Citizens' Curriculum

At Learning and Work Institute, we believe it's vital that everyone has the core set of skills they need for living and working in the 21st Century - including 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 .

Our big idea is the Citizens’ Curriculum: an innovative, holistic approach to ensure everyone has the English, maths, digital, civic, health and financial capabilities they need. The Citzens' Curriculum 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

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

  • Phase 2 Pilots, with English, maths and ESOL providers
  • Citizens’ Curriculum Pathways to STEM Careers
  • Workplace and Prisons Pilots
  • 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

Our evaluation 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.

Download our Citizens' Curriculum Capability Frameworks below or click on the infographic to see the full impact of the Citizens' Curriculum