Invest in Reading and Writing and Economy will Grow

Published date: 
10 Nov 2009

The Children’s Rights Alliance welcomes the publication of today’s National Economic and Social Forum’s (NESF) Child Literacy and Social Inclusion Report, which calls for a National Literacy Policy Framework to outline a vision that would help deliver the highest levels of child literacy in Ireland, and map out, from the bottom up, what must be delivered by each and every teacher and school in Ireland.  The Report clearly and comprehensively demonstrates that, for the last 25 years, literacy levels in Ireland have stalled and that investment in reading and writing is now a crucial component in saving Ireland’s economy.  The Alliance is calling on the Government to now take action, as it currently has no national level literacy strategy, nor does it have a literacy policy for all schools, other than what is outlined in the curriculum.  

Mrs Jillian van Turnhout, Chief Executive of the Alliance, says: “The Alliance believes that literacy is a right for all children and not a mere privilege for some; enshrined in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is the right to education, ratified by Ireland in 1992.  Literacy is the cornerstone of a ‘smart economy’ and focusing resources on basic writing and reading skills will undoubtedly help secure Ireland’s safe return from economic meltdown.  Let us not forget that one in ten children leaves primary school with serious literacy difficulties, rising to one in three in disadvantaged communities.  Children entering secondary school with a reading age of seven, without the necessary life skills to read a newspaper or the ingredients on a back of a tin, will rarely recover and are more likely to display costly anti-social behavior in adulthood.  A National Policy Framework is vital if we are to reverse this trend and the Government must now make this a priority.”

The Report highlights the cost of literacy difficulties to both individuals and society, and cites a UK study that illustrates how literacy failures at primary school can cost the Exchequer over £2 billion annually, with an ‘incalcuable’ cost to the individual, spelling a cycle of early school leaving, truancy, low self-esteem and poor job prospects that will be passed on to future generations of children.  But it also shows that for every £1 spent on a specific reading intervention at the age of six would see a return of £15; the savings made by age 37 are estimated at over £1 billion, lifting 79% of children out of literacy failure.

Mrs van Turnhout adds: “The NESF Report is a crucial piece of work, bringing together key decision makers from central and local government, the Oireachtas, the Unions, employers, and the NGO sector to agree a course of action.  It is now time to take that first step and to implement the report and start mapping out a national policy framework that would provide a shared vision for future action with greater policy coherence and integration.  The figures speak for themselves – we can’t afford not to invest in children and their reading and writing skills.”

Other recommendations include a revised target for improving child literacy; an increase in the time spent teaching literacy in disadvantaged areas to 90 minutes and guaranteeing further professional development for teachers that will improve the teaching of reading and writing, particularly for educationally disadvantaged pupils.

The Children’s Rights Alliance was on the project team for the development of this report, in its capacity as member of the community and voluntary pillar of Social Partnership.

For further information, please contact:
Carys Thomas, Communications Director
Tel: (01) 662 9400 / 087 7702845; Fax: (01) 662 9355

Notes to Editor:

  1. The NESF was established by the government in 1993, and has focused on monitoring and analysing measures and programmes concerned with the achievement of equality and social inclusion. In 2007, the Government asked the NESF to focus on ways to improve the implementation of policies on the ground. This report is the second of two focusing on implementation of social policies, with the first one examining Home Care Packages. The NESF is the largest social partnership organisation, and its membership comprises four broad strands, namely (i) members of the Oireachtas, (ii) employer / business and farm bodies, (iii) the community and voluntary sector, and (iv) central government, local government and independents.
  2. Article 28 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child: States Parties recognize the right of the child to education, and with a view to achieving this right progressively and on the basis of equal opportunity.
  3. The Alliance’s second Report Card, an audit of Government successes and failures in relation to its own targets and commitments to children, will be published in January 2010.  The Government was awarded a ‘C’ grade for its progress in relation to child literacy and language support.


Children's Rights Alliance