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The Growth Of Awareness Of Adult Illiteracy In Britain

If it is true as sociologists have shown, that children of social Classes IV and V do much worse at school, and that illiterate or under-achieving children mainly stem from these classes, then these are the children most at risk and it is they who must have the chance of the earliest stimulation in playgroups and nursery schools at 3 or 4 years old, not the middle classes who traditionally “ensure” that their children take advantage of every opportunity, and who are less in need of outside stimulation, since it is more often provided in their own home.

It is essential then that the Government be led to make these provisions, so that in due course the level of adult illiteracy which now faces us can be almost totally eliminated.  In 1967 it was stated in a report an educational priority:

“….. money spent on education is an investment which helps to determine the scope for future economic and social development.”25

A strong pressure group is building up through the Trades Unions movement, I have previously discussed the efforts of the Blackfriars Literacy Scheme organisers to co-ordinate their local pressure on employers with trade union support, and the success they have achieved so far.  This is now mirrored by a growing campaign in the national Trades Unions Congress.  The T.U.C, Conference this year will debate two motions on this important topic. Composite 10 from Oxfordshire relates to further and higher education and among other matters seeks to extend further education to include:

“all workers to be allowed day release from work to continue their general education, and if necessary, gain basic literacy and numeracy skills and vocational training.”

Composite 12 seeks to commit the T.U.C. to “the right of every child to be taught literacy skills.  This motion states:

“…. Their condemnation as illiterate causes much dismay to the children concerned, their parents and their teachers, and also leads to the loss of great potential to the nation...”26

It may be that the T.U.C. and the many voluntary and other organisations connected with the teaching of the adult illiterate can form a strong almost irresistible pressure group on the Government and educational establishment to ensure that these aims are realised.  

The many excellent voluntary organisations working in the field of adult illiteracy may seek to remedy the failings of the educational system to ensure that all children receive their right to education according to their individual needs.  But if the problem is to be resolved it must be tackled nationally, and tackled at the root.

25 Plowden Report, 1967, p.54

26 Composite notions for T.U. C., Conference, 1978 (see Appendix).

© Amity Reading Clubs and Betty Cooper 1978 to 2002 Page 28 of 51

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