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Friday, November 5, 1999 Published at 15:15 GMT


£16m for adult literacy campaign

Adult education will be encouraged in the workplace and the home

The government has launched a campaign to improve the literacy and numeracy skills of seven million adults.

The Education Minister Baroness Blackstone has announced £16m funding for a "national crusade" to tackle illiteracy and innumeracy among the adults "who have difficulty reading the instructions on a medicine bottle".

"I am determined to reduce the number of adults who have poor basic skills in literacy and numeracy. This is just the start. We intend to make conquering poor literacy and numeracy a national crusade," the minister told a basic skills conference in London on Friday.

[ image: Baroness Blackstone says she wants to conquer adult illiteracy]
Baroness Blackstone says she wants to conquer adult illiteracy
Among the aims of the campaign will be to make adult education more accessible to those most in need, including the unemployed.

The scheme will include £3m to help people learn in the workplace and funding will be increased for family-based literacy and numeracy projects. Adult literacy classes organised within the community will receive £4m.

Local authorities will receive an extra £9m for adult education, doubling the funding for Lifelong Learning Development Plans.

There will be improvements in training for adult education teachers and the minister promised that information technology would be used to "make it easier for people to learn when and where they want".

The announcement comes as the Basic Skills Agency has published proposals for testing levels of competence in literacy and numeracy - suggesting a minimum level of skills needed in everyday life by adults.

BBC helps

The government's scheme would use such tests for recognising the achievements of adults who have attended literacy lessons and for benchmarking national levels of progress.

[ image: Will Wyatt:
Will Wyatt: "People can be embarrassed"
BBC Education is to launch a multimedia campaign next spring to help tackle the nation's numeracy problems.

BBC Broadcast's chief executive, Will Wyatt, told the basic skills conference that it would be aimed at adults who lacked basic numeracy skills but were afraid or embarrassed to seek help.

"For adults who lack basic numeracy skills, the experience of learning mathematics has been alienating or humiliating," he said.

"The subject is perceived as 'tortuous' - connected with a past and often uncomfortable school experience."

The BBC would use its print, broadcast and online outlets to try to overcome these misgivings, he said.

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