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4 July 2018
By Rebecca Avery

Fake news and critical literacy report published

The Commission on Fake News and the Teaching of Critical Literacy Skills, run by the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Literacy and the National Literacy Trust has published a report based on evidence gathered over the past year on the impact of fake news on children and young people, as well as the skills children need to be able to spot it.

This report details the findings of the Commission's primary, secondary and teachers surveys about fake news, includes submissions from the call for written evidence.

Key findings include:

  • Only 2% of children have the critical literacy skills they need to tell if a news story is real or fake
  • Half of children (49.9%) are worried about not being able to spot fake news
  • Two-thirds of children (60.6%) now trust the news less as a result of fake news
  • Nearly half (45.9%) of secondary pupils said they found out about the news from Snapchat
  • Two-thirds of teachers (60.9%) believe fake news is harming children’s well-being, increasing their anxiety levels
  • Children are most likely to talk to their family (29.9%) and friends (23.4%) about fake news and least likely to speak to their teachers (6.4%); yet 98.8% of teachers believe they have the greatest responsibility for helping children develop the literacy skills they need to identify fake news
  • Children with the poorest literacy skills, such as boys and those from disadvantaged backgrounds, were
    also found to be the least likely to be able to spot fake news
  • Half of teachers (53.5%) believe that the national curriculum does not equip children with the literacy skills they need to identify fake news

The report contains useful examples from educational staff and suggests a 'Children's Charter for Fake News' which educational settings may find helpful to share and use with children.

The Children's Charter on Fake News

  1. We should have the critical literacy skills we need to navigate the digital world and question the
    information that we find online.
  2. We should have the right to access accurate news from trustworthy media companies. We should not have to read or hear news stories that will scare us or cause us anxiety without having opportunities to discuss them and put them into context.
  3. We should be given opportunities to practise our critical literacy skills by looking at news stories we find on TV, on the radio and online, including websites, apps and social media.
  4. We should understand how the news is made to help us become critical thinkers and spot fake news stories.
  5. We should be encouraged and supported to talk about the news that we read online at home and with our friends.

The report includes the Commission's recommendations for specific action areas for government, schools, families, media organisations, commercial and third sector organisations and young people.

Recommendations for schools include:

  • A whole-school approach to teaching critical literacy is essential to embedding critical literacy across the curriculum. Teachers and schools must be provided with the necessary CPD (including during initial teacher training) and resources to enable them to teach critical literacy actively and explicitly within the teaching of any and every subject.
  • The assessment framework needs to be updated to position critical literacy skills more explicitly, reflecting the changing digital landscape and the threats posed by fake news, especially within KS2 and KS4.
  • Teachers and schools should ensure critical literacy teaching utilises texts from a range of news sources, including online, that encompass a spectrum of journalistic approaches and viewpoints, to enable pupils to understand political bias.
  • Children and young people should be given regular time to read, hear and see current news stories in the school environment, for example, during PSHE.
  • Parents and carers should be given support, advice and resources to help facilitate conversations with children about the news - schools can support this by encouraging children and parents or carers to look up articles together.

In response to the commission’s recommendations, the National Literacy Trust has produced a suite of teaching resources, lesson ideas and activities for primary and secondary schools, as well as directories signposting schools to key organisations and additional fake news and critical literacy resources. The charity has also produced advice for parents and carers. These can all be downloaded for free from the National Literacy Trust website.