British youngsters ‘most illiterate’ in developed world, says OECD

British youngsters are the “most illiterate” in the developed world, according to the findings of a new report that ranks worldwide numeracy and literacy levels.

According to the organisation for economic co-operation and development, who analysed data from around the world, English teenagers aged 16 to 19 were judged to have the worst literacy levels and the second to worst numeracy levels of the 23 developed nations that were compared.

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The report also suggested there were millions of adults between 16-65 in England who “struggle with basic quantitative reasoning or have difficulty with simple written information.”

Seamus Nevin, Head of Employment and Skills Policy at the Institute of Directors, said: “These findings from the OECD are very worrying. As the report shows, England has nine million people of working age with low literacy or numeracy skills.

“This comes in the same week that the UKCES Employer Skills Survey found that 23 per cent of UK vacancies are hard to fill because of skills shortages, with demand for skills up 130 per cent on five years ago.

“Employers need the right talent and skills to continue to grow. The OECD report, which is based on 2012 data, does conclude that many of the recent reforms brought in by Government – tougher GCSEs, rules that teenagers must now stay in education or training until they are 18, and the abolition of dozens of less relevant vocational qualifications will likely have a positive affect and improve standards.

“But Government must also look at increasing the retention rates and recruitment of teachers, especially in the vital shortage areas like science and maths.”

There are an estimated nine million working aged adults in England (more than a quarter of adults aged 16-65) with low literacy or numeracy skills or both.

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