Basic Skills in England

Intentions in 2000 for 2004
Provisions in 2004/ 2005


The ability to read, write and speak in English / Welsh and to use mathematics at a level necessary to function and progress at work and in society in general.

Basic Skills Agency (2004), About Us: About the Basic Skills Agency, [Online], Available World Wide Web, URL: [Accessed December 22, 2004, 18:05], Concise Multimedia.

Basic Skills concerns lifelong learning meaning all age groups.

Key skills are similar to basic skills, but actually include a wider range of skills. The Department for Education and Skills defines key skills as:

Essential skills which people need in order to function effectively as members of a flexible, adaptable and competitive workforce. They are also invaluable in helping people function within society - and for lifelong learning.

Learndirect (2002), Are Basic Skills Like Key Skills? [Online], Available World Wide Web, URL: [Accessed December 22, 2004, 20:10], Ufi Limited.

This concerns England. Similar approaches exist for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

In 1998, Sir Claus Moser wrote A Fresh Start, on literacy and numeracy in England. From this came a government comprehensive strategy to tackle Basic Skills deficiencies in the adult population called Skills for Life.

Around 2000 it was identified that:

25% of employers reported basic skills inadequacies in the distribution and consumer services sector (25% of all employment)

The consequences were:

So these people were targeted for action:

Aim to improve literacy and numeracy by 2004:


Methods in general:


Using these organisers and providers:


Learners to be:

The providers offer and use:

Locations and times:

National standards for literacy:

National standards for numeracy

What happens now?

Most agencies have settled into their roles. For example, the Basic Skills Agency has a set of programmes:

Basic Skills Agency (2004), About Us: About the Basic Skills Agency, [Online], Available World Wide Web, URL: [Accessed December 22, 2004, 18:05], Concise Multimedia.

The Learning and Skills Council covers all non-University adult learning. It looks at the demand side and supply side, with The Young People's Learning Committee (16-21) and an Adult Learning Committee

Achieving national targets
Strategies for participation and attainment
14-19 curriculum
Modern Apprenticeships
Works with:
Education providers

Advice on participation and attainment
Basic skills
Workforce development
Works with:
National agencies, sectoral, economic and business  and regional Regional agencies
Key partners

One big provider is Learndirect. It covers adult learning including Basic Skills or

Essential skills
Skills for life
Literacy and numeracy
Reading, writing and arithmetic (the three R's)

It states that still around seven million adults in England have difficulty with basic skills.

It provides:

Courses at colleges
Courses at adult education centres
Distance learning (self study)
Open learning centre
On-line courses

It proceeds using:

An initial assessment for needs
A diagnostic assessment on strengths and weaknesses for individual tailoring

Now there are many providers of Entry Level and Levels 1 and 2 in Literacy or Numeracy

OCR (Oxford, Cambridge and RSA
Includes Level 3
13,000 locations
City and Guilds
Private training providers
Armed forces
Some universities
Training providers
London Chamber of Commerce and Industry Examinations Board (LCCIEB)
8000 centres worldwide
Private training providers
Adult education centres
Community groups
National Open College Network (NOCN)
NOCN offers courses in literacy and numeracy at entry level, level 1 Adult and community education centres
Sixth form colleges
Voluntary and community organisations
Trade unions
Local education authorities
Training organisations
National Extension College (distance learning basic skills)

Information, Advice and Guidance (IAG) centres and Citizens Advice Bureaux give details.

Other related including Basic Skills:

OCR National Skills Profile - a broad-based qualification with different skill areas (including communication and numeracy)

City and Guilds also offer:

Communication skills
English for speakers of other languages (ESOL)

Should provide free basic skills training in the workplace
Visits from each Learning and Skills Council Basic Skills Advisor
To deliver a learning programme

College outreach staff

English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL)
English as a Second Language (ESL)

Understand and participate
Access services
Familiarise with UK laws and customs
Access the labour market
Access FE and training
Support their children's education.
Adult education and community centres


Family learning
Parents develop basic skills to help their children
Basic Skills Agency
Campaign for Learning includes the Family Learning Weekend
The Literacy Trust includes Talk to Your Baby

Offenders and ex-offenders

Probation services

The Dyslexia Institute
British Dyslexia Association

Jobcentre Plus
New Deal
Work-Based Learning

Promotion also takes place:

Get On for Individuals
From Learndirect (Get On video pack - very basic)
Get On at Work (information for employers):
Skills for Life booklet
Employers' Toolkit (CD Rom or paper)

BBC campaign and Learndirect
Information to basic skills tutors
Skillswise magazine

The Literacy Trust
Reading Is Fundamental
National Reading Campaign
Talk To Your Baby
Reading The Game
Reading Connects
Vital Link

So much that was considered in 1998 and drafted in 2000 has come about. The question remains how many people take advantage of the courses and how advantageous they are.

It is not always the case that skills education improves skills. Some people tackle courses they can do easily, some vocational Key Skills and Basic Skills courses repeat a previous course or add little to what has been achieved (people with GCSE C or above doing Level 2, for example). This happens through compulsion and through providers meeting statistical requirements. Some people may even find their skills declining as a result of taking a course - Brooks et al, Progress in Adult Literacy: Do learners learn? (2001), in Skills for life: The National Strategy for Improving Adult Literacy and Numeracy Skills, Department for Education and Employment, page 10, found that 20% of attenders find their skills reducing.