Inquiry’s recommendations to improve adult literacy

12 September 2011

Addressing adult literacy needs must be regarded as a moral imperative and the cycle of inter-generational difficulties with literacy must be broken. These are the main findings of a year-long Independent Inquiry into Adult Literacy – supported by NIACE – which also urges that more teachers must be trained and that there needs to be more innovative and cross-sector partnership work to help the many millions of adults who do not have the literacy skills they need for everyday life. The report was published on International Literacy Day (8 September 2011), at an event at the British Library in London.

The Commissioners of the Inquiry, led by former Education Minister Lord Boswell of Aynho, have made the following seven recommendations to Government in their final report Work, Society and Lifelong Learning. The recommendations are:

1. The Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) must work with the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), local authorities, further education colleges and providers, higher education and professional bodies to raise the standards of teaching and learning.

2. The Department for Education (DfE), working with BIS and local authorities, must help to break the cycles of intergenerational difficulties with literacy through family literacy and learning programmes.

3. BIS and DfE, working with employers, trades unions and civil society organisations, should explore environments, opportunities and pedagogies which reach and respond to those who are currently under-represented in provision.

4. BIS should lead on optimising effective organisational processes and structures, which help to join up policies and provision and ensure adequate resourcing.

5. BIS should support the development of a range of measures to identify and record success.

6. BIS must work with the media to raise awareness, demand and motivation to support cross-sector initiatives and build upon research.

7. BIS should work with research and development organisations to carry out more research, in particular about how to reach those most in need.

Lord Boswell of Aynho, the Inquiry’s Chair, said:

“At least five million of our adult citizens are missing out because they do not have an adequate standard of literacy. This damages their chances of working, and depresses their performance, and that of their company, if they are at work. No less important, it cuts them off from full participation in our society.”

“In spite of the remarkable efforts and considerable public investment, this problem simply won’t go away. There is clearly a huge job to be done in schools. But our inquiry focuses on all the many different needs of adults, and suggests the main priorities for action, so that we can get a grip on this.”

Carol Taylor, Director of Development and Research at NIACE, said:

“Much progress has been made in improving the literacy skills of adults in England, including the hard work and dedication of teachers, but there is still much to be done. With the resources at our disposal in this country surely we must be able to give everyone the skills of adequate literacy to help them to work, engage with society and give their children the best possible start in life. These recommendations, made after months of listening, examining and discussing the evidence from tutors, learners, researchers and policy-makers, must be implemented if we are to achieve the vision of a literate nation for all.”