Literacy Ireland
Labour Party Manifesto 2020

Labour's joined up strategy to support literacy

Literacy Ireland is Labour’s proposal to create a joined up government strategy to improve outcomes in adult literacy levels, with a particular focus on people from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Labour would combine the diverse budgets that exist across multiple departments and agencies into a single fund, to be directed in line with a coherent, cross-departmental Literacy Ireland strategy.

Today’s primary school education is performing well, with Ireland ranking highly in the world for literacy, as measured by PISA scores. Nonetheless, every school has children who leave without acquiring full literacy. There are also significant gaps between the results attained by disadvantaged urban schools and other types of school.

There are still cohorts of young people who are leaving school without adequate literacy and numeracy skills, and a long-term issue that many adults left school without becoming “functionally literate”. According to the OECD in 2015, one in six Irish adults has difficulty understanding basic written text.

Labour’s analysis is that socio-economic disadvantage is one of the major causes of literacy difficulty, alongside other factors including conditions such as dyslexia. The OECD reports makes it clear that there are lower literacy levels among people whose parents had less formal education.

Labour's goal is to ensure that everyone has access to the supports they need to be able to cope with today's literacy demands, including using the Internet, and to end the social exclusion associated with literacy difficulties.

Literacy Ireland would be established as an all-of-government strategic unit, similar to the Healthy Ireland initiative. The unit would be under the Department of Education, but with close engagement with the Department of the Taoiseach and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, to ensure cross-departmental co-operation on policy and on funding respectively.

The Literacy Ireland unitwould be led by a manager at Principal Officer grade, and would have a small staff cohort and budget to enable it to drive the initiative. Budgets that are currently split over multiple departments and agencies would be consolidated under Literacy Ireland, in order to ensure that a coherent all-of-government strategy is driving the effort to eradicate illiteracy.

While some of the functions of Literacy Ireland will be on education, it will also have a remit to ensure all public agencies adhere to national standards on using Plain English in their publications, websites and application forms.

Literacy Ireland will promote:

  • Social inclusion and equality
  • Development of literacy and numeracy teaching at all levels of education
  • Supports to parents and families in disadvantaged areas to support literacy
  • Use of Plain English by all public agencies and by NGOs and businesses
  • Inclusion of people with disabilities that affect their literacy and numeracy
  • Inclusion of migrants
  • Reading and the Irish book industry
  • Bilingualism and literacy in Irish and other languages as well as English