Ensuring everyone has the skills they need: A Citizens’ Curriculum Programme

1 in 5 adults lack the basic skills they need

  • Eight million British adults lack the functional numeracy skills and five million lack the functional literacy skills they need for life and work in 21st Century Britain. This is linked to shortfalls in other capabilities, such as managing money, accessing digital services and health that have a significant impact on people’s opportunities and quality of life.
  • The importance of these capabilities is increasing. More and more jobs require at least the basics of maths, English and digital skills. More and more public services are ‘digital by default’. And the evidence shows people are more likely to be active in their communities if they have these core capabilities.
  • However policy is not sufficiently tackling the UK’s shortfall. Too much public funding to tackle these interlinked challenges is organised in silos and linked to formal qualifications. Yet many such adults may not see learning as relevant to their lives or they did not do well at school.
  • NIACE has developed an innovative approach to provide people with the basic skills they need for life and work. Our Citizens’ Curriculum helps develop core capabilities in language, literacy, numeracy, digital, financial and health, using a ‘programme of study’ approach, which is shaped by learners and their needs. It has recently been successfully tested in 16 community pilots and found to make learning more relevant and engaging, tapping into what motivates people and their ambitions for the future.

100 Day Actions

  • Building on the success of the Learning and Work Institute’s Citizen’s Curriculum, Government should reform the Adult Skills Budget to allow for greater flexibility and a similar study programme approach to be established from September 2015 onwards. This would allow more flexible, innovative learning to be designed to motivate people into learning and would mirror the support that young people currently receive through the Education Funding Agency.
  • Government has already agreed to a pilot of a contextualised Citizens’ Curriculum to support people claiming ESA into employment. Current employment programmes are not working well for disabled people, in part because skills and other support is not integrated sufficiently. A Citizens’ Curriculum programme could better engage ESA claimants and give them the skills they need for the jobs market. We would like to secure a commitment that this will be rolled out nationally if evaluation findings support our compelling analysis.


Download Ten Policies for Ten People or return back to our proposals page.

Joyce Black continues our series our blogs where she urges the Government to implement a Citizens’ Curriculum approach to adult learning.