Success of UK plc damaged by poor literacy skills

6 October 2015

At KPMG, we recognise that our most valuable asset is our people. A highly skilled and socially diverse workforce is key to meeting the demands of our clients and securing the continued success of our business.

Literacy is a core skill and a fundamental enabler of social mobility, yet the attainment of our young people continually lags behind that of their global counterparts. The analysis of 22 countries by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) found a 12.6 per cent gap in literacy in England and Northern Ireland – double the OECD average of 6.5 per cent. This is simply not good enough.

Businesses are suffering the consequences of the fall in literacy levels. The Confederation of British Industry reports that 36 per cent of employers are dissatisfied with young people’s literacy skills, with 22 per cent of employers providing remedial training to school and college leavers.

We, like most employers, provide a range of interventions to address this gap – but we cannot act alone. As a Social Mobility Business Compact Champion and a core partner of the National Literacy Trust, we are proud to use our convening and influencing power to shape the national literacy debate. As the first signatory of the ‘Vision for Literacy Business Pledge’, developed by the National Literacy Forum with support from KPMG, we call upon other businesses to play their part in addressing the UK’s literacy crisis from an internal, local and national perspective.

Every Child a Reader was developed by the KPMG Foundation alongside the Institute of Education. The three-year pilot with over 23,000 children showed remarkable results: a return on Investment of between £11 and £17 for every pound spent. In 2008 the Government funded a national roll-out of the programme – reaching 35,000 children each year.

This demonstrates how the KPMG Foundation has also helped deliver very tangible, large scale change, changing government policy and creating a better future for tens of thousands of young children.

There is, however, still more to do. KPMG wants to be at the forefront of the collaborative effort that is required across government, business and the third sector to ensure the UK’s economic competitiveness and sustainability is not damaged by poor literacy skills.

We are delighted to be partnering with the National Literacy Trust and Reform at the Conservative Party Conference. It demonstrates KPMG’s commitment to social mobility and, ultimately, highlights how better literacy improves lives. The success of UK plc is damaged by poor literacy skills.

Marianne Fallon, Partner and Head of People, KPMG LLP (UK)

This article was written for the Reform Annual Journal to accompany the Conservative Party Conference event “Words for life: how better literacy improves lives”.



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