Skills for Life Alliance


15 10 2021


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Basic skills – including literacy, numeracy, ESOL and digital skills – are key to supporting adults’ life chances. Participation in basic skills learning results in a range of positive personal and social outcomes for adult learners, including improved self-esteem and well-being, as well as supporting learners to access better quality work, including increased job satisfaction, pay and security.

Despite the evidence available on its positive impacts for individuals, society and the economy, there are rising levels of basic skills needs in England.

An estimated 9 million working-age adults in England have low basic skills in literacy or numeracy, of which 5 million have low skills in both. At the same time, the adult education budget has been halved since 2011/12 and participation in learning is steadily declining. It is against this backdrop that the Skills for Life Alliance has been formed and is calling for urgent action to reverse these concerning trends.

Convened by Learning and Work Institute and Holex, the Skills for Life Alliance consists of leading researchers, delivery organisations and sector specialists. It is exploring what affects participation in basic skills learning and will use these findings to help drive adult literacy, numeracy and digital skills up the agenda in England.

Stephen Evans, Chief Executive of Learning and Work Institute, said:
Literacy, numeracy and digital skills are vital for life and work. But with nine million adults lacking these skills it is deeply concerning that participation in basic skills learning has fallen 60% in a decade. We urgently need a clear strategy to increase participation, backed by a focus on funding, policy and practice. Everyone should have access to the skills they need for life and work.
Sue Pember, Policy Director at Holex, said:
Participation is decreasing when the need to support adults to improve their English and maths skills has never been so important. We need to work together to ensure we all play our part in encouraging adults back to learning and ensure their experience is life changing.

The Skills for Life Alliance members include: Stephen Evans (Learning and Work Institute, co-chair), Sue Pember (Holex, co-chair), Sally Dicketts (Association of Colleges President & Chief Executive of Activate Learning), Rachel Oner (NATECLA), Alex Stevenson (Learning and Work Institute), David Russell (Education and Training Foundation), Jane Hickie (AELP), Helen George (South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority), and David Gallagher (NCFE). The Department for Education and Department for Work and Pensions are observers.

For more information, please contact Alex Stevenson.