England’s children do not have the critical literacy skills to identify fake news

12 Sep 2017
Newspaper

The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Literacy has launched a Commission on Fake News and the Teaching of Critical Literacy Skills in Schools, following the publication of our new report which stresses that children and young people in England do not have the critical literacy skills they need to identify fake news.

The report, Fake news and critical literacy: an evidence review, shows that fake news is a serious problem for children and young people, threatening democracy, confidence in governance and trust in journalism.

The report highlights that the rise of digital and social media has enabled fake news to spread at an unprecedented rate as people access and share it easily. With more young people than ever using digital media as their main source of news, and with 1 child in 5 believing everything they read online is true, it has never been more important to ensure that today’s children have the skills they need to survive and thrive in the digital age.

In order to identify fake news and be able to take full advantage of the unique learning opportunities the internet and digital technologies have to offer, children and young people need strong critical literacy skills. These skills include recognising the difference between fact and opinion, understanding how authors use language to influence a reader, and making reasoned arguments.

Primary and secondary school teachers are ideally placed to help children develop these skills. However, our report warns that a lack of teacher training, resources and confidence is prohibiting this.

“In this digital age, children who can’t question and determine the reliability of the information they find online will be hamstrung – at school, at work and in life. We believe that teachers are the key to boosting children’s critical literacy skills, but they can’t do this without the proper training, support and resources. By bringing together the greatest minds and authorities on fake news and education, the new parliamentary commission gives us a fantastic opportunity to make the case for critical literacy to sit at the heart of our education system.”

Jonathan Douglas, Director of the National Literacy Trust

 

Surveys for pupils and teachers

To inform the commission, the National Literacy Trust has launched two surveys for primary and secondary school pupils, to find out what children know about fake news and to measure their ability to spot fake news. The surveys have been produced in partnership with First News, the UK’s only newspaper for young people, and The Day, an online news service for use in schools. Facebook is also a partner for the Commission.

survey for teachers has also been launched to gather information on where critical literacy skills are taught, what support teachers would need to improve the teaching of these skills and thoughts on the impact of fake news in the classroom.

There are also free critical literacy classroom resources available for teachers to download.

The surveys are open from 13 September to 22 October.

The commission will gather evidence from children and young people, education professionals, policy makers and the media before making a series of recommendations for government and the education sector, as well as advice for parents, in summer 2018.