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Age of gremlins draws to a close

Advertising executives are plotting the extermination of the gremlins, those mischievous monsters who prevent adults from addressing their difficulties with literacy and numeracy.

For the past three years, the fiends have featured in the Get On campaign, which aims to lure adults into FE colleges to take up the offer of free courses.

Now, following the success of the campaign, the gremlins are about to meet an untimely end.

The monsters were designed to be the personification of those negative emotions - fear, frustration and lack of confidence - which stop adults addressing their lack of basic skills.

A plot, currently being considered for the fourth series of the campaign, is for people to be seen rising to the challenge and enrolling on courses, thus causing the demise of their gremlins.

The Adult Basic Skills Strategy Unit is now working on the next series of adverts, which will run from August 2004 until the following July. But the end of the gremlins is likely to be less gruesome than the fate they met in the 1984 film produced by Steven Spielberg in which some were microwaved or minced in the blender.

Susan Pember, director of the strategy unit, said: "It is more likely that they will be seen withering away to nothing. The gremlins have served their purpose in getting the audience to confront and overcome their negative emotions.

"The campaign has managed to persuade nearly 2 million learners into learning in the past three years, and has widespread recognition with the client group we sought to bring into the initiative."

She said the next campaign is likely to focus on the importance of tests and qualifications, as parents and other adults see the younger generation succeeding where they either failed or lacked the chance to take qualifications.

"Many people with poor basic skills will see their own children, or other young people getting their GCSEs - something they feel they could never achieve themselves," said Ms Pember.

Some 470,000 adults - a quarter of all those who returned to learn through the campaign - had gained a literacy or numeracy qualification. Many had gone on to gain other skills.

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