Ending child illiteracy by 2025

The Liberal Democrat plan to end illiteracy by 2025 announced today would mean that every child born in 2014, ought to leave primary school in 2025 able to read and write at a standard identified to lead to success in secondary school and beyond. To help them meet this commitment to end child illiteracy by 2025 the Lib Dems would boost the early years Pupil Premium to an even higher level than the primary school Pupil Premium thus recognising the vital importance of a child’s early years for learning and development.
The Lib Dems would also overhaul early years teaching qualifications by letting nursery staff work towards Qualified Teacher Status and by 2020 requiring a qualified teacher graduate in every school or nursery delivering the early years curriculum.
As a Lib Dem, I have been fighting for better early years education for decades. This aim is reminiscent of the Millennium Development goals of 2000 that sought to ensure primary education for every child throughout the world by 2015. And what’s the point of primary education if children don’t learn to read, write, count, and lay down the skills to acquire the tools they will need for their future lives as adults.
Despite a focus of attention on the lack of education success among the poor that goes back to work undertaken when Ruth Kelly was Secretary of State in the Labour government, it is still clear, as Nick Clegg pointed out, that it is those less well off in society whose children don’t make the expected levels of progress.
Labour has been hinting about cutting tuition fees if elected. As Labour was the Party that introduced them in the first place in 1997, and then increased them, requiring students to repay the cash borrowed from day one rather than when they started earning, as now, Labour must say if it favours supporting undergraduates ahead of ending illiteracy in the next parliament; it cannot do both and still stick to its spending plans.
To achieve the ambition of ending illiteracy by 2025 means providing the cash for schools and early year settings to achieve this goal. Depriving local authorities of the cash to support pre-school settings where health, welfare and education issues can be dealt with together won’t allow the goal to be achieved. Yes, the bulk of the funds should go to schools and through an early years premium, but the work needs co-ordination and that is where local authorities need funds. By all means make it a ring-fenced grant, but do not force local authorities out of supporting initiatives by cutting their funding.
Schools also need to know how to deal with that small group of parents that are indifferent to their child’s progress and don’t, can’t or won’t work with the school and pre-school setting in helping their children learn. Helping schools know what works rather than everyone re-inventing the wheel will also ensure best use of the money. Does that mean a role for local authorities?

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