OPINION: Literacy crisis is the greatest threat to our children after Covid-19
Over the Easter Weekend The Times ran an article Boris Johnson fears Lockdown illiteracy surge reporting the number of children struggling with literacy, as a result of lockdown learning, is rising by 30,000 over the past year.
If that’s not shocking enough, according to unpublished government figures revealed this week, more than 200,000 primary school pupils could make the transition to secondary school without the adequate literacy skills for their age. Many will not be able to read properly. It’s reported this will be Boris Johnson’s top priority after the coronavirus vaccination programme. The Government is expected to unveil a new four-year ‘emergency plan’ in May as a direct response. This could include after-school and holiday clubs as well as small group tutoring. But is manpower enough to solve this?
The solution is digital learning
It’s estimated that English students have lost more than 800 million teaching hours due to the pandemic. While those hours cannot be recouped instantly, independent digital learning can play a huge part in supporting the nation’s primary school pupils. As founder and CEO of Auris Tech – voice tech for literacy in the UK and English language learning, I understand the vital role technology plays in our schools. You can reach more children with technology. There’s no way reading can get back on track without it. Technology is the greatest way to reach people – as a leveller.
And the pandemic has proved that. Not just in education and the academic sector but in business in general. You only have to ask business leaders who led the IT strategy in their company? Was it their Chief Tech Officers, CEO or Covid-19? The answer will be the latter. Collaboration tools have supported businesses globally throughout this pandemic. Zoom has become a verb as well as one of the most used apps in lockdown, (increasing its profits by 400 percent*) with Microsoft Teams, Yammer and Google Classrooms being other go-to functions to keep schools and businesses connected. The digital realm has been a life-line and it will continue to be for many years to come.
If digital platforms are the foundation of future learning, smart technology applications are the perfect partners to guarantee success. Digital learning with smart AI and safe technology is a recipe for success. It provides a level playing field to all pupils, not just those within a radius of a school ranked as ‘excellent’. Schools simply don’t have the people power to offer 121 tuition for every child without technology. Accessibility is key to learning and indeed to literacy. The Government has made a massive in road to schools with technology but they need to install the right smart tech to guarantee success. The Hungry Little Minds campaign is just one example of this.
Reading is a foundation to learning. It’s a building block for every other academic subject and it’s essential in providing key skills for life. Confidence in our children is at an all time low as a result of the pandemic. Many children have had limited verbal interaction with their peers and these communicative skills can all be boosted through independent digital learning, as can vital life skills. Children are very comfortable with technology. Primary school pupils in particular are digitally native and expect technology to play a part in their lives.
Throughout the pandemic there have been some fantastic initiatives that promote independent digital learning. MBE Oli Barrett’s ‘Turn On The Subtitles’ campaign is just one example that encourages subliminal reading and showing the power of digital intervention. Turning on the subtitles while children are watching television can double the chances of a child improving their literacy. One simple step that can make a huge impact.
The BBC’s ‘Equipment For Schools’ campaign has also offered a life-line to learning across the country during the pandemic.
Schools have relied on support from businesses to keep them connected throughout lockdowns. Whether it’s providing devices, technology support and expertise or by sponsoring subscriptions to educational apps like Fonetti, there’s no doubt how smart tech and independent digital learning has played a huge part in lockdown learning. It’s now down to the Government to invest in the right AI and smart tech to complement this initial foundation for schools to build on for the next four years. And we at Auris Tech will be ready to take their call.