The Basic Skills Agency defines basic skills as ‘The ability to read, write and speak in English or Welsh, and to use mathematics at a level necessary to function and progress at work and in society in general’. Although initiatives have covered all age groups since the creation of the Basic Skills Agency in 1995, the term is most commonly used to refer to the skills of adults rather than of those under 19 years old, where General Certificate of Secondary Education and key skills qualifications tend to define levels of skill.
Development of basic skills has been a particular focus of UK government policy since 1975, when the Adult Literacy Resource Agency was created to support a high‐profile adult literacy campaign. This function was then taken over first by the Adult Literacy Unit (1978–80) and then by the Adult Literacy and Basic Skills Unit (1980–95). Currently it falls under the remit of the Basic Skills Agency.
The state of adult UK citizens' basic skills has been the subject of several reviews, the most influential of which is probably that of the committee chaired by Sir Claus Moser, which published its report, A Fresh Start: Improving Literacy and Numeracy, in 1999. This stated that up to 7 000 000 adults in England have difficulties with literacy and numeracy inasmuch as that their skills are below level 2 on the National Qualifications Framework. In 2000 the final report of the International Adult Literacy Survey, Literacy in the Information Age, concluded that Great Britain ranked in the lower third of the 20 countries that form the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Both studies relate the findings to personal socio‐economic factors, such as employment, income, and mental health; and to the consequences for national economic prosperity.
As a result of the Moser Report, the Skills for Life Quality Initiative was established and given the task of improving basic skills, broadened to include English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) and information technology through widening participation; this includes workplace and community projects, and work with adults with learning difficulties or disabilities. Key outcomes of the Initiative were the launch of the Adult Core Curriculums, developed by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority and the Basic Skills Agency and published from 2001; the development of subject‐specific qualifications for teachers, first introduced in 2002; and a system for reporting on the quality of provision of adult basic skills training, carried out since 2002 by the Adult Learning Inspectorate. The Initiative ceased in August 2006, and responsibility for development now lies with the Skills for Life Improvement Programme, under the Quality Improvement Agency umbrella. See also functional skills.
http://www.dfes.gov.uk/readwriteplus/ Source of information and advice on implementing Skills for Life provision.
http://www.niace.org.uk Gives further information, including a forum for sharing good practice and resources, and availability of professional development opportunities.
http://www.sflip.org.uk As previous web site.
http://www.nrdc.org.uk Provides an outline of research into adult literacy, numeracy, ESOL, and information communications technology. The site includes research and development projects, reports, and reviews.