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See where your Suffolk ward ranks in league table of life expectancy and literacy challenges

PUBLISHED: 09:14 16 February 2018

A study suggests that children who grow up in areas that have the greatest literacy challenges are also likely to live much shorter lives than their peers. Stock image. Picture: DOMINIC LIPINSKI/PA WIRE

A study suggests that children who grow up in areas that have the greatest literacy challenges are also likely to live much shorter lives than their peers. Stock image. Picture: DOMINIC LIPINSKI/PA WIRE

Children in Suffolk who grow up in areas that have the greatest literacy challenges are also likely to live much shorter lives than their peers, the first study of its kind has shown.

The research argues that there is a staggering gap in life expectancy between those living in communities at the highest and lowest risk of literacy problems.

For example, a boy growing up in Kirkley in Lowestoft can expect to live until the age of 72.6 (the lowest in Suffolk) and have extremely poor literacy compared to a boy growing up in Great Barton in St Edmundsbury, who can expect to live until 87.4 (the highest in Suffolk) and have excellent levels of literacy, the National Literacy Trust (NLT) study calculates.

For girls, Kirkley also has the lowest life expectancy (78.8), and the worst possible ‘literacy vulnerability’ (a score of one out of 10). In contrast, a girl growing up in Melton near Woodbridge can expect to live until the age of 91.8 and have very good literacy levels (nine out of 10).

The research calculated how at risk each electoral ward in England was of having low literacy levels, based on factors such as education, employment and income, and split the areas into declines, ranging from the tenth most at risk of literacy problems to the tenth least a risk.

This information was then compared to official data on life expectancy.

NLT director Jonathan Douglas said: “The relationship between health, socio-economic factors and life expectancy is well established but this is the first time we’ve been able to see how literacy relates to longevity.

“The relationship is so deeply rooted that children growing up in communities with the most serious literacy problems in the country shockingly have life expectancies 26 years shorter than children from places with the fewest literacy problems.

“We now know that efforts to improve the reading and writing skills of children from the poorest communities strike at the heart of inequalities that shorten life expectancy. If we are to truly transform the life chances of the most disadvantaged children, we must tackle low literacy one community at a time.”

Sir Kevan Collins, chief executive of the Education Endowment Foundation, said: “We must redouble our efforts to en sure no child starts secondary unable to read and write well.”

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