THE GOVERNMENT is to spend Pounds 1 million on helping deprived families improve their maths.
The cash will fund 500 family numeracy projects in some of Britain's most disadvantaged areas in an attempt to raise numeracy levels in pre-school children before the National Numeracy Project begins next year.
Twenty-two per cent of the adult population are functionally innumerate - one of the highest figures in Europe. By 2002 the Government wants 75 per cent of 11-year-olds to reach the required standard for their age in mathematics.
The scheme is due to be announced next week. Last year the Government ran 14 family numeracy pilots. More than 500 disadvantaged families were referred by schools, social services or health visitors. The children who took part in the projects scored an average of 20 per cent higher in number, mathematical language and reading in baseline assessments than similar children from a control group.
The schools which took part in the pilots all had lower attainment in mathematics at the end of key stage 1 and 2 than the national average and a higher than average number of pupils receiving free school meals.
Three-quarters of the parents were unemployed, 69 per cent were under the age of 35 and almost all half had no formal qualifications. However, by the end of the pilot 84 per cent had gained a City and Guilds accreditation. One parent said: "I'm far more into it all. I've made a lot of progress with my own maths and suddenly some of the pennies have dropped. I never knew what the decimal point was for. I never realised it's the same as money."
Alan Wells, director of the Basic Skills Agency, which ran the pilots, said: "Just like literacy, numeracy programmes are an effective way of preventing early failure in children. But they also have another very real benefit in improving the numeracy skills of adults. If we can build on what we now know works, we can make sure fewer children struggle with maths at school. And just as importantly stop being one of the few countries where people boast that they are no good with figures."