Francis Maude: Improvement in literacy desperately needed

Horsham MP Francis Maude
Horsham MP Francis Maude

Last week didn’t just mark the start of a new school year – some historic changes in the field of education were also implemented.

Significantly for many teens, the ‘participation age’ has been raised to seventeen meaning students either have to stay in school or continue some form of education or training – even if they are in full or part time work.

There hasn’t been an increase in the school leaving age since 1972, when it was raised to sixteen but things will change again in 2015 when it goes up to eighteen.

It’s all about improving individuals’ ‘employability’ and helping our country compete in the global race.

The change will be bolstered by this week’s second reform – from now on, students who don’t achieve a grade C or above in GCSE maths and English must continue studying the subjects, throughout their post-sixteen education, until they gain the qualifications.

This will improve levels of literacy and numeracy for a generation – something employers have long been calling for and is needed desperately.

Staggeringly, in 2012, 285,000 19-year-olds had left secondary school without a C or better in both GCSE maths and English.

Again, individuals will find themselves more attractive to employers, boosting their earning potential and we’ll be bringing ourselves in line with most other developed countries who already focus on developing the key skills of language and maths.

I’d also like to tell readers about a positive announcement we made recently from the Cabinet Office.

I chair the Fraud, Error and Debt Taskforce and in February 2011 was shocked to determine that the country loses £30bn to fraud and error each year – that’s 30bn lost taxpayers’ pounds.

Since then we’ve been working hard – across Government – to address the situation and last year we cut fraud and error by some £6.5bn – that equates to nearly £400 per working family.

Much of this has been done within HMRC and the Department for Work and Pensions.

Over the years many local people who’ve visited my advice surgeries have suffered because of errors within these departments and it’s good to know there’ll be less of that whilst we’re actively saving money.

Readers who’d like to know more can take a look at the Cabinet Office pages on