Parts of Sheffield 'among most illiterate' in the country, says report

Stephen Betts.
Stephen Betts.

Parts of Sheffield are having some of the highest levels of illiteracy in the country, a report has found.

The National Literacy Trust revealed Brightside and Hillsborough as the fifth 'most vulnerable constituency' to serious reading and writing problems out of 533 constituencies nationwide.

Jonathan Douglas.

Jonathan Douglas.

The document concluded that youngsters from age five right up to 16 encountered literacy problems in the city.

This also comes just days after a report discussed at a Sheffield Council meeting revealed that white British boys are falling behind students from other ethnic backgrounds at school in Sheffield, while attainment by secondary school pupils in maths and English is also below the national average.

Jonathan Douglas, director of the National Literacy Trust, said: "The analysis showed that literacy problems are embedded in the social fabric of our country, with 86 per cent of English constituencies having at least one ward with urgent literacy need.

"This local pattern of need requires a radically local solution that addresses the specific literacy needs of each community and draws on its strengths."

The trust, which works in communities across England to try and improve reading levels, used date from consumer credit firm Experian to create the literacy score.

It found a quarter of Sheffield five-year-olds were not able to read well by the time they started primary school this year - higher than the national average of 23 per cent.

In addition, a third of 11-year-olds left primary schools in the city unable to read well. This was again above the national average of 29 per cent.

Meanwhile, two in five 16-year-olds in Sheffield failed to achieve an A* to C grade in GCSE English language and maths last summer.

It also said 15 per cent of adults in Yorkshire and the Humber don’t have the literacy skills expected of an 11-year-old.

The report concluded that four out of five Sheffield constituencies contain at least one ward which is 'vulnerable to serious literacy problems.'

The trust has established national hubs in five locations including Stoke-on-Trent, Middlesbrough and Bradford, which focus on organising community events to boost reading and writing skills.

The trust suggested creating more of the hubs in other parts of the country, including in Sheffield, as a way of addressing the issue.

Despite the figures, Stephen Betts, chief executive of Learn Sheffield,said the progress made by white British boys was a national problem, and not something just specific to Sheffield.
The council report also highlighted that the percentage of primary school judged good or outstanding by Ofsted had improved.

A Sheffield Council spokesperson said: "We know there is still work to be done so that all our young people are fluent readers and writers. We are working closely with our schools, preschool childcare providers, and other partners across the city to make this happen.

“Standards are however improving in all areas including reading, but particularly with writing and maths, and the latest indicators show that we perform well when compared other authorities. In the last year for example, the percentage of children achieving the expected standard at key stage one (six and seven year olds) and key stage two (ten and 11 year olds) for both reading and writing has risen.

“We have been doing a huge amount of work to improve our children’s literacy and make sure our children are ready for school. We have been working with families encouraging them to think about reading in a broader sense, so it isn’t just about reading books but when you are out and about for example reading shelves at supermarkets. We have also been working with nurseries to provide them with the most up to date training so they can best support their children in reading and writing. Recently this has focused on writing for boys, ensuring that early years practitioners are meeting the different needs boys can have around reading and writing.

“We will continue to build on this work with our schools and partners to keep improving."