Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills
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Free numeracy and literacy training to help one million adults get and keep jobs

Free numeracy and literacy training to help one million adults get and keep jobs

DEPARTMENT FOR INNOVATION, UNIVERSITIES AND SKILLS News Release (26/2009) issued by COI News Distribution Service. 9 March 2009

* Minister publishes updated strategy focusing on numeracy and employability

* Nearly 3 million people helped since 2001

Plans to improve the numeracy and literacy skills of one million adults to help them to get and keep jobs were published today by Sion Simon, Minister for Further Education.

Skills for Life: Changing lives updates the Government's successful Skills for Life strategy launched in 2001, which has helped transform the lives and the employability of nearly 3 million learners.

The new strategy document sets out:

* A new drive to ensure Skills for Life training will help people develop the skills they need to find and progress in work;

* What is being done to increase the opportunities for people to do Skills for Life learning embedded in wider vocational training programmes so that, for example, people learning carpentry learn numeracy at the same time;

* Support for colleges and providers to make Skills for Life learning more flexible so it meets the needs of individual learners and fits in with their busy lives;

* What the 'Get On' campaign to boost demand for Skills for Life training is doing to tackle the culture which says "it's OK to be bad at maths";

* How jobseekers will have the opportunity and support they need to improve their literacy, language and numeracy skills while they're looking for jobs; and
* How delivery of Skills for Life at work will be expanded through the Train to Gain service.

The updated strategy will be backed up with Government funding of more than £1bn over the coming year.

Sion Simon, Minister for Further Education, said:

"Our Skills for Life strategy has helped nearly three million adults improve their skills, but the world has changed since we launched it in 2001. The current economic conditions make it even more crucial that people have the numeracy and literacy skills they need for work and for helping their families, and that's why we're publishing a refreshed strategy today.

"We are working with providers to make sure our numeracy and literacy courses are tailored to what people want and need in their lives, and I particularly want to tackle the culture which says that it's ok to be bad at maths.

"We're offering adults real help to improve their skills and there are free numeracy and literacy courses for all adults who want one - just call 0800 66 0800 or visit our website and find out about the free courses in your local area."

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said:

"The TUC knows that access to learning can transform lives for working people. With the help of their union learning representatives (ULRs) and employers, many workers have benefited from the Government's Skills for Life Strategy, gaining new skills and qualifications that help them get on at work, support their children with schoolwork and contribute confidently to their communities and unions. We are pleased to see Government restating and refreshing its commitment to Skills for Life, and the TUC will play its part in contributing to its success."

NIACE welcomed the refreshed Skills for Life strategy and the Government's continued commitment to improving the literacy, language and numeracy of adults and young people.

Alan Tuckett, Chief Executive of NIACE, said,

"The Government has achieved a great deal since the launch of Skills for Life but no one should be under any illusions about how far we have to go to make improvements in numeracy skills commensurate with literacy, and to ensure that provision is directed towards those most in need. This strategy is a strong commitment which we welcome."

Declan MacIntyre, 42, was inspired to sign up for a Skills for Life course when he became a dad. Declan struggled with dyslexia at school, but when he became a father he decided that he wanted to return to learning to brush up on his English skills. After approaching his employer, Brighton and Hove City Council, he began attending classes. Though he initially faced jibes from his work colleagues, he soon realised that the courses were enjoyable and nothing like school.

Declan is now onto his seventh qualification in four years and has passed a GSCE in English. And, with his new-found skills and confidence, he has also swapped his job as a bin-man to work as an education worker for the rail union, Aslef. He said:

"I now spend all my spare time reading and love being able to read to my son every night. My new skills are helping both of us achieve more in our lives. I have now changed my job to a project worker, so that I can help others improve their lives, in the same way I have been helped."

The updated strategy is published as the "Get On" advertising campaign promoting free adult maths courses returns to our TV screens. The three week burst of TV advertising, which started on 2 March, is complemented by radio advertising which starts on 9 March and an ongoing PR campaign. The strategy refresh details how these marketing efforts will be renewed and extended to reach even more adults and employers. Since March 2008, the Get On campaign has generated 19,613 phone calls and over 70,000 visits to the campaign website, with 20,662 adults requesting a free Skills for Life DVD.

People with good maths and English skills are more likely to be in employment, with half of all jobs closed to people with skills below level 1 (equivalent to a GCSE pass at grade D to G) and 98% of jobs closed to people with skills below entry level. In addition, better skills bring significant wage returns: research shows an earnings premium of at least 12% for good numeracy skills and 14% for good literacy skills. Previously published research shows that, on average, people with good basic skills can earn an additional £50,000 over their lifetime.

There are wider benefits for families, local communities and society associated with good numeracy and literacy skills, including better health and civic participation. The positive relationship between parents' literacy and numeracy skills and children's cognitive development shows how the skills of adults are crucial for the success of the next generation.

The Skills for Life strategy was launched in 2001. Since then, an unprecedented £5bn investment has enabled 5.7 million adults to improve their skills on 12 million courses, with 2.8 million achieving first qualifications. Looking forward, the Government's long-term ambition is for 95% of adults to have functional literacy and numeracy skills by 2020, up from 85% and 79% respectively in 2005.

This focus on adult numeracy is part of a comprehensive plan to improve numeracy skills at all ages and builds on the good work going on in schools which has led to tens of thousands more pupils leaving school mastering the basics compared to a decade ago.

There are encouraging signs that progress is being made in our schools with TIMSS 2007, a renowned international study on science and maths, showing that England was the most consistently high-achieving European country overall across both age groups and both subjects.


Skills for Life in numbers:

* £5bn investment since 2001

* 5.7 million adults involved

* 12 million learning opportunities taken up

* 2.8 million qualifications achieved

* 541,500 adults gained a literacy, language or numeracy qualification in 2007/8

* 18,800 Skills for Life teachers (full time equivalent) with approximately 6,000 people teaching numeracy, 8,000 teaching literacy and 9,000 teaching ESOL

* £4,000 'Golden Hello' payable to those who stay teaching a shortage subject for a second year, which rises to £5,000 for those training in numeracy

* 597,000 literacy qualifications planned between 2008 and 2011

* 390,000 numeracy qualifications planned between 2008 and 2011

* Total funding for Skills for Life expected to exceed £1 billion a year.

Notes to editors

1. The Skills for Life Strategy was launched by the Prime Minister in 2001 to tackle the legacy of adults with poor literacy, language and numeracy skills within England. In 2008 the Government exceeded the target to ensure that 2.25 million adults improved their skills and gained a qualification by 2010 - over two years early.

2. The National Audit Office report on Skills for Life (June 2008) recognised the good progress made by the Skills for Life strategy and highlighted a report which described the strategy as "unmatched anywhere in the world." It also highlighted some areas for improvement and said that more progress was needed on numeracy. These areas for improvement were revisited in a subsequent Public Accounts Committee (PAC) hearing and the recent PAC report. This updated strategy document responds to those themes.

3. The Government plans to improve the literacy skills of 597,000 adults, and numeracy skills of 390,000 adults, over the next three years. This will be backed by at least £1 billion over the coming year.

4. The Government's long term ambition is for 95 per cent of adults to have functional literacy and numeracy skills, up from 85 per cent and 79 per cent respectively in 2005.

5. The Skills for Life National Needs and Impact Survey of Literacy, Numeracy and IT skills, published in October 2003, estimated that in England, 5.2 million adults aged 16-65 have literacy levels below Level 1 (broadly equivalent in difficulty to an English GCSE at grades D-G), and 6.8 million have numeracy skills below Entry Level 3 (the level expected of 11 year olds). The full survey is available at

6. All Skills for Life numeracy and literacy courses are free of charge to adult learners aged 16+ in England. Adults who experience difficulties with literacy and numeracy skills, or would benefit from 'brushing up' on these skills, are encouraged to enrol on a free course by calling 0800 66 0800 or by visiting

7. The document Skills for Life: a refreshed strategy for a world class ambition can be downloaded from the DIUS website at

8. For further information and case studies of adults whose Skills for Life qualifications have made a huge difference to their lives, call Jane Parsons in the DIUS press office on 020 3300 8928.

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