Missed opportunities: why the new literacy and numeracy strategy is flawed

Sep 18, 2014 by

England was found last year to be the only country in the developed world where the generation approaching retirement was more literate and numerate than the youngest adults. In a stark assessment of adult skills, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development ranked England 22nd for literacy and 21st for numeracy out of 24 nations. A select committee was set up by the Department for Business Innovation and Skills in response to the findings and recently it published its recommendations.

While there are lots of positive things about the report, and I wholeheartedly support its general ethos, I am concerned that some of the most intractable problems that the skills sector faces have been neglected – and in some cases ignored completely. Below are some of the recommendations that I think should have been included:

Separate funding for English and maths

The committee hasn’t called for separate funding for English and maths. The report talks about the need to get the message about the importance of literacy and numeracy out there, but Skills Funding Agency money for adult learning is in a single budget, with expenditure at the discretion of individual providers.

Alongside shrinking college budgets – the adult skills fund faces a 20% cut between now and 2015-16 and there’s a 17.5% cut in funding for 18-year-olds – there’s even less chance that providers will invest money in basic skills without a specific requirement to do so.

When some colleges are struggling to stay afloat and it is too tempting for them to spend money on easy wins, such as short-distance learning and courses for employed adults who aren’t difficult to engage, rather than on qualifications for hard-to-reach groups. The government has missed an opportunity to separate the budget for English and maths, thereby forcing colleges to invest in basic skills.

A move away from short-term contracts

via Missed opportunities: why the new literacy and numeracy strategy is flawed | Education | theguardian.com.

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