Boosting adults’ literacy skills on International Literacy Day | NCFE

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Boosting adults’ literacy skills on International Literacy Day

David Redden David Redden Product Manager at NCFE

Did you know that the first International Literacy Day was celebrated in 1967? It aimed to emphasise the important role literacy plays in our world, with the belief being that a more literate society leads to a more sustainable society.

However, currently 1 in 6 adults in England – that's more than 7 million people – have very poor literacy skills*.

The impact of poor literacy skills

Poor literacy skills impacts adults at every stage of their life. Pro Bono Economics found that the average worker in the UK with very poor literacy skills earns around £1,500 less per year than they would if they had a basic level of literacy.

These statistics, whilst startling, do make sense – literacy skills are an essential starting point and go beyond the basics of reading and writing. Without these skills, adults may find themselves cut off further from society, may struggle to enter the job market, and will be less able to support their children’s learning.

Clearly, it is essential that we ensure every individual has the opportunity to improve their literacy skills, in order to build the foundation to improved social mobility.

So, how do we ensure that these adults are provided with the literacy skills they need to be able to perform everyday tasks and to benefit from the things that most of us take for granted?

How can we address poor literacy skills?

Firstly, we must reach out beyond our traditional areas to connect with adults who may be hiding their weak literacy skills, through embarrassment. Breaking down the stigma around low literacy is vital in order to engage with these adults and encourage them back into education.

There must also be more awareness in workplaces, job centres and community hubs around the support which is available to improve these skills. Once learning feels accessible and relevant to adults, these barriers to education and improved skills begin to be removed.

The government has invested a staggering half a billion pounds into its brand new Multiply programme, which aims to improve the nation’s numeracy skills. However, the question remains – how do we expect individuals to succeed in numeracy without the literacy skills to read and comprehend mathematical questions and equations? There may be a missed opportunity here to address a core factor behind poor numeracy skills.

What are we doing to boost these?

NCFE firmly believes that every learner has the right to access education to boost these core skills, in order to improve their social mobility, which is why we are proud to celebrate International Literacy Day.

We have recently created new Certificates in Essential English in Everyday Life and have also teamed up with The Prince’s Trust so that all of the registration fees we receive for these qualifications will go to their campaign for improving literacy, language and numeracy skills. This will help to increase awareness at a national level and encourage adults to participate in improving their skills.

You can learn more about our qualifications in English and maths here.

Literacy is the ability to read, write, speak and listen in a way that lets us communicate effectively and make sense of the world.

National Literacy Trust, 2022