New figures uncovered by the Liberal Democrats have revealed that 23% of 11-year-old children have a reading age below 11. The research reveals that almost 167,960 11-year-olds across the country and 182 in Bath are below the standard reading age.
The shocking figures were published recently by the Department for Education in response to a Parliamentary Question tabled by Liberal Democrat Education Spokesperson Munira Wilson.
The latest figures held by the Department are from 2019 as testing was suspended over the pandemic. This means that the numbers are likely even higher after children have faced consistent disruption to their education over the last two years.
Bath MP Wera Hobhouse has urged the Department for Education to:
Fund the full £15 billion catch-up programme put forward by their own Education Recovery Commissioner
Publish any new data they have from during the pandemic.
Commission an urgent review into reading ages across the country.
The party said that the recent figures were just the “tip of the iceberg” with thousands of children hit hard by lost learning during the pandemic.
The research comes as the Liberal Democrats are calling for an extra £10 billion to go towards catch-up, including £5 billion to be put directly into the hands of parents as a catch-up voucher for every child. The policy was backed by the Liberal Democrats at their Spring Conference this weekend. The voucher could be used to empower parents to help improve their child’s reading age outside of school.
Responding to these figures, Wera Hobhouse MP said:
“These figures reveal a reading crisis in our schools and they’re just the tip of the iceberg. The Government must get a grip on this issue by commissioning an urgent review into reading ages for pupils.
“The pandemic has had a huge effect on our children across Bath. With reading ages already below standards for many before the crisis, the case now could be terrible for thousands of children across the country.
“Parents, teachers and pupils have not had a fair deal throughout this pandemic. No child should leave primary school unable to read at the standard level for their age - they must be given the support to catch up. Falling behind in reading will have serious consequences on children’s life chances.
“The Liberal Democrats would invest an extra £10 billion to tackle lost learning, including £5 billion going directly to parents and commission a review into our children's reading crisis.”