John Lewis has started giving new recruits lessons to brush up their literacy and maths skills (Image: PA)

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R etail giant John Lewis has to give new staff basic literacy and numeracy classes – because the schooling they received is not good enough, its boss has claimed.

The move from the department store – which operates stores across the UK – comes because staff have been "completely failed" by the education system.

That is according to Dame Sharon White, who has claimed young staff hired did not have "functional literacy" skills.

Dame Sharon further said less academically-inclined kids were not always reaching their potential, Birmingham Live reports.

She spoke to the Times Education Commission, which is analysing the future of education in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Dame Sharon White, chairman of John Lewis, said children are being let down by the education system
(Image: Getty)

Dame Sharon said: "To have done (up to) 12 years of education, and not having, in many cases, functional literacy and numeracy beyond the age of, ten, 11, means that they may then have fabulous people skills and fabulous skills in terms of operating in a team but that's almost out with the education system."

Rod Bristow, president of Pearson UK, told the Times : "It's not necessarily about designing another exam to test whether they have these skills, but it is important we know they had the experiences where learning can happen."

Dame Sharon, a former Ofcom chief who has been the chair of the John Lewis Partnership since July 2019, was speaking ahead of the Commission running a report through 2022.

John Lewis operates multiple stores in the UK – but last year closed a number of sites, including its flagship branch in Birmingham city centre.

In November last year, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) warned that a high proportion of the UK workforce had "poor literacy, numeracy and computer skills".

It said there was evidence that employers were "training less and investing less in their workforces than two decades ago".