Annual Conference on English, Maths and ESOL: A Higher Ambition for Adult Basic Skills

Thursday 11 November 2021

10.ooam – 1.00pm

Watch our opening learner panel and plenary here:

Watch our final keynote and panel here:

Watch the breakout sessions here

Basic skills – including literacy, numeracy, ESOL and digital skills – are key to improving adults’ life chances. With participation in learning falling, the need to rethink how we widen access and engage more adults in learning is greater than ever.

Although around 9 million adults lack basic literacy and numeracy, current learning and skills policy development is skewed towards Level 3 qualifications and above. While higher level and technical skills are important, basic skills are essential for people to thrive in life and work and progress on to further learning.

The high level of basic skills needs is compounded by plummeting levels of adult participation in English, maths and ESOL. On current trends it would take 36 years for all adults with low literacy or numeracy to participate in learning.

This conference will highlight the importance of a clear ambition that every adult is equipped with essential basic skills. It will showcase learner voices, policy innovations and effective practice to engage adults and deliver high quality learning that makes a difference.

During the conference, we will

  • Hear the latest policy updates from the Department for Education (invited) and the views of sector experts
  • Hear from Festival of Learning award winners about their experiences of basic skills learning
  • Participate in interactive workshops on effective practice in adult basic skills

For partnership opportunities, please contact



Andrew Brownlee, Chief Executive Officer, SOLAS (Further Education and Skills Service Ireland)

Dr Sue Pember, Policy Director, HOLEX

Simon Fuller, Curriculum Manager for English & Maths, ESOL and Family Learning, Islington Council

Rachel Öner, Education Training Consultant, NATECLA

Kathryn Janes, Education Consultant

Tara Furlong, Chair, Research and Practice in Adult Literacy

Rachel Greenslade, Sheffield Lifelong Learning and Skills

Lucy Palmer, Wakefield College

Kirsty Young, Festival of Learning ambassador (Return to Learning)

Shahida Aslam, Festival of Learning nominator, Helena Kennedy Foundation

Razia Fez, Festival of Learning ambassador (ESOL)

Sarah Cremer, Festival of Learning nominator

Stephen Evans, Chief Executive, Learning and Work Institute

Alex Stevenson, Head of Essential and Life Skills, Learning and Work Institute

Corin Egglestone, Research Manager, Learning and Work Institute

Ekaterina Aleynikova, Researcher, Learning and Work Institute

Our partners

  • UCL_IOE logo
  • UCU
  • RaPAL