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Inspectors want more impetus for adult numeracy

The Scottish Executive's pound;51 million five-year programme to improve adult literacy and numeracy among the 800,000 Scots estimated to need help needs "clearer direction and impetus", according to HM inspectorate of education.

The HMIE report, reviewing progress after three years of the initiative, confirms its positive impact, with "impressive personal testimony from many learners", in the view of Graham Donaldson, HM senior chief inspector.

The report concentrates on the provision made by education authorities and FE colleges. In 2001, they reached 12,500 learners.

The 2001 report on Adult Literacy and Numeracy in Scotland (ALNIS), acknowledged it would take at least 10 years to turn round the situation.

It suggested there should be an initial target of helping 80,000 adults with literacy problems over the following three years - only one in 10 of the total.

This was revised by the Executive to aim for 150,000 new learners by March next year.

By 2004, according to the HMIEreport, 71,000 adults were receiving literacy and numeracy tuition and support, and inspectors found that there was "good progress in engaging new learners".

Mr Donaldson said the inspectorate's findings were that colleges, authorities and voluntary organisations were generally effective in their work. Tutors were committed and had a "warm and supportive" relationship with learners.

But there was "scope for individual providers to improve in areas such as initial assessment of learners, the use of learning plans and quality assurance".

Mr Donaldson called for more emphasis on boosting numeracy skills against a background where literacy provision continued to dominate.

While teaching and courses were found to be mostly good, inspectors found some specific weaknesses - in local authority provision for those with learning difficulties and disabilities, and the failure of FE colleges to give learners individual programmes that built on their existing experiences and skills.

Mr Donaldson said that more evidence of progress and achievement was needed. The report notes: "Assessment arrangements were generally inadequate for monitoring progress, assessing achievement and tracking learners, including those who progressed into award-bearing programmes and further study."

It added: "There were too few structured opportunities for learners to progress into award-bearing programmes where this was appropriate.

"Greater emphasis on real life situations was needed. Information on learners' progress and achievement focused too much on wider outcomes such as the development of self-confidence."

The report urges colleges to bring more "robustness, consistency and coherence" to the way they monitor the quality of literacy teaching.

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