Tackling the widening vocabulary gap in the UK

Four in ten UK pupils have fallen behind in vocabulary development according to our latest Oxford Children’s Language Report. We surveyed more than 800 teachers and parents across the UK in our annual study of vocabulary development in under 18s in the UK.  

Teachers are keen for schools to work with parents to tackle the issue, with 85% believing schools could do more to encourage parents to get involved in their child’s vocabulary development. Our UK Policy Director Avnee Morjaria shared [this] is a significant issue for many children, and one which can impact their learning at school and later life chances. Equally over two thirds of parents surveyed are eager to engage with schools, with 68% of parents welcoming more guidance when it comes to developing their child’s vocabulary.  

Overwhelmingly, teachers highlight the significant consequences of the pandemic with 95% believing school closures and disruptions during Covid-19 contributed to a widening vocabulary gap.

To help tackle the issue, we’re launching the second year of our pioneering Raise a Reader initiative — our campaign to support children’s literacy in the wake of the pandemic — in continued partnership with the National Literacy Trust. 

We are extending our Oxfordshire Raise a Reader programme to an additional ten schools across the county in 2024, including Banbury, Witney, and Oxford.  

Almost 3,000 children growing up in some of the most disadvantaged areas in Oxfordshire benefitted from the programme in 2023, where we set up dedicated libraries in ten primary schools. This included donating 5,000 books, furnishings, storage, as well as training and support from OUP and the National Literacy Trust.  

Sinéad Naidoo, National Literacy Trust, Senior Programme Manager, Raise a Reader, said:  
“This report is further evidence of the need for every primary school to have a library. School libraries are essential in helping to fuel a child’s imagination, build a rich vocabulary, and give them the literacy skills they need to succeed in life. We are delighted to be working with Oxford University Press for a second year to get ten wonderful new reading spaces into primary schools in Oxfordshire.”

If you’re a parent looking for support with developing vocabulary at home, check out our free Raise a Reader pack for parents filled with tips and activities based on the latest research to support vocabulary development and reading at home.  

Find out more about Raise a Reader.

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