The Liberal Democrat 2015 election manifesto will include a commitment to end child illiteracy by 2025, Nick Clegg announced yesterday (18th January).
The party leader said the Lib Dems was the only party which could ensure all children who leave primary school in 2025 will be able to read and write because “we are the only party committed to protecting the education budget from cradle to college in the next five years”.
Clegg said he would use the education budget to end illiteracy by increasing Pupil Premium (additional funds given to schools to improve the education of disadvantaged pupils) for nursery schools to a higher level than the primary school Pupil Premium, which currently amounts to £1,300.
The party would also overhaul early years teaching qualifications by letting nursery staff work towards qualified teacher status, and requiring that all schools and nurseries have a graduate teacher by 2020.
“We are raising the bar on what children should be able to achieve by the age of 11 and want all children to get over the bar by 2025,” said Clegg. “The coalition government has cut illiteracy but it is nothing short of a national scandal that a fifth of children are still leaving primary school unable to read at a level that will allow them to succeed in later life. The Liberal Democrats exists to build a stronger economy in a fairer society where there is opportunity for everyone and the key to that is education.”
Clegg’s promise comes after the Read On. Get On. campaign launched in September, backed by Save the Children in partnership with Booktrust and the Publishers Association. It called for all political parties to support the target of helping all children read well by 2025.
The Publishers Association told The Bookseller: “We were pleased to see Nick Clegg's commitment over the weekend to address the continuing problem of illiteracy in the UK and his support for the Read On Get On campaign to get all 11year olds reading well by 2025. We look forward to the other parties making similar pledges in their manifestos.”
A Booktrust spokesperson added: "We welcome the Liberal Democrat pledge to end child illiteracy and this will give the Read On. Get On. campaign a boost. We want all children in the UK to leave primary school with the skills to equip them for secondary school and beyond."
The Read On. Get On. coalition conducted "the most comprehensive study of pre-school and primary school-aged children in a generation", which found that England is one of the most unequal countries in the EU when it comes to reading levels, second only to Romania, with the gap between the strongest and weakest readers equivalent to seven years of schooling.
It also found that disadvantaged children were the worst affected, with four in 10 not reading well by the age of 11, double the rate of their better off peers. A quarter of 11-year-olds in the poorest families have fewer than 10 books in their home, and the most commonly read material by children is now text messages.