NIACE shows Parliament solutions to help adults improve English and maths

24 March 2014

Steps being taken to tackle low levels of adult English and maths were highlighted by representatives of local government, employers and training providers at a Government inquiry event, organised by NIACE in Leicester.

Initiated and organised by NIACE, the event was part of the Business, Innovation and Skills Select Committee’s Inquiry into Adult Literacy and Numeracy which launched earlier this year.

The Inquiry was launched following the poor results of the recent OECD Survey of Adult Skills and PISA Report. These reports both illustrated that the levels of English and maths in this country are concerning and without urgent action it will harm the UK’s future competitiveness and economic prospects.

NIACE has called on the BIS Select Committee to recognise the following key areas as priorities in addressing poor basic skills.

  • Maintain (and consider increasing) levels of public investment in adult literacy and numeracy, while also increasing the effective use of existing resources through better join-up between the policies and programmes of departments of state (especially BIS, DWP and DfE).
  • Prioritise the extension of family learning initiatives involving literacy and/or numeracy, with the aim of making them an integral part of school strategies to raise children’s attainment.
  • Incentivise employers to invest in raising the literacy and numeracy of their employees, apprentices and trainees in order to increase productivity and competitiveness.

David Hughes, Chief Executive of NIACE, said:

“I am delighted to welcome the BIS Select Committee to Leicester to show them how local partnerships can help deliver the skills needed for people to get into work, support their families and be confident citizens. It is important for the Committee members to see a range of ways to address the widespread low-levels of adult English and maths, and coming to Leicester is a great way for them to learn more about the needs and the challenges. As a country we know that failing to support better English and maths skills needs has serious consequences for individuals’ lives, but also has a negative impact on economic success. As the recent UKCES Employer Skills Survey reported, a sharp rise in skills shortages is already emerging and will hold back the UK’s economic recovery. Therefore we need more people with the confidence and foundation of good English and maths to be able to achieve higher skills.

“What the Committee will be hearing about – and seeing – at our event are the ways people are being motivated back into learning. Across the country we need to see these kinds of local partnerships to provide new learning opportunities to help people get the skills they need that will lead to sustained and fulfilling careers. The positive knock-on effects for their families, communities and workplaces will help to ensure both economic and social growth.”

Sir Peter Soulsby, Leicester City Mayor, said:

“We were very pleased that the Select Committee came to Leicester, particularly on the day after we signed our City Deal. The challenge of raising standards in literacy and numeracy is one that we take very seriously. NIACE has a proud reputation, both here and overseas, so we’re very pleased that it’s based in our city.”

Verity Hancock, Principal at Leicester College, said:

“We are very pleased that the Business Innovation and Skills Select Committee has chosen to visit Leicester College to see at first hand the positive effects that learning can have on adults. We have over 23,000 adult learners studying with us every year; many of them are on courses designed to raise their literacy and numeracy skills. A huge number of them have inspiring personal experiences of how learning, and particularly improving their maths and English, has enhanced their confidence, helped them take a more active role in the local community and improved their job opportunities. I am sure the Committee members will be impressed and will take from their visit a sense of how vital adult literacy and numeracy skills are to individuals and to the economy of the City.”

As well as visits to Leicester College and Leicester Prison to see provision and meet staff and learners, the BIS Select Committee heard evidence from representatives from the following organisations.

  • Learndirect
  • Learning Leicestershire
  • Leicester Adult Skills and Learning Service
  • Regent College
  • Unionlearn
  • The Workers’ Educational Association