By Daniel Hunter

Adults with poor English and maths skills should make the most of free Government help Skills Minister Matthew Hancock said, as a new survey reveals the UK’s skills blackspots.

The Skills for Life survey — which examined the maths, English and Information and Communication Technology (ICT) levels of 16-65 year olds across England — found that in some areas, around a quarter of adults have the numeracy skills of a seven to nine year old or below. In Yorkshire and the Humber, the West Midlands and the South East, there was a boost in literacy skills.

A full range of materials on the survey, including factsheets, infographics and an online test can be found here.

The findings support the Government’s drive to boost basic skills across the country, with Matthew Hancock last month announcing a doubling of funding for English and maths functional skills qualifications.

Skills Minister Matthew Hancock said:

“Good English and maths are vital for getting a job and playing a full part in society. We have doubled the funding for adult English and maths because they are so important.

“I would urge anyone who is struggling to take advantage of the provision that is on offer which now includes maths and English GCSEs for adults who missed out the first time round.

“These essential skills are the building blocks of a productive society and a thriving economy. I am determined that everyone - no matter where they live - should have the chance to achieve their very best.”

To improve the nation’s basic skills the Government has introduced a series of measures, including:

Adults have been able to take free maths and English GCSEs since August, with other qualifications available to support those with lower skills levels
Continued funding of basic English and maths courses for adults
Piloting how the skills gained by learners on adult English and maths courses can be measured and how this could be used as the basis for funding providers in future
The introduction of new study programmes for young people from September 2013 in which students will continue to work towards GCSE A*-C in English and maths if they have not already achieved this by age 16
A consultation on the introduction of new English Baccalaureate Certificates for young people in six core academic subjects including English and maths.
Carol Taylor, Director for Development and Research at the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (NIACE), said:

“There has been a huge effort from teachers, managers, volunteers and learners over the past 10 years leading to a significant improvement in the literacy skills of the country, albeit for those at a higher level.

“NIACE’s Inquiries, and the Government’s Review of Skills for Life, have shown that those with the poorest skills have been the least well served. One in six of the adult population has some difficulty with aspects of reading and writing and one in four struggles with maths. This means they are seriously disadvantaged - in work, in health and in their role as parents.

“It’s vital that we ensure that all adults are given the opportunity to learn the English and maths skills they need for everyday life.”

The Skills for Life survey fieldwork was carried out between May 2010 and February 2011. The full report follows the headline findings published last year which show that between 2003 and 2011 there was a large improvement in adults at Level 2 literacy and above, but 24 per cent (8.1 million people) lack basic numeracy, and 15 per cent (5.1 million people) lack basic literacy.

Adults wanting to brush up on their maths, English and ICT skills can contact the National Careers Service for advice on 0800 100 900 or visit for information on courses available via the National Careers Service course directory.

Additional materials on the survey include:

A full regional breakdown of the findings
A media factsheet with a summary of the findings
An online basic skills test with sample questions from the Skills for Life survey - this can be downloaded and used in articles and/or other websites - maths - English
A ‘Ten ways we use maths and English in everyday life’ document.

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