Much is heard these days of a literacy crisis. Although talk of crisis may be exaggerated for political purposes it is still worth trying to identify the nature of current literacy problems. They relate to ever increasing literacy demands in society and to the uneven distribution of literacy competence in the population. Literacy has been, and continues to be, fundamental to political aspirations and to contemporary human culture. It is therefore fundamental to education. Current literacy policy development in England can be reviewed in this context.