Engaging priority groups in Skills for Life


This report, published by the National Research and Development Centre for adult literacy and numeracy, finds that improving the literacy of adults with the poorest skills has a positive impact on their children’s performance as well as being associated with improvements in their own social and economic situation.

The Report outlines the most successful training and approaches to support disadvantaged families and hard-to-reach individuals, and states:

  • Community-based provision is more likely to engage hard to reach groups who can feel marginalised by traditional college environments.
  • Courses which personalise provision and contextualise content to individual learners' lives are more successful with all priority groups.
  • Provision which is responsive to the location, timing and support needs of different priority learners is likely to be more effective.
  • Flexible courses which allow learners to drop in and out as they deal with challenges in their personal lives are more likely to retain them in the long run.
  • Peer support and key mentors or supportive workers in the community have an important role in sustaining motivation and helping people make the transition to more formal learning.

The report makes a number of recommendations to policy makers and those developing strategies to support priority groups. Key recommendations include:

  • Develop and fund positive action schemes to train people from priority groups to act as mentors and tutors.
  • Prioritise family learning as it not only helps the most disadvantaged adults deal with other problems in their lives but also has a positive intergenerational impact on the literacy of their children.
  • Invest in strategies for sharing good practice and training on contextualising basic skills as well as embedding literacy and language in vocational courses.
  • Invest in coordinating support for learners: education, health, social services and third sector agencies, so that policies and priorities do not conflict.
  • Investigate good practice in addressing literacy and language for the new priority groups identified in the comprehensive spending review targets, such as care leavers, adult offenders under probation supervision, adults with moderate severe or severe learning difficulties and with mental health needs in communities.

To read the full research paper, visit the NRDC website.


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