Adult Literacy and Numeracy - Business, Innovation and Skills Committee Contents

1  Introduction

When you have learning difficulties, you're given limiting beliefs by many of those around you as you grow up. You believe your family, your friends and teachers when they say you are thick, stupid and lazy; your mindset becomes limiting for everything else in your life, including jobs and relationships. You have no self-belief or self-worth. [The Cascade Foundation][1]

1. This quote from the Cascade Foundation highlights how many adults who have difficulties in reading, writing and maths feel about themselves. Problems with reading, writing and maths have a huge impact on people's daily lives, including getting and keeping a job, finding a home, understanding bills, forms and documents, and guiding children through education. It can affect adults in many walks of life, but also undermines the economic performance of the country. We heard from people in work and out of work, in prison, without a home, in the Army, and caring for children. Anna Page, representing St Mungo's,[2] a homeless charity working in London and the South, told us what it is like for adults with limited literacy and numeracy skills:

    The impact of not having literacy and numeracy skills can affect every part of your life. Particularly for people who are trying to sort out their housing situation, they may have trouble with filling in a benefits claim form, looking for accommodation online, or working out how much rent they can afford to pay. […] It might be around being able to read a story to your child.[3]

As Members of Parliament, on the Business, Innovation and Skills Select Committee at the House of Commons, we wanted to explore: why these and other adults have been let down; what motivates those who decide to improve their skills; and what more the Government can do to help improve standards in reading, writing and maths for adults across the country.

2. We received over 80 written pieces of evidence, and several organisations submitted oral evidence, in addition to our three formal evidence sessions at the House of Commons.[4] We also visited Leicester, where we met several providers and receivers of adult literacy and numeracy classes. We went to Leicester College and Leicester Prison, where we talked with learners and staff about their experience of adult literacy and numeracy provision. We would like to thank everybody who contributed to this inquiry; those contributions really helped us in understanding the issues involved and in working out what we should recommend to the Government.

3. We received a lot of evidence from learners themselves, and we are grateful to them for their invaluable contributions. Tracey, a learner from Leicester College, sent in audio visual evidence, telling us of her motivation for enrolling in English and maths classes:

    I've always had this hankering to get my maths and my English, and prove that I can actually do it, because I've always been treated as if I'm stupid and I don't want to be treated as if I'm stupid anymore. I want to be able to say I can do maths. I can already do mental maths in my head a lot better. I'm a lot quicker at maths. Before I would just keep my mouth shut. I wouldn't involve myself in any sums or anything because I didn't want to show myself up.[5]

4. This Report will outline:

·  the measurements used to define the level at which adults are in literacy and numeracy;

·  the people who teach literacy and numeracy, including organisations, charities and volunteers, and how easy it is to find out about this help and how it is financed;

·  the work done on raising literacy and numeracy skills in the Army, in prisons, and for homeless people;

·  how learning can be carried out within communities and in the workplace.

·  the different people working in the Government who are involved in raising and supporting this issue.

5. We are departing from the usual method of releasing recommendations of Committee Reports. As well as a published written Report, we are releasing a short video, with two Members of our Committee—the Chair, Adrian Bailey MP, and Caroline Dinenage MP—summarising the findings of the inquiry and the recommendations. The video will also include clips from those who submitted audio and audio-visual evidence, and from our oral evidence sessions. We hope that this new approach will provide access to our findings and recommendations for many more people than would normally read a Select Committee Report. The Government has two months in which to respond to our recommendations, and we will look forward to hearing their responses to our recommendations. We lay down the challenge to the Department to respond in kind, with both a written response and a video.

1   The Cascade Foundation (ALE 52) extract Back

2   St Mungo's Broadway was formed in April 2014 by the merger of two homelessness charities, St Mungo's and Broadway. The oral and written evidence from St Mungo's was submitted before April 2014, and therefore, when Anna Page gave evidence, she represented St Mungo's.  Back

3   Q102 Back

4   The oral evidence was transcribed, and was accepted by the Committee as formal evidence on 22 July 2014. Back

5   Leicester College transcript (ALE 82) extract Back

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Prepared 8 September 2014