Submission to House of Lord’s Economic Affairs Committee

The UK’s skills profile has long lagged behind comparator countries, with particular weaknesses in basic skills (like literacy and numeracy) and intermediate skills. Out of 34 OECD countries, the UK is 19th for low skills (GCSE equivalent), 24th for intermediate skills (A Level equivalent), and 11th for degree-level skills. Some 9 million adults lack functional literacy and / or numeracy. Participation in learning by adults has fallen in recent years.

As well as overall weaknesses in its skills base, the UK also has a stronger link than many countries between the educational attainment of parents and their children. Put simply, your chances of achieving in education are highly correlated with how your parents did.

Learning and Work Institute have highlighted the profound consequences of this for:

  • Economic prosperity. There is a clear link between skills and productivity, the ultimate driver of economic growth. The UK’s productivity is lower than many other countries and has flatlined over the last decade, in part held back by poor skills;
  • Social justice. Life chances are more closely linked to your family background than in other countries. Educational inequalities are a key part of this; and
  • Engaged citizens, health and wellbeing. People engaged in learning are more likely to be active citizens (for example, to vote), and participation in learning is associated with increased health, wellbeing and financial capability.

Our submission of evidence and the report are available to read above.