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Life skill learners failing to achieve

Qualification rates for adult literacy and numeracy courses are too low, says LSCmember. Joe Clancy reports

Adults undertaking literacy and numeracy courses are getting a poor deal from further education, according to a leading member of the Learning and Skills Council.

Chris Banks, a national council member of the LSC, said that out of every 10 adults who start a course, only eight complete it, and only four achieve a nationally recognised qualification.

He told delegates at a "Skills for life" conference in London: "Learners are working hard to improve their skills but are not achieving a qualification.

"That low achievement rate represents a poor deal for learners and a loss of income in achievement funding for providers."

He said that those enrolled on other programmes are far more likely to complete and achieve. The problem lay not so much with the quantity of provision - the LSC has funded three million courses in the past three years - but with the quality.

"It is a challenge to increase provision, recruit more learners and to improve on quality." he said.

"While acknowledging there are already many experienced teachers in the field, there is also a need to build capacity and boost the numbers of those with appropriate qualifications. Many local LSCs are now working with colleges and other partners to do this. We must do more to improve the quality of learning."

A Skills For Life Quality Initiative is beginning to address the problem, he said, by taking steps to boost the numbers of teachers with appropriate qualifications.

The initiative will provide training for 1,750 leaders and managers, and a professional development programme to allow retiring teachers to improve their qualifications. It will also provide funding for an additional 1,500 qualified teachers nationally.

A recently-published joint report from the inspectorates confirmed that "learners are more likely to achieve their learning aims, and grades go up, when they are taught by properly qualified teachers".

Mr Banks said that good progress was being made in reaching the Government's target, set in 2001, of improving the basic skills of 750,000 adults by 2004, rising to 1.5m by 2007.

"If we look at the number of learners we should achieve our target a year ahead of schedule, but we still have a lot of work to do," Mr Banks told delegates.

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