Citizens' Curriculum

We believe it is vital that everyone has the core set of skills they need for living and working in the 21st century - English (or English for Speakers of Other Languages), maths, digital, civic, health and financial capabilities.


In the UK around 1 in 6 adults struggle with reading and writing, and around 1 in 4 adults find maths difficult. In addition, 850,000 people are not proficient in speaking English and one half of adults in England and Northern Ireland is unable to use computers effectively.

This increasingly locks people out of opportunity and society:

  • Jobs and careers. Only one in two people with poor literacy are in work, compared to more than eight in ten people with those skills.
  • Public services. Increasingly many public services are 'digital by default', requiring a combination of digital and literacy skills to access them. Universal Credit - paid monthly rather than weekly - requires recepients to have greater financial capability.
  • Social inclusion. People with lower levels of literacy and numeracy are less likely to vote, and face barriers to everyday community and social interactions and activities.

Almost 250,000 adults a year take basic skills courses in England. This means it would take at least 20 years just to support those with needs today. What's more, changes in the bigger picture, such as migration, advances in technology and changes in the world of work will also impact on the need for provision in future.

Our Policy Asks

We want:

  • Every citizen to have the essential skills and capabilities needed for life and work in the 21st Century.
  • To work with providers, practitioners and other stakeholders to design provision that embeds the Citizens' Curriculum
  • Cities and local areas to commission a Citizens' Curriculum as part of the local adult learning and skills offer

Click on a policy ask to find out more detail about why we think it and what we've done.  You can also find out more about our work here .


The Citizens’ Curriculum is an innovative, holistic approach to ensure everyone has the English, maths, digital, civic, health and financial capabilities they need. This approach taps into what motivates adults to learn, through giving learners a voice in co-designing curriculum content and careful contextualization, ensuring that more people are learning skills which are relevant to their lives and their work. We want cities and local areas to commission a Citizens’ Curriculum approach as the Adult Education Budget is devolved and to work with providers and to design provision that embeds this approach.

Our work to continue the development of a Citizens’ Curriculum includes:

  • Improving Language, Improving Lives: A Citizens’ Curriculum for ESOL Learners in Prisons, in partnership with the Bell Foundation and De Montfort University
  • Development of resources to support adult learning providers, practitioners and commissioners to adopt the Citizens’ Curriculum

Life Skills for Europe

Our work with European partners on the Life Skills for Europe project builds on the Citizens' Curriculum approach.

The two-year project brings together partners from Denmark, Belgium (EAEA), the UK, Greece and Slovenia in order to improve basic skills provision in Europe by explaining, further developing and upscaling the life skills approach. It also aims to foster a common understanding of the benefits of life skills for adult education across Europe

To date the project has undertaken research to produce a definition of life skills, created a collection of good practice life skills projects and tools that are being used across Europe and developed a framework and transferable modules for like skills provision. The Life Skills for Europe Framework aims to establish a common understanding of life skills by defining eight key types of capabilities necessary to be an active participant in life and work; numeracy, literacy, digital, financial, health, personal and interpersonal, civic and environmental. More information is available in our LSE project leaflet

Next steps

The framework will form part of an Awareness Raising and Strategy Toolkit including information on the benefits of the Life Skills approach and recommendations for implementation at different levels.


Our evaluation of the Citizens' Curriculum approach shows that learners make life-changing improvements to their employability, motivation to learn, social and civic engagement and self-efficacy.  Public services benefit too - independent research from our Rochdale pilot site found that the local authority achieved a £3.68 financial return on investment for every pound invested. Read more in our report on the Phase 2 Citizens' Curriculum pilots.

Two new resources are now available to download. They each offer practical guidance on how to use participatory techniques and non-directive coaching techniques to support and add value to the Citizens' Curriculum approach.

Download our Citizens' Curriculum Capability Frameworks below.

Want to know more?

For further information about our Citizen's Curriculum or to talk to us about how you can get involved, email

You can also speak to:

Alex Stevenson, Head of English, Maths & ESOL


Twitter:  @lwalexs