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Children: Literacy

Question for Department for Education

UIN 148068, tabled on 28 March 2022

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps his Department is taking to improve literacy standards amongst children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Answered on

5 April 2022

The ‘Schools White Paper – Opportunity for all: strong schools with great teachers for your child’, which was published on 28 March 2022, sets out our long-term vision for a school system that helps every child to fulfil their potential by ensuring that they receive the right support, in the right place, at the right time. The cornerstones of a broad, academic, knowledge-rich curriculum are literacy and numeracy. The full White Paper can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/opportunity-for-all-strong-schools-with-great-teachers-for-your-child.

As set out in the White Paper, our ambition for literacy and numeracy is that by 2030 90% of primary school children will achieve the expected standard in reading, writing, and mathematics, and the percentage of children meeting the expected standard in the worst performing areas will have increased by a third.

The White Paper adds to this by setting an ambition that in secondary schools the national GCSE average grade in both English language and in mathematics increases from 4.5 in 2019 to 5 by 2030. These aims are not for any one school or teacher to achieve alone, but a measurement of success across the country at a system level. The department’s strategy to improve literacy and numeracy outcomes for all children carefully considers how we do this for vulnerable or disadvantaged groups, including children who are on free school meals or those with special educational needs.

The White Paper builds on the department’s record of supporting the improvement of literacy standards over the past decade, including the introduction of the phonics screening check, the English Hubs programme, the publication of the reading framework, and the validation of phonics programmes. The English Hubs are currently delivering intensive support to over 1000 partner schools, reaching approximately 50,000 pupils in reception and year 1. Supported schools containing an above-average proportion of free school meal pupils over-represented in the programme, along with those schools underperforming in phonics. These dedicated Hubs will continue to support schools to drive up literacy standards, including driving improvements in the quality of early reading teaching.

In addition, from autumn 2022, the National Professional Qualification (NPQ) for Leading Literacy will be available. The qualification has been designed to develop teacher expertise in leading the development of pupils’ language, reading, and writing in all key stages. It is aimed at teachers and leaders who have, or are aspiring to have, responsibilities for leading literacy across a school, year group, key stage, or phase. The content framework which underpins this qualification was published in October 2021 here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-professional-qualifications-frameworks-from-september-2021. Further details around eligibility and funding for this qualification will be announced in due course.