NIACE response to Ofsted numeracy report

8 April 2011

Responding to the Ofsted report, Tackling the challenge of low numeracy skills in young people and adults, published on Friday 8 April 2011, NIACE Director of Development and Research, Carol Taylor, said:

“It is time for a radical step change in how we address adult numeracy learning. Ofsted’s report clearly backs up the recommendations in the recent NIACE review of adult numeracy. Adult numeracy skills in this country are poor, and the best way to improve them is by locating them in work-related contexts and everyday life. This report highlights good practice amongst post-16 providers, showing that young people and adults learn best, and retain their skills most effectively, when numeracy is built into real-life contexts, and concepts are understood and not learnt by memorising rules.”

“The Government needs to focus support over the next five years on three things. First, developing embedded numeracy curricula and resources – a good example is the British Army where, for example, maths is taught in the context of map reading. Second, mandatory Continuous Professional Development for all post-16 teachers to learn how to best support the numeracy needs of adults. And third, ensuring all teachers leave Initial Teaching Training able to support the development of numeracy skills.”

“Adults will not improve their numeracy through what can seem like endless, de-contextualised worksheets. They may get the right answers but not understand how they got those answers, much less be able to apply their learning to their everyday lives. Adults need to improve their numeracy in a meaningful way that enables them to manage money, make decisions about their health and use numeracy as workers, parents and citizens. Too much provision focuses on whole qualifications and teaching to the test, what we need are short, bite-sized courses that build on what adults already know, are relevant to what they want to learn and are well taught. The future of this country depends on adults having the right numeracy skills to help us recover from the recession and be confident in helping their children learn effectively.”