Page last updated at 10:45 GMT, Friday, 4 December 2009

Fifth of Scots have poor literacy

A child reading a book with her mother
The commision said poor literacy can be best addressed at a young age

A commission set up to tackle literacy problems in Scottish schools has found almost one in five Scots has difficulty with reading and writing.

The Literacy Commission, which included author Ian Rankin, called for a "zero tolerance" approach to tackling the issue.

The commission made 11 key recommendations aimed at addressing the problem of poor literacy skills.

It said tackling problems caused by deprivation was crucial.

The commission was comprised of leading figures from education, academia, business and culture.

It found that almost one million Scots had problems with literacy in their everyday lives.

It acknowledged that literacy affected people of all ages, but focused its attentions on younger children, as this is the stage at which poor literacy can best be addressed.

At the heart of the commission's findings was the need to address the problems caused by social and economic disadvantage at an early age
Judith Gillespie
Commission chairwoman

The commission found that 18.5% of children in Scotland leave primary school without being functionally literate - some 13,000 youngsters a year.

Education Secretary Mike Russell told BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland that the concept of literacy was broader than simply reading and writing.

He said: "What we were talking about 20 years ago was essentially an inability to read.

"What we are talking about now is an inability to cope with all the demands around us.

"It's not just about reading - essentially you need to be able to operate a computer, you need to be able to use a mobile phone.

"We need to ensure we are constantly upskilling people to cope with everyday life."

Judith Gillespie, chairwoman of the commission and development manager of the Scottish Parent Teacher Council, said: "There needs to be a zero-tolerance approach to tackling poor literacy and it's time that this problem was effectively addressed.

"At the heart of the commission's findings was the need to address the problems caused by social and economic disadvantage at an early age. This should be a key feature in the development of any literacy strategy.

"The commission also recommends that children are diagnostically assessed to see what help and support they need in order to flourish."

Among the other recommendations was a call for literacy programmes in secondary schools, comparable to the early years programmes, that would focus on developing the necessary advanced skills.

'Wake up call'

The commission was set up 18 months ago by the Labour Party.

Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray said the report should act as a "huge wake up call", and pledged to eradicate illiteracy in Scotland.

He said: "I pledge Scottish Labour to the task of eradicating illiteracy and innumeracy from 21st Century Scotland. We need a revolution in literacy teaching in our schools. We will argue for that in opposition, and once in office we will pursue this relentlessly.

"This report is huge wake-up call for Scotland. With one in five Scots with literacy problems this mean that thousands of Scots will not reach their full potential and Scotland's ability to compete in business and commerce will also suffer."

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The Scotsman One in five Scots struggle with literacy, report reveals - 5 hrs ago

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