15m adults lack basic GCSE numeracy skills: survey

More than 15 million adults in the UK have such poor numeracy skills that they would not be able to gain even the lowest grades at GCSE, according to a government report published today.

The study also found that those that have numeracy skills below the standard expected of 9 to 11-year-olds fell slightly from 7 million in 1997 to 6.8 million adults.

However, the survey showed that the proportion of adults aged 16-65 that have literacy skills below the equivalent of a D-G grade GCSE has fallen from the 7 million estimated in 1997 to 5.2 million adults now.

Many respondents had a high level of awareness of, and practical skills in ICT applications and terminology, with 50% achieving Level 2 or above in an awareness assessment, and 47% achieving Level 1 or above in a practical skills assessment.

The survey, 'The National Needs and Impact Survey of Literacy, Numeracy and ICT Skills', which offers a definitive national profile of adult literacy and numeracy skills, highlights the need for improvements in adult basic skills training and school standards, particularly in maths.

The government said that the research "underscores the importance of continuing to drive up school standards".

Publishing the survey, Minister for Skills and Vocational Education, Ivan Lewis said: "Our recruitment of 50% more maths teachers in just four years and dedicated literacy and numeracy strategies in primary schools are already delivering significant improvements in maths attainment at secondary level."

In its first two years, the government's 'Skills for Life' programme saw over 1.8 million adults start basic skills courses, and 470,000 have achieved key qualifications to date.

Ministers remain confident of reaching the target of 750,000 adults achieving a basic skills qualification by the end of 2004, rising to more than 1.5 million adults by 2007.

The survey covered 8,730 respondents aged 16-65 years old.


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