer refers to education in England, as education is a devolved issue. Our phonics performance is improving. In 2019, 82% of pupils met the expected standard in the phonics screening check, compared to just 58% when the check was introduced in 2012. We are also investing £26.3 million in a national network of English hubs. We have appointed 34 primary schools across England as English hubs, who are taking a leading role in supporting nearly 3000 schools to improve their teaching of reading through systematic synthetic phonics, early language development, and reading for pleasure.

The national curriculum aims to ensure that all pupils develop the habit of reading widely and often, becoming independent, fluent and enthusiastic readers who read for pleasure and for information. Reading aloud is a part of this, and teachers are encouraged to read poetry, stories and non-fiction to younger pupils, as well as longer books to older pupils.

This government recognises the importance of strong literacy skills both in work and everyday life, which is why we provide full funding through the Adult Education Budget for people who need English skills to undertake a range of courses in GCSEs, functional skills and stepping stone qualifications from entry level to Level 2. To ensure as many people as possible have developed these skills by 19, the government requires students who have not yet achieved a Grade 4 in English to study it as part of the 16-19 study programme. Students taking Level 3 apprenticeships and T-Levels need to achieve a grade 4 at GCSE or pass functional skills. In 2018, nearly 80% of 19-year-olds held a Level 2 English qualification.