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Literacy: Secondary Education

Question for Department for Education

UIN HL14846, tabled on 12 April 2021

To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they are taking to ensure that secondary schools are equipped to help new pupils with basic literacy.

Answered on

26 April 2021

The government is committed to continuing to raise literacy standards, particularly those of children from disadvantaged backgrounds. English is fundamental to education and provides the knowledge and skills pupils need to communicate with others, both in school and in the wider world. English provides opportunities for pupils to develop these key communication skills through work on spoken language, reading and writing.

English is a core subject of the National Curriculum and is a requirement from age 5 to 16. The National Curriculum was revised, and programmes of study came into effect from September 2014. The programmes of study are designed to ensure that all pupils acquire a wide vocabulary, a good understanding of grammar, and proper knowledge of linguistic conventions for reading and writing. Further information on the National Curriculum can be found here:

The English Language GCSE provides all students with robust foundations in reading and good written English, and with the language and literary skills which are required for further study and work. The English Literature GCSE rewards students for engaging with a wider range of literature at a deeper level.

To further support English attainment at the end of secondary school, all students aged 16-19 on study programmes of 150 hours or more who do not hold a GCSE grade 4 or above in English are required to continue to study, this is called the Condition of Funding and further information on this can be found here:,and%20'stepping%20stone'%20qualifications.&text=From%20academic%20year%202019%20to,GCSE%20grade%209%20to%204. Students with a prior attainment of grade 2 or below can study a level 2 Functional Skills or a GCSE. Those with a grade 3 must study GCSEs only. Achievement in level 2 English is also an exit requirement in T Levels and apprenticeships.

To support the work of schools in delivering remote education, Oak National Academy was very quickly brought together by over 40 teachers, their schools and other education organisations. The Department has made £4.84 million available for Oak National Academy both for the summer term of the academic year 2019/20, and then for the 2020/21 academic year, to provide video lessons in a broad range of subjects, including English for 5- to 16-year-olds. Further details on Oak National Academy can be found here:

Furthermore, the £1 billion catch-up funding announced in June 2020 included a new £350 million National Tutoring Programme (NTP) which provides additional, targeted support for those children and young people who have been hardest hit from disruption to their education as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. The NTP is an ambitious scheme that will increase access to high-quality tuition for the most disadvantaged children and young people. NTP provision will continue for another academic year (2021/22) and we expect the programme to continue supporting those pupils that need the most help to catch up. Further details on the NTP can be found here:

In addition, as part of a wider recovery package to support children and young people of all ages in catching up on missed learning and development due to the COVID-19 outbreak, £200 million will be made available to secondary schools to deliver face-to-face summer schools this year. Schools are free to identify the pupils most in need of a summer school, although we recommend a focus on incoming Year 7 pupils. Pupils leaving primary school this year may have missed a significant proportion of Key Stage 2 face-to-face teaching and therefore missed valuable preparation for secondary education. They are likely to need additional support with English, for example, to make it easier for them to access the secondary curriculum. A summer school gives an opportunity to offer that face-to-face support before they start a new school, but also offers an important opportunity to support pupils’ wellbeing. Further details on summer schools can be found here: