I had the great pleasure of being part of the opening ceremony of the World Literacy Summit 2014 today. The ceremony was at the Sheldonian Theatre with a lunch afterwards in the famous Divinity School of the Bodleian Library. Speakers included Dr Anthony Cree, the Chairman of the Summit; Mr Nigel Portwood, the CEO of Oxford Unviersity Press; Professor Sally Mapstone, the Pro-vice chancellor for Education of Oxford University; Mr David Perrin, the CEO of the Summit, Linda Bakkum, a Youth Ambassador and Ms Haifa Fahoum Al Kaylani, the Founder-Chairman of the Arab International Women’s Forum. We also had a recorded message from HRH Princess Laurentien of the Netherlands, the patron of the event and a strong advocate of literacy.
The theme of the summit was Literacies: the Power to Change. The aims were impressive:
- Exploring the key issues impacting literacy around the world;
- Analysing the latest literacy delivery methods and teaching approaches;
- Increasing awareness of the global literacy crisis;
- Creating opportunities for each other to collaborate in supporting literacy;
- Revisiting and updating the Oxford Declaration.
775 million people worldwide are illiterate so it is quite some achievement to bring together more than 70 literacy experts, politicians, civil servants, teachers, business leaders and charities to take some positive action about this. These events are a great opportunity to hear inspiring insights from world leaders in the field and to enjoy some high-powered debating that will help to shape policy into the future.
Although the conference is global, I am extremely pleased to know that it also shows great local commitment. Many are engaged in the vital work of supporting literacy in Oxford itself and it’s great that the summit involves Oxford students at University level and below. It’s good to know there is an ongoing programme of advocacy after the summit, that it sponsors.
Oxford has some of the best education in the world, but sadly it is also home to many children experiencing quite severe deprivation. Many come to education with extremely low levels of literacy and a significant number do not have English their first language. As a governor at Oxford Spires Academy I have first-hand knowledge of just how important literacy is to our young students as the gateway and enabler to successful learning. At Oxford Spires we are very proud to ensure that every teacher is a teacher of literacy so I was delighted to be able to take Debbie Clark, our literacy coordinator, along with me to see the life-changing work summits like this encourage. I know Debbie caught up with some old friends and had some good conversations after the speeches.
I hope the rest of the Summit is a huge success – it certainly deserves to be, as literacy is so important to everyone as a vital enabler to future success.