HC Deb 14 July 1981 vol 8 cc372-3W
Mr. Ernie Ross

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what is his estimate of the number of people in Scotland functioning at an inadequate level of literacy; and what steps his Department is taking to solve the problem.

Mr. Alexander Fletcher

This information is not available. The British Associaion of Settlements estimated in 1974 that some 6 per cent. of the adult population of the United Kingdom functioned at an inadequate level of literacy.

In April 1980 my right hon. Friend approved the establishment for a minimum period of three years of the Scottish adult basic education unit as a centrally funded body to develop adult basic education and to serve as a national focus in Scotland for local authorities, voluntary organisations and other interests. The amount of grant allocated to Me unit in 1981–82 is £120,000, which is double the sum allocated in 1980–81.

The foundations of literacy must of course be laid in school and I am satisfied that this is being done. Her Majesty's inspectors' report on the education of pupils with learning difficulties, published in 1978, showed that very few primary or secondary pupils experienced learning difficulties because of inadequate basic literacy skills. The report by Her Majesty's inspectors on learning and teaching in primary 4 and primary 7, published in August 1980, showed that high standards in basic literacy were being maintained in primary schools. For secondary schools, the Government are developing foundation level courses in English as part of the development programme announced in March 1980 in response to the recommendations of the Munn and Dunning reports; these courses will do much to help slower learners to apply the basic reading skills acquired in primary schools.