25th November 2015

High profile businesses are rallying together to demonstrate their commitment to tackling the literacy challenge in the UK.

Beanstalk supporters Credit Agricole, Man Group, Penguin Random House and Norton Rose Fulbright are among 41 UK companies who have signed the Vision for Literacy Business Pledge 2016, which has been spearheaded by the National Literacy Forum, a coalition led by the National Literacy Trust of which Beanstalk is a member.

Each business signatory has pledged to help raise literacy levels, boost the economy and improve social mobility by taking clear action in three areas: in their workforce, in their local community and at a national level. This could include employee volunteering on literacy-focused activities at local schools, commissioning research on literacy or using business networks to build support to combat the literacy crisis.

As low literacy continues to undermine the UK’s economic competitiveness, tackling it has never been more important to business. National Literacy Forum partner KPMG estimates that a failure to master basic literacy skills costs the taxpayer up to £2.5 billion[1] every year.

The Pledge builds on the Vision for Literacy, a manifesto released by the National Literacy Forum in October 2014 with cross-party commitment. It called on the whole of society to play a part in raising literacy levels and recommended four areas where sustained policy action is needed to achieve its ultimate aim for all children to have the literacy skills they need to succeed by the time they finish secondary school. The Vision for Literacy Business Pledge 2016, developed with the support of KPMG, provides a framework for businesses to play a vital role in relation to this manifesto and have a significant impact.

Research shows that businesses are increasingly concerned about school leavers’ literacy skills and the direct cost of poor literacy levels to business. The CBI reports that more than a third (36%) of employers are dissatisfied with young people’s literacy skills, with 22% needing to provide remedial literacy training to school and college leavers. A survey from the Education and Training Foundation also found that almost half (46%) of employers are most concerned with English skills, above other basic skills.

Many businesses from a variety of sectors are already working to raise literacy levels in the UK. For example, Penguin Random House and Credit Agricole offer employees the opportunity to participate in Beanstalk’s reading scheme which provides literacy support for children.

Low literacy is frequently intergenerational and in some disadvantaged areas of the UK up to 35% of the adult population lack the literacy skills expected of an 11-year-old. This compromises employability, health, confidence and happiness and creates barriers to social mobility. As the spotlight on low literacy grows brighter, the Vision for Literacy Business Pledge 2016 will support the goals of other high profile literacy campaigns including Read On.Get On. and the Fair Education Alliance.

Ginny Lunn, Beanstalk’s CEO, says:

“Beanstalk is delighted to be a part of this important initiative as a member of the National Literacy Forum. We see first-hand every week the difference that businesses can make to young people’s lives, whether that is by allowing their staff to volunteer as Beanstalk reading helpers in local primary schools or by raising funds to support the work of literacy charities like Beanstalk.  We all have a role to play in helping to raise literacy levels across the country, and I would encourage more businesses to sign up the Vision for Literacy Business Pledge and take practical action to improve literacy in the UK.”

The businesses who have signed the Vision for Literacy Business Pledge 2016 are: Baker & McKenzie, BalticCreative, Berwin Leighton Paisner LLP, Better World Books, Bird & Bird LLP, Boots Opticians, British Land, Browns Books for Students, Canongate, Clifford Chance, Costa, Crédit Agricole CIB, Deloitte, Egmont, Hachette, Insight Consulting Group, KPMG, Man Group, Mayer Brown International, McDonald's, Mitie, Nabarro, Norton Rose Fulbright, OCR, Pan Macmillan, Pearson, Penguin Random House, Pinsent Mason, Premier League, Prinovis, Professional Publishers Association, Publishers Association, PwC, Routledge, Sainsbury's, Simon and Schuster, Slaughter and May, Travers Smith, Walker, Waterstones and WHSmith.

[1] Every Child A Chance Trust (2009) The Long Term Costs of Literacy Difficulties, 2nd ed. Available at: http://readingrecovery.org/images/pdfs/Reading_Recovery/Research_and_Evaluation/long_term_costs_of_literacy_difficulties_2nd_edition_2009.pdf

Notes to editors

  1. Beanstalk is a national literacy charity that recruits, vets, trains and supports volunteers to work in primary schools with children who have fallen behind with their reading. To find out how to volunteer, visit  www.beanstalkcharity.org.uk or call 020 7729 4087
  2. Beanstalk reading helpers work with children on a one-to-one basis, giving them their full attention and support to improve reading levels, increase overall confidence and inspire a lifelong love of reading.
  3. Each Beanstalk reading helper works with three children and sees each child for two 30 minute sessions a week, during term-time, for a whole year. Together, they read, play and talk. With Beanstalk's support the child's approach to learning and enjoying reading is often transformed.
  4. Beanstalk works in areas of deprivation across England through 17 branches in the North, Midlands, Greater London and Kent.
  5. Beanstalk was founded in 1973 as Volunteer Reading Help by Susan Belgrave MBE, Beanstalk’s President.