Understanding the relationship between poor literacy, low self‑esteem and low confidence is the key to comprehending how social exclusion becomes embedded in generation after generation of people. The issue is therefore not confined to education or secondary schools; it concerns the consequences of illiteracy for adults who find themselves excluded from basic employment opportunities. The cyclical nature of the literacy question is the reason why policy analysts are demanding reform of the educational structure in the UK in order to create an environment that rewards (rather than ostracises) the most basic of academic achievements. For as long as the state sees fit to offer rewards for those education authorities, schools and teachers that can show only on paper that they have marginally improved literacy levels, then a perpetuation of the divide between the literate and the illiterate will mimic the growing economic divide between the rich and the poor.First and foremost, therefore, future guidelines for literacy policy in the secondary school must take into account the practical nature of the problem; that implementing the current spate of socially inclusive policies is doing nothing to address the root cause of inequality in the UK. There must also be question marks raised with regards to the curriculum and the way in which this seems to preside over year‑on‑year academic achievements at the national examination level while at the same time bypassing the needs of those secondary students who are most in need of assistance. This is a definition of ‘social exclusion’ and is a damning indictment of the government education policy so far enacted.