As part of the drive:
- Free basic education for all adults who want it is to be available by calling learndirect on 0800 100 900 for details of local courses.
- There will be new measures to improve the basic skills of public sector workers including the NHS and the Army as part of a co-ordinated government drive.
- Businesses will be helped to provide training for their employees with pilots of grants to cover national insurance for low-skilled workers doing courses.
- There will be a new university based national research centre which will help develop best practice in teaching adults the basics.
- A new national network of up to 2000 fully equipped learning centres at colleges, workplaces and schools will be established, where courses will be provided.
- A new curriculum and standardised tests are being introduced, with early introduction in nine pathfinder areas.
- Prison education will improve, with a focus on basic skills, and the option that prisoners will have training as one of their licence conditions will be piloted.
- Jobseekers will have a mixture of rewards and penalties to encourage them to improve their basic skills.
Speaking on World Book Day at the Downing Street launch of 'Skills for Life', the national strategy for improving adult literacy and numeracy skills, David Blunkett said: 'Many adults were failed by poor teaching of the basics in our schools. With the new literacy and numeracy hours, we have begun to rectify matters for
this generation, but we must do more for the generations who were let down by a poor education.
'For too long successive governments have done too little about what may be one in five adults who have difficulties with reading, writing or maths. We are determined now to apply the same drive to improving adult basic skills that we have introduced in our primary schools.
'Funding will be increased by 55% with at least£1.5bn over the next three years, comprising£1.1bn announced last year, together with up to£650m from the Welfare to Work budget and most of the£173m we announced last month for prison education. This will open up a new world of learning opportunities for those with basic skills problems. Free basic education can be accessed by all who need it just by calling the learndirect helpline on 0800 100 900.
'We are making this investment in the future, but we need those who have skills problems to take action. In particular we want unemployed people who face difficulties reading and writing to sign up for free training. People with poor basic skills earn an average of£50,000 less than those with GCSE level qualifications over their working lives, and are more likely to have health problems or turn to crime.
'If we raise the numeracy skills of all adults to the standard we expect of an 11-year old, this would increase our gross domestic product by£40 billion. As a country we are around 20% less productive than the Germans (measured by the real hourly wage gap), and we estimate that around two-thirds of this shortfall (13% of the 20%) is due to our weaker literacy and numeracy skills.
'To change this we will be introducing pilot schemes where jobseekers will receive extra payments if they successfully complete basic skills courses, and make an investment in their own future. For those who refuse, however, we will be piloting schemes where jobseekers allowance is cut if they refuse to participate in such
'An enabling government has a role in helping people to help themselves, but society has a right to demand that people take the opportunities that will make them more employable.
'There will be screening to identify who needs support, as those on benefits should realise that improving their skills is the key to finding a good job and increasing their earning potential. If they are serious about getting a job they must do all they can to improve their prospects. Those who don't will lose out.
'Other groups, including the prison population, will also be targeted for extra help. Last month we announced a£173m three-year commitment to improving prison education and much of that money will be spent on improving the basic skills of prisoners. They will be given the support they need to get the skills they need for rehabilitation into society and a new life free of crime, but we will also be piloting making basic skills training one of their licence conditions.
'We will provide businesses with the backing that they need to get their staff trained. A business which has a fully skilled workforce is one which is equipped to succeed in the new knowledge economy. We will also explore in our pilots whether, by giving employers grants to compensate them for the national insurance contributions they make for employees undertaking literacy and numeracy training, we are able to stimulate greater take-up of courses by workers in low-skilled jobs.
'In government we will set an example to business and make sure that all public servants have the skills that they need to do their jobs properly whether they are military personnel or hospital workers. I want to see all government departments play their full part in making sure that their staff have reached suitable levels of literacy and numeracy.
'For the first time ever there will be clear national standards and tests for basic skills guaranteed with a new 'readwriteplus' kitemark. Those adults who have the courage to tackle their problems can be assured that they will get the help and support that they need to open up a world of opportunities not just for their careers but also to enrich their lives.
'I want everyone who knows somebody with reading and maths problems to help them to help themselves. We have some proud traditions in this country of community education and I know that working together we will succeed.'
As part of the new strategy Mr Blunkett announced a series of Pathfinder projects in every region where innovative new approaches to improving basic skills will be piloted. These will build on the successes of some of the projects backed by the Adult and Community Learning Fund and by the Union Learning Fund. Union Learning
Representatives have been given a new status and increased resources to identify basic skills training needs.
This notice applies to England
1. The£1.5bn of funding over three years includes£1.1bn from DfEE and£400m from other government departments. The DfEE funding was announced on 27 September 2000 and includes£313m in 2001-02,£366m in 2002-03 and£403m in 2003-04. Spending by 2003-4 will be£150m above the£253m expenditure planned for 2001-02.
Other expenditure comes from the Welfare to Work budget which will support literacy and numeracy learning for unemployed people with up to£650 million over the next three years (around£480m for New Deal for Young People and New Deal 25+ clients, and£170m more for other 25+ jobseekers). Additional resources will come from European sources and from other government departments.
2. The new prison education partnership announced last month has£173 million of funding drawing on the Prison Service's budget for education and libraries, which will be£51m in 2001-02,£59m in 2002-03, and£63m in 2003-04, an increase of more than 17 per cent over three years. This will be on top of the resources being
invested in vocational training by the Prison Service.
3. The nine pathfinder areas will evaluate each aspect of the new strategy, including screening to identify basic skills needs, the national standards, curriculum and tests.
Job Seekers Allowance claimants and those on the voluntary New Deals for Lone Parents, Disabled People, Partners, and 50 plus will be screened at the six month stage, or earlier in some cases. Where they are found to have problems they will be offered a diagnostic assessment of their learning needs and referred to high quality provision.
4. The pathfinders will be in each English region: Liverpool, Tyne and Wear, Leeds, Nottinghamshire, Birmingham, Cambridgeshire, the Isle of Thanet, Gloucestershire and East London.
5. There will be a prison education pathfinder to test the new basic skills standards and curriculum in six prisons in and around Birmingham' which is one of our pathfinder areas. The prisons are Stafford, Birmingham, Featherstone, Stoke Heath, Hewell Grange and New Hall.
From September other prisons, including Wandsworth and Wormwood Scrubs, will trial intensive training and develop a family and visitors' learning centre on site. These pilots will be managed jointly by the Adult Basic Skills Strategy Unit and the Prison