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Data analysis by Experian and The National Literacy Trust reveals local depths of England’s literacy crisis. Low literacy levels aren’t limited to regions with low income, employment and social deprivation
Children’s futures will be put in jeopardy if action isn’t taken at a local level to tackle England’s deep-rooted literacy crisis. That’s the message coming from a comprehensive new study by the National Literacy Trust and Experian, which reveals that the vast majority of constituencies in England (86%) contain at least one ward with serious literacy issues .
Experian analysed data about the social factors most closely associated with low literacy, to create a literacy vulnerability score for every single electoral ward and parliamentary constituency in England.
By harnessing the power of data and analytics, this brand new measure provides a deeper understanding about a long-standing challenge for society, identifying the areas with the most acute literacy problems and pinpointing where the greatest level of support is required.
The investigation found that:
Jonathan Douglas, Director of the National Literacy Trust, said: “For 20 years, the government has addressed England’s widening literacy gap through national strategies. We now know that a new, targeted 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 intergenerational 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.”
The new literacy vulnerability score is based on an in-depth analysis of data from Experian’s socio-demographic classification system, Mosaic, and the 2011 Census on the social factors most closely associated with low literacy, including levels of education, income and unemployment. 
MPs were given an information pack containing their constituency’s literacy vulnerability score and analysis of the local factors behind it at a meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Literacy on Monday 6 February. Every MP in the country has access to a report to help them better understand and respond to the specific literacy challenges in their constituency.
The National Literacy Trust has developed a robust local model to address intergenerational low literacy levels in communities across the UK . Currently working in Middlesbrough, Bradford, Peterborough, Manchester and Stoke-on-Trent, the charity takes the best literacy interventions to these communities, creates partnerships between schools, businesses, the voluntary sector and health and local services and mobilises MPs and local leaders to champion literacy in their community.
Literacy vulnerability scores and rankings for every parliamentary constituency in England are available here: http://www.literacytrust.org.uk/assets/0003/7673/Constituency_table_-_by_rank_-_FINAL.pdf
For further information or to request a spokesperson interview, please contact:
National Literacy Trust
Notes to editors
 Analysis by the National Literacy Trust and Experian (2017). 86% of constituencies (468 out of 533) contain at least one ward in the three deciles of greatest need.
 In 2015, more children in Middlesbrough achieved a Good Level of Development at the end of the EYFS, closing the gap with the national average from 22.6 percentage points in 2013 to 6.27 percentage points.
 The literacy vulnerability score is based on the social mix of the resident population in each English electoral ward and parliamentary constituency. The measure combines metrics from the 2011 Census and Experian’s socio-demographic classification system, Mosaic (see below), which are closely associated with literacy need.
 National Literacy Trust ‘Literacy Hubs’: www.literacytrust.org.uk/communities/literacy_hubs
The metrics taken from the 2011 Census were: % of long term unemployed; % of households where no one has ever worked; and % of people with no formal qualifications. Experian’s Mosaic data was then used to identify the places with the highest percentage of people in the most deprived groups (Mosaic Groups: I - Family Basics; J - Transient Renters; and K - Municipal Challenge).
Each variable was ranked (with the areas of greatest need generating the lowest ranking) and then added together to give a total score. From this, we created a national rank for each English parliamentary constituency and English electoral ward.
Mosaic is Experian’s system for classification of UK households. It is one of a number of commercially available geo-demographic segmentation systems, applying the principles of geo-demographic to consumer household and individual data collated from a number of governmental and commercial sources.
About the National Literacy Trust
We are a national charity dedicated to raising literacy levels in the UK. Our research and analysis make us the leading authority on literacy. We run projects in the poorest communities, campaign to make literacy a priority for politicians and parents, and support schools.
Visit www.literacytrust.org.uk to find out more, donate or sign up for our free email newsletter. You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
The National Literacy Trust is a registered charity no. 1116260 and a company limited by guarantee no. 5836486 registered in England and Wales and a registered charity in Scotland no. SC042944. Registered address: 68 South Lambeth Road, London SW8 1RL.
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