Caroline Spelman MP pledges to tackle literacy challenge in Meriden constituency

Dame Caroline Spelman has committed to taking action to address the literacy challenge in Meriden constituency as new analysis from the National Literacy Trust and Experian reveals that the variety in literacy skills across the UK is putting children’s futures in jeopardy.

Meriden constituency is ranked 188 out of 533 constituencies in England, where 1 is most in need of literacy support. Whilst in the West Midlands region, Meriden is ranked 29th out of a total 59 constituencies for those in need of the greatest need of literacy support

Experian analysed data on the social factors most closely associated with low literacy, including levels of education, income and unemployment, to create a literacy vulnerability score for every electoral ward and parliamentary constituency in England.

This brand new measure provides a new and deeper understanding about a long-standing problem, identifying the areas with the most acute literacy problems and pinpointing where the greatest support is required. It shows that the majority of constituencies in England (86%) contain at least one ward with serious literacy issues.

Dame Caroline attended a meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Literacy on Monday 6 February. The National Literacy Trust and Experian shared Meriden’s literacy vulnerability score and the social factors underpinning it. The MP was also given detailed information on the prevalence of factors that make people in Meriden constituency vulnerable to literacy issues, highlighting where action is most urgently needed.  

Dame Caroline said:

‘I am delighted to be able to support this campaign in Parliament, which highlights poor levels of literacy skills that are present in too many communities across the UK.  As the report demonstrates, pupils from relatively deprived backgrounds are at a greater risk of leaving school with poorer literacy skills than their peers - skills that are essential to getting on in the workplace.

‘For that reason, I have written to Solihull Council to highlight the findings of this report and to enquire as to what more can be done in our Borough to develop of local literacy skills strategy and tackle this problem head on’.  

Jonathan Douglas, Director of the National Literacy Trust, said:  

“We welcome Dame Caroline’s commitment to addressing the specific literacy challenges facing children, families and individuals in the Meriden constituency. For 20 years, the government has addressed England’s widening literacy gap through national strategies. We now know that a new local approach is needed as our work with Experian reveals the country’s literacy challenge to be intensely local. Strong local leadership and partnerships are vital to tackling this and MPs are ideally placed to drive effective local solutions.

“We know that local strategies work – we set up a National Literacy Trust Hub in Middlesbrough in 2013, which has already had a vital impact on the number of children reaching a good level of development at age five, and has significantly closed the attainment gap with the national average.” 

Richard Jenkings, Lead Analytics Consultant at Experian, said: 

“It doesn’t come as a surprise that levels of literacy are strongly related to households and the neighbourhood in which people live, with urban areas facing the biggest challenges. There is a clear correlation between literacy and income, levels of education, long-term unemployment rates, levels of motivation and depression, as well as with inter-generational needs and growing up in a family with no work culture.”

“However, what shocked me the most in the analysis was just how far reaching the problem of low literacy is in England – it’s on all of our doorsteps, regardless of location. Most regions have at least one area with severe literacy problems. We hope that by making sense of all this data, we have helped lay the foundations for others to transform lives and local communities for the better.”