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Numeracy for Employability - Development of the Strategy [this article updated February 2008]

This page has been archived. The content was correct at the time of original publication, but is no longer updated.
Created on 11 October 2007 by ncetm_administrator
Updated on 07 April 2008 by ncetm_administrator
Making Numeracy Matter Even More: A National Strategy
In its report ‘World Class Skills’ the government accepted the challenging targets recommended by the Leitch report and set out its agenda for raising skills levels.

To support this agenda the National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics (NCETM) has been commissioned by the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS), to work with key partners to develop a National Numeracy for Employability Strategy.

Why is this necessary?
The Leitch Review of Skills (December 2006) makes compelling reading.  How can we best respond to statements such as those below?

• Out of 30 OECD countries, the UK lies 17th on low skills, 20th on intermediate skills and 11th on high skills
• 5 million adults in the UK lack functional literacy
• 17 million adults in the UK have difficulty with numbers
• More than one in six young people leave school unable to read, write or add up properly.

Seventeen million!  That means that out of a total population of 60 million, 28% or approximately 3 in every 10 adults have difficulty with numbers.

In World Class Skills (July 2007) the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills presented a plan for England. “By 2020, we have committed to joining the world’s ‘premier league’ for skills.”

• 95% of adults to have the basic skills of functional literacy and numeracy (up from 85% literacy and 79% numeracy in 2005)  [Defined as Level 1 Literacy (equivalent to GCSE English at grade D-G) and Entry 3 Numeracy (one level below Level 1)]

• More than 90% of adults to have gained at least a level 2 qualification (equivalent to 5 GCSEs at A*- C grade) up from 69% in 2005, with a commitment to achieve 95% as soon as possible.

By 2011, the aim is for
• 89% of adults to be qualified to at least level 1 Literacy, and 81% to be qualified to at least Entry 3 Numeracy.

Raising numeracy/mathematics skills is one of the biggest challenges.  An estimated 6.8 million adults currently have numeracy skills at below Entry level 3 and the government has set a target of an additional 390,000 adults achieving at least a numeracy Entry 3 level qualification by 2011. Meeting this challenging target for functional numeracy will involve a considerable increase on current levels of provision and achievement.


As part of developing the national strategy, discussions have been held at an individual level, and through a DIUS seminar, with key national partners to enable the views and experiences of partners at the forefront of this work to help shape the strategy and to build on their current and planned work.

Seminars have also been held to hear directly from practitioners and researchers engaged in mathematics and adult numeracy work, including workshops held at the annual Skills for Life conferences in November 2007. At these events discussions were held around key areas to collect information, views and opinions from the field. These key areas relate to the learner menu, workforce issues and how numeracy learning can be measured. The expert seminars report is available here, and a report from the NRDC Skills for Life conferences workshop is also available in PDF format. 

Between February and March 2008, NCETM ran an online questionnaire seeking the views of all involved in numeracy/mathematics about a number of key development areas:

• How can we increase the demand for numeracy learning
• How can we ensure we have a well qualified and informed workforce and
• How can we best measure the impact of numeracy provision?

The questionnaire is now closed; many thanks to all those who took part.  Your opinions matter.

 View the Expert Seminar Report
 View the NRDC Skills for Life Conferences Report

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22 February 2008 19:45
Dear Sarah

Thank you for you comments re the ‘Making Numeracy Matter Even More’ questionnaire. We did spend some time debating whether to make the responses anonymous or not and in the end decided that making it anonymous might allow respondents to feel less constrained and more creative in their responses. We have already held expert seminars, workshops and telephone interviews to collect information and ideas directly from practitioners, researchers and other educationalists. Hopefully the nature of the questionnaire which allows for extra comment after each question will prompt respondents to explain their ideas sufficiently for them to be acted upon.
However if you or any others who are interested in these issues would like to make some additional comments or let us have further ideas, then please do post them here or email NCETM at info@ncetm.org.uk

By vivbrown
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18 February 2008 16:00
What a shame that the online questionnaire did not include (optional) contact details! Any good ideas/suggestions given in the course of the questionnaire now can't be followed up!
By sarahgilli
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