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Skills scheme shortfalls highlighted


The government department in charge of the Skills for Life scheme has come under pressure after a report on the progress in improving adult literacy and numeracy showed even the teaching workforce is suffering from a lack of relevant qualifications.

According to the National Audit Office, over 5.7 million adults have benefited from the Skills for Life initiative at a cost of £5b. It also highlighted that the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS) and the Learning Skills Council exceeded last year’s targets and are on course to meet the 2010 goal of improving the basic skills of 2.25 million adults.

However, it also pointed out that less progress has been made in strengthening numeracy skills compared with literacy skills, with fewer people participating in the courses on offer. It recommended that the DIUS “make better use” of contacts with different government departments to try and engage the population.

Furthermore, the National Audit Office highlighted the disparity between participation and achievement levels across the country, with the North East and North West rating highest and the East of England, East Midlands and London lagging behind.

It said that although significant progress is being made against targets, until the DIUS updates its assessment of literacy and numeracy needs, the scale of the challenge regarding adult skill levels will remain unclear.

The teaching workforce in particular came under fire as it was revealed that many adults do not hold relevant qualifications in the subjects they teach – despite the fact that two-thirds of literacy and numeracy teachers teach more than one subject, less than 10% hold the appropriate qualifications.

One of the fastest take-ups has been English courses for foreign speakers. Spending tripled to almost £300m a year and demand is now exceeding supply in some areas, especially London.


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