Being able to read and write is a key skill that people need in our society. It is a fundamental right recognised by the UN and other world bodies, that all people get the chance to develop these skills, whether as children or in later life.

However, even today:

  • Over five million adults have literacy skills below GCSE (D–G grade).
  • Around 1 per cent of the adult population cannot read at all.
  • Around 20 per cent of the adult population cannot read well enough to do their job effectively or to gain a promotion.

Poor reading skills tend to go hand-in-hand with poor writing skills, and the impact of a lack of skills can be felt in everyday life, whether it's an inability to help children with homework or being unable to complete a job application.

Surprisingly, given these statistics, very few adults regard their reading and writing skills as below average, even those with the lowest level of ability, and only a tiny proportion feel that their weak skills have hindered their job prospects or led to mistakes at work. This presents a challenge for you, the Union Learning Rep (ULR), to help your members identify their needs and to encourage them to get back into learning.

Tackling basic skills in the workplace is seen as a particularly important strand of successive government strategies, as billions of pounds are lost to the economy and businesses each year through errors resulting from poor skills.

In addition, some adults have difficulties with reading and writing that is associated with dyslexia. The TUC and unions recognise that unidentified or unsupported dyslexia can lead to disadvantage in life chances and we try to increase equality of opportunity by supporting people who need help with dyslexia.

TUC Education, together with unionlearn, have launched the latest in their popular series of eNotes. 

  • Read Now! contains guidance on how you can improve your reading techniques, from skimming and scanning to reading on screens. 
  • Write Now! will help people improve their writing skills, and tackle everyday writing tasks such as writing letters and reports and offers practical advice. 

For further information, go to the TUC Education eNotes page