A TOP Oxfordshire businessman says employers “despair” due to poor literacy and numeracy standards when trying to recruit staff.

Nigel Wild, president of the Oxfordshire Chamber of Commerce, believes education in the UK has been a “political football” for so long that youngsters are no longer being taught the basics properly.

Mr Wild, 64, from Ascott-under-Wychwood, said: “I have come across young people who could not add up unless they had a calculator and could not write a sentence to save their lives.

“I remember thinking that I could do better than them at the age of 10.

“Employers despair at standards of literacy and numeracy and some of the bigger companies run year-long courses to bring them up to speed, which is a sad indictment of the system.”

Grammar is also an area which Mr Wild reckons has been neglected.

“At school I used to do a precis several times a week and wondered what it was for. But now I find myself doing it all the time, for example if I am helping cut a business plan into shape.

“The problem is that education has been the biggest political football since the 1960s. I don’t think there was too much wrong with the way I was taught in school. We need a back-to-basics approach.”

Mr Wild is backing the Oxfordshire Reading Campaign as being a key initiative to raise standards among young people.

He said: “Books have been important all my life.

“My mother taught me to read before I went to school and I used to read three or four books a week. I have been doing it ever since.”

Now he has fulfilled an ambition by having his own book published.

Nightwalk is a novel about a hero of the Resistance during the Second World War.

Mr Wild added: “I used to listen to the radio a lot as a child, especially a programme called Spycatcher. “Then I went on holiday to France and one day it was raining. By the time it had stopped I had written two chapters and I just carried on after that.”

After several rejections, the book was published by Austin & Macauley in January. Mr Wild is now working on his second novel.