Literacy Action Plan: An Action Plan to Improve Literacy in Scotland

An action plan to raise standards of literacy for all from the early years to adulthood.


The key national and international surveys that monitor aspects of literacy in Scotland are the Scottish Survey of Adult Literacies 2009, the OECDProgramme for International Student Assessment ( PISA), and the previous Scottish Survey of Achievement ( SSA) which will be replaced by the Scottish Survey of Literacy and Numeracy1.

We know from the SSA that the majority of children develop a good grounding in literacy skills in early primary. However, a minority do not and the SSA also shows that as pupils progress through primary and into secondary the proportion achieving expected levels decreases.

In terms of international benchmarks for those of school age we compare relatively well on reading standards, achieving similar results to the OECD average in 2006.

The Scottish Survey of Adult Literacies 2009 provided a baseline picture of adult literacy and numeracy capabilities in Scotland and found that overall the Scottish population has a good level of literacy skills in line with international expectations. While around 25% of the adult population would benefit from improving their literacy skills, only around 3.6% of the Scottish population has very limited capabilities.

Socio-economic link

Recent surveys have confirmed that literacy skills are linked to socio-economic status and level of deprivation, with those from more deprived areas achieving lower scores. In primary education, those from more deprived areas often fail to reach even basic standards of literacy. This continues into secondary, coming to the fore in the later stages of school-based learning. For example, S2 pupils from more advantaged areas are around twice as likely to perform above the expected level in reading.

The results for the 2006 OECDProgramme for International Student Assessment ( PISA) suggests that compared to other countries, socio-economic status is a more major determinant of attainment in Scotland.

The Scottish Survey of Adult Literacies 2009 reinforced this, stating that adults with literacies issues are more likely to have low income and lower level employment.

Our ambition is to break this link in order to create a more successful country, with opportunities for all of Scotland to flourish. Clearly our anti-poverty strategies are of importance, but we must also focus action on ensuring people in deprived areas get the support they need to develop literacy skills, which will help them to improve their circumstances and that of their families and communities.

The evidence shows a number of priorities across learning:

  • Breaking the link between poor literacy levels and deprivation
  • Improving the skills of the few who have difficulties with basic literacy, particularly those who are vulnerable
  • Ensuring young people progress successfully from basic to advanced literacy skills
  • Raising advanced literacy skills for all
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