C21 Literacy: what is it and how do we get it?

‌Literacy has acquired priority status for public organisations in Scotland across a range of policy contexts.  However the scope for partnership working is currently blurred by the variety of new types of literacy being promoted, by competing definitions and perspectives, and by the continual evolution of new terminology.

At the same time, there is a broad consensus about the ‘gap’ between literacy, as conventionally treated within the school curriculum, and our everyday lived experience of multiple literacies. This is recognised as a problem not just in the UK but internationally.  The challenge is how to close this gap.

‘21st Century Literacy’ was a Creative Futures Think Tank initiative. Creative Futures is a programme launched by Creative Scotland in 2011 to promote the professional development, vision, connectivity and ambitions of Scotland’s creative practitioners and organisations.

The key aim of the 21st Century Literacy initiative was to bring together many voices and interests seeking to promote literacy development, create new synergies and provide a focus for innovation. This entailed understanding how a broad multimodal version of literacy for the 21st century is translated into literacy development in formal and informal education, qualifications and assessment.

CCPR were commissioned to undertake research to create the preconditions for forming a 21st Century Literacy Think Tank. Dr Katherine Champion undertook the empirical research for the present report, which has been accompanied by a review of the literature on literacies by Susan Galloway. The project’s principal investigator was Professor Philip Schlesinger, Director of CCPR.

On this page you will find a summary of the project outputs.  This research will be of interest to those in academia, education practitioners and policymakers, and to the public more generally.


Literature Review

This paper is based upon a selective review of academic and grey literature and interviews with representatives of public organisations in Scotland, covering statutory, further and higher education, the broadcast media and cultural agencies. 
It addresses two main issues:

• Definitions: What do ‘new literacies’ terms really mean? How can we make sense of them? How do conceptions in Scotland and the UK compare with European and global conceptions?
• The Educational Mission: What kinds of pedagogies are found to best develop literacy and ‘new literacies’?  How should literacy and ‘new literacies’ be assessed within the education curriculum?
Literature Review C21 Literacy by Susan Galloway

Stakeholder Views Report

Based on the insights derived from the literature review, this report summarizes the views of key stakeholders in the field as to how a 21st Century conception of literacy might be incorporated and promoted within the Scottish school curriculum. A total of 17 stakeholders and consultants were interviewed from a range of organisations and interests including national and local government, Creative Scotland (formed in 2010 from Scottish Screen and the Scottish Arts Council), Learning and Teaching Scotland (LTS), HMIE (HMIE and LTS merged to form Education Scotland on 1 July 2011), Skills Development Scotland, the Universities, the Scottish Funding Council, the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) and the General Teaching Council Scotland (GTSC).
Stakeholder Perspectives of C21 Literacy by Dr Katherine Champion


A seminar was held at the University of Glasgow on the 21st March 2012 to bring together a range of voices and interests seeking to understand the development of literacy in the digital age and its relevance for schooling. The debate, chaired by Professor Philip Schlesinger, focused on how a broad, multimodal version of literacy for the twenty-first century might be translated into literacy development in formal and informal education, qualifications and assessment. The keynote speaker at the seminar was Professor Sonia Livingstone of the Department of Media and Communications at the London School of Economics. She reflected on her current research into the uses of communications technologies in secondary education and drew on her leadership of Europe-wide research into young people online.

C21 Programme

C21 Attendees List

Professor Sonia Livingstone's Report


The project team would like to thank all of those who contributed to the research.  This includes the stakeholders who kindly gave up their time to be interviewed and the seminar participants who engaged so enthusiastically in the debate.