TOP TO BOTTOM – English literacy standards plummet in less than two generations

Did you see the OECD report on literacy and numeracy in The Times on Friday, January 29th and its Thunderer column on Tuesday, February 2nd?

Current British pensioners are tops with their maths and literacy compared with pensioners in 22 other developed countries; current 16-19 year-olds are bottom.

In FE colleges 30% of their budgets are spent attempting to deal with students’ poor literacy and numeracy.

What have our children and grandchildren done to deserve this?

The report says that many students are now leaving university without sufficient skills to earn enough to trigger off student loan repayments.

Is it simply a coincidence that during this time we have seen increasing micro-management of schools and their work by government,  with  pressure on schools to improve the “performance” of populations rather than encourage every individual pupil to do his or her best?

Much teaching material in my subject, English, is now directed towards teaching children how to get through the hoops that constitute the ever-changing curricula and schemes of assessment, rather than developing mature, educated English. Now we have learnt where that leads us, or rather where that leads our children.

For four years, with declining literacy standards constantly in the news, I have worked on a text-book for young adults who have dropped out or been rejected, with guidance for parents and tutors, and for students in a hurry. Here is one response to it:

I am very interested in the development of your English textbook. Textbooks which are not narrowly linked to exam specifications are few and far between but should be FAR MORE common. I have looked through the content in detail and am very interested in the thinking behind content and the sequencing of content. Can we book a time for a phone call?

Tim Oates Group Director Cambridge Assessment

 I had no sooner read about the OECD report than a neighbour knocked at the door. She had come to ask whether I would help her son who, at sixteen, is failing English as school; at primary school his reading age was two years ahead of his peers. I am looking forward to restoring his confidence and showing him what can be achieved in a short time with the right help.

A teacher and a drop out interviewed about the book:

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