Recent Ofsted reports have shown that educational standards in our schools are slipping; this is particularly evident in literacy standards, with one child in five failing to achieve the expected literacy level by the end of primary school.
Ofsted, the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills, reported that throughout the UK, standards in English education are low and there has been no marked improvement since 2008. But have standards really decreased all that much? Your grandparents might regale you with stories of how things were different in their youth, when every boy and girl could spell and form perfect sentences. But research shows that problems with literacy in the UK actually extend back as far as the 1800’s. In 1952, literacy standards were similar to today, with one examiner’s report stating that students showed “an absence of respect for written language.” In fact, even Shakespeare struggled with English, spelling his name differently throughout his life; if such a great figure in literary history struggled with spelling, what hope is there for the rest of us mere mortals?
Why the Concern?
Poor literacy skills have a knock-on effect on a pupil’s education, with literacy skills not only vital for everyday life but also for learning in all subjects. It’s been shown that those who struggle to read at age seven will continue to find it difficult to catch up throughout their school education. So why are we not prioritising the literacy of our young people? Don’t we want to create an intelligent nation, who breeze through spelling, grammar and punctuation issues as they write their university dissertations? In a sense, we have become lazy; with most students writing their reports on a PC, spelling and punctuation skills have gone out the window as most of us rely on spell check to correct our mistakes for us; we never learn. In 2011, almost half of those who achieved the lower end of Level 4 when finishing primary school attained lower than a grade C in their GCSE English.
How Can We Change Things?
We need to uphold high standards of literacy in our schools; amongst our pupils may be those who wish to go on and become journalists, or provide Writing Services, such as copywriters, features writers and editors and even budding authors. It’s vital that we take steps now to protect the future of literacy standards in UK society. Strong leadership in schools, with staff who really care about and are dedicated to promoting high standards of literacy for all pupils is a starting point to turning things around. With other countries across the world now outperforming the UK in their standards of literary education, the time is ripe to make amends for the poor standards we’ve been accepting from our pupils! A study by the Basic Skills Agency in 1996, of 16-24 year olds, found that one in seven people could not spell the word ‘writing’ and over half struggled to spell words such as ‘apologise’. The UK government plans to take ten steps to raise standards; one of which will include reviewing Level 4 to see if it’s a high enough target to provide a launch-pad for successful secondary education. Many think that we need to go back to basics by tempting our children away from the iPad and PS3 and instilling a ‘love of reading’, encouraging them to spend their free time reading books rather than playing with new technology. Whilst this is a great way to improve literacy, we also need to raise standards in our schools, particularly when it comes to spelling and handwriting. Ofsted’s recent report ‘Moving English Forward’ will implement unannounced inspections in schools which will monitor phonetics training to assist with spelling and literacy issues.
What does this mean for the writers of tomorrow? Standards in Writing Services will slip if we don’t address the literacy issues our young people are facing. Over-reliance on new technology will see spelling, grammar and general literacy levels fall even further, and students will struggle with the rest of their education including gaining a university degree. We need to act, now!
Ian Arnison-Phillips is a freelance writer who has concerns about where the future writing talent is going to come from. However, he still believes that Writing Services will remain unaffected as you will get great content, as long as you do your research.
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