Literacy and numeracy levels need lifting

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The National Audit Office has said that the levels of adult literacy and numeracy in England need to be improved.

Twenty-six million people of working age have levels of literacy and numeracy below those expected of school leavers.

Those with the lowest levels of skills tend to work in low-skilled employment, are unemployed or are on benefits.

In March 2001 the Department for Education and Skills launched the Skills for Life Strategy which began a long-term programme to break the cycle of low literacy and numeracy skills in England. At least £3.7 billion will be spent on implementing the programme by 2006.

Sir John Bourn, head of the National Audit Office, reported today that the Department for Education and Skills has made a good start to its long-term strategy to improve the levels of adult literacy and numeracy in England, but there are more challenges ahead.

Latest estimates suggest that the Department has achieved its 2004 target of increasing the skills of 750,000 people. Achievement of the 2010 target will require a further 1.5 million learners to achieve a first qualification.

Sir John Bourn said:

"Higher levels of literacy and numeracy will benefit England both socially and economically. More people will have the opportunity to live richer lives. The Department has made substantial progress since 2001 in improving the teaching of literacy and numeracy and making more people aware of the options and wanting to learn. But this is only the beginning. The Department and its partners will need to be creative and responsive if they are to reach another 1.5 million people by 2010."

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