The adult population of the UK is 51 million.
10% of them are Scottish.
5.2 million adults are illiterate in England ( reading age of 11 or below). So probably 5.5 million adults are illiterate in the UK. (I’ve seen large numbers banded about for Scotland but I don’t believe them!)
9.2 million adults in the UK have criminal records.
Let us assume that 25% of these actually went to prison.
(I checked with Howard League for Penal Reform but even they don’t know the total number of people who have been to prison, so I am using this as a rough way of getting the number.)
So we’re assuming that 2.3 million UK adults have been to prison.
48% of criminals have a reading age of 11 or below.
So let's work with a manageable sample:
1000 people leave school.
102 will be illiterate (5.2 million out of 51 million).
45 will go to prison (2.3 million out of 51 million).
48% of prisoners are illiterate. Which is 22 of them.
So of our 102 illiterates, 22 of them will end up in prison.
Let's just emphasise that. If we've got our assumptions correct, for every child you allow to leave school illiterate (reading age of 11 or below), a fifth of them will end up in prison.
So let’s say we halve the number of illiterates leaving school, then maybe only 11 of our illiterates end up in prison instead of 22.
So we could reduce the prison population by 11/45 which is about 25%.
Let's just emphasise that. If we reduce the number of illiterates leaving school by a half, we could reduce the prison population by a quarter.
(We haven't proven causality here of course, we're just saying there's a jolly good chance that we're right!)
But can we reduce the illiterates by half?
In our research trial of our literacy program ReadingWise English last year, in one secondary school, 30% of the struggling readers went from “illiterate” (below reading level 1) to literate (level 1 or above) in just a 20 hour intervention. In fact their average reading age increase was 23 months.
That was only 20 hours. So yes, we can reduce the illiterates by half.
At a rough cost per child of £262 for the software and say £3,000 for a Teaching Assistant for one week for 10 children (salary and premises and amortise a computer), so that’s £300, so let’s be conservative and say £1000 per child total cost.
And you’ll save £37k per prisoner. Not to mention the staggering rest of the cost of policing and arresting and trying the poor buggers. So that’s £5k against a lot more than £37k.
A no brainer.
My case rests.