BIS Select Committee report backs NIACE manifesto

7th September 2014

The report from the BIS Select Committee represents an important milestone in this country addressing low levels of adult literacy and numeracy. In particular, the recognition of the ‘ability to gain literacy and numeracy skills as a fundamental right of all adults’ and the need for flexibility in securing this.

NIACE is encouraged that the report acknowledges widespread concerns about the long-term implications of funding cuts, and that literacy and numeracy skills are crucial to the country’s social and economic well-being. NIACE is also pleased to see the Committee’s recognition of the positive impact of early interventions and the key role of family learning, as found in NIACE’s Family Learning Inquiry in 2013.

Carol Taylor, NIACE Deputy Chief Executive, said:

“Many of the Committee’s findings and recommendations echo our manifesto, including cross-departmental working, a more flexible approach to adult learning, through the provision of Personal Skills Accounts funded by learners, employers and the state and giving individuals much greater control over their own learning.

“The BIS Select Committee has clearly grasped the urgency of the situation. We are glad they have addressed many of our concerns. It is critical for the future of our society and economy that all adults have the right opportunities to improve their literacy and numeracy. Raising awareness of the support that’s available is important, but we must ensure that those with the lowest skills have the confidence to take up these opportunities.

“Good quality provision must be made available in a range of settings – colleges, adult education centres, workplaces, communities, as well as in schools to help families learn together. This will help to break the intergenerational cycle of low literacy and numeracy.”

“To truly motivate and inspire people to improve their skills we are working on a Citizens’ Curriculum, a study programme approach offering people more of what they both want to learn and what they need to learn to get on in life and work. As well as English and maths, we also believe digital skills should be considered as the ‘third basic skill’. Nearly all – 90 per cent – of new jobs by 2015 will require at least basic digital skills.”

The following findings and recommendations by the Committee, endorsed by NIACE, are echoed in much of NIACE’s work, including its Skills for Prosperity manifesto:

  • Less linear and traditional learning schemes are often more effective in engaging adults and improving their literacy and numeracy.
  • A call for cross-departmental working between BIS, DfE, DCLG, DWP, MoD and MoJ.
  • A call for the Government to take a more flexible approach to adult learning, through the provision of Personal Skills Accounts funded by learners, employers and the state and giving individuals much greater control over their own learning.

NIACE calls each of the main political parties to fully endorse the recommendations of this critically important report, as well as committing to adopt NIACE’s manifesto policies within their own manifestos this autumn. NIACE believes that every adult has the right to gain the literacy and numeracy skills necessary to survive and thrive in the 21st Century.