Wirral MP calls on government to improve levels of adult literacy in England

Margaret Greenwood MP has urged the government to take action over poor levels of adult literacy in England.  

The Wirral West MP, a former adult education tutor, was speaking during a debate in Parliament on the government’s Skills and Post-16 Education Bill. 

According to the National Literacy Trust, more than seven million adults in England – 16.4% of the adult population – have very poor literacy skills.  

The National Literacy Trust says that such adults will be locked out of the job market and, if they are parents, they will not be able to support their child’s learning.   

Margaret Greenwood, who currently serves as the Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Adult Education, had tabled an amendment to the bill to require the Secretary of State for Education to review levels of adult literacy in England every two years, publish the findings of that review and set out a strategy to improve levels of adult literacy in England.   

She also tabled two further amendments to the bill which were intended to ensure the provision of a broad curriculum in adult education that includes the arts, social sciences and humanities as well as vocational training, and to give local people, providers and trade unions the opportunity to have a say in the post-16 education and training made available in their communities. 

All three of Margaret Greenwood’s amendments attracted wide support from Labour colleagues, including fellow Wirral MPs Angela Eagle and Mick Whitley, but were not selected for a vote by the Speaker of the House of Commons. 

Speaking after the debate, Margaret Greenwood MP said, “There is a crisis in adult literacy in England, with over seven million people affected. 

“Someone who struggles to read and write, or who cannot read or write at all, experiences disadvantage on a daily basis. It is a form of deprivation that can lead to isolation and poverty and can cause deep personal frustration. 

“Poor reading and writing skills also consign people to low paid and insecure work and can leave people open to exploitation. 

“We cannot afford to leave people to fend for themselves, barely able to read and write. 

“The government had the opportunity to address this in the bill, but so far it has failed to do so.  

“It is incredibly important that the government gets to grips with this issue and comes forward with a plan to make sure people who need support can get the help they need. 

“Meanwhile, I would encourage anyone who might benefit from help with reading and writing or computer skills – or who knows someone who would – to get in touch with Wirral Council’s Lifelong Learning team via lifelonglearning@wirral.gov.uk  or on 0151 666 3330. 

“I am also concerned that the Skills and Post-16 Education Bill may lead to a reduced educational offer and a narrowing of educational opportunity. 

“Education is not just about finding a job, hugely important though that is, but it is also about personal development, engaging with the world, pursuing interests and developing critical thinking. 

“The bill should also have been explicit about giving local people, providers and trade unions the chance to have a say in the post-16 education and training made available in local communities.” 

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