Parliamentary spotlight for education in the Forces

24th July 2013

As an organisation with significant experience of working with the Armed Services, NIACE welcomes the recent House Of Commons Defence Committee report which concluded that the Armed Forces provides challenging and constructive education opportunities to its personnel, ensuring they are well equipped for their jobs and better placed to take up professional and personal development.

In particular, NIACE is pleased to see the Committee’s support for the extensive literacy and numeracy provision on offer to personnel during recruit training and throughout their Service career. This mirrors the findings of the Armed Forces Basic Skills Longitudinal Study – conducted by NIACE and NRDC during 2009-12 and cited in the Committee’s report – that found that sound literacy and numeracy are essential skills that have a direct impact on individuals’ operational effectiveness.

NIACE continues to work with the Army, advising on the development of its literacy and numeracy policy and its implementation across the Service. NIACE has long been impressed with the Armed Forces’ strong commitment to helping those who join with low levels of English and maths skills, and with its system of provision that offers tailored support to personnel, wherever they are stationed. Early and timely intervention; intensive, functional literacy and numeracy provision made relevant to soldiers’ jobs; and high expectations of success demanded by the Services bring a strong record of improvement and nationally recognised qualifications, which assist Service men and women to secure careers on transition back to civilian life.

Martin Rose, NIACE’s Programme Manager working with the Army’s Directorate of Educational Capability, said:

“Around 39% of recruits join the Army with literacy skills at levels at or below those expected of primary school leavers. The figures for numeracy are similar. This has broadly been the case for the past 10 years. Many of these recruits have had poor experiences of school and have not developed their potential. The Army does a commendable job in ensuring these young men and women build the critical English and maths skills to carry out their day-to-day work. The Army’s extensive Apprenticeship programme, accessed by 95% of all its recruits during their first two years of service, has been really significant here. Equally important, the Armed Forces’ move to link minimum literacy and numeracy standards directly to the requirements for promotion (now Level 2 for Sergeant and above) has secured the fundamental engagement of soldiers, their line managers and Army commanders alike. The impact of this bold approach cannot be under-estimated.

“With such a strong emphasis on developing English and maths skills through Apprenticeship, traineeship and workplace programmes, NIACE continues to call for a national forum for employers to share, review and exploit effective approaches to literacy and numeracy skills improvement within workforce development in order to inform national policy and practice. NIACE is also calling for continued Treasury backing for departments such as the MoD, who are leading the way on some of this work.”

The Armed Forces Basic Skills Longitudinal Study was authored by Jon Vorhaus, Jon Swain, Brian Creese, Olga Cara and Jenny Litster from the Institute of Education.