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More cash due to boost basic skills

Ministers are stepping up their attack on the gaps in adults' basic skills by investing pound;100,000 in a new literacy and numeracy curriculum. An estimated 800,000 Scots are said to lack the skills to survive in an ever-more complicated world.

Iain Gray, the Lifelong Learning Minister, told a health and social work conference in Glasgow on Tuesday of the joint award to the Scottish Further Education Unit and Edinburgh University.

"This development will ensure that approaches to teaching and learning will be learner focused and also help to assess individual needs and measure the progress of learners," he said.

The latest initiative is part of the pound;40 million three-year funding package that is trying to tackle low levels of literacy and numeracy in adults. "Extraordinarily, it was neglected for decades," Mr Gray said.

The SFEU project is said to break new ground by finding innovative ways of recording all progress made by students who may be put off by negative memories of school tests.

Mr Gray emphasised that the Scottish Executive's previous spending review invested pound;22.5m in basic skills, pound;18.5m of which went to community learning partnerships to help 80,000 people over three years. The latest spending review allows the programme to expand to 150,000 adults over five years.

Mr Gray praised the voluntary sector and trade unions for their contribution. "Despite the giant strides made by colleges and other formal learning providers in offering services in the heart of communities, it does not change the fact that the voluntary sector remains the leading player in engaging the hardest to reach," he said.

It was no surprise that more than pound;1.5m in Glasgow - half the city's total - was being channelled through the voluntary sector. "Its base in the community often provides the best vehicle to guide people back into learning," the minister added.

Mr Gray summed up: "We must take action to end the frustration people feel when they try to return to learning but are hampered by a lack of confidence, a confusing system or lack of money to overcome the barriers."

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