Literacy target is 150,000 new learners by March
The national adult literacy and numeracy strategy, backed by pound;51 million from the Scottish Executive over five years, aims to make inroads into reducing an estimated 800,000 Scots who need help with reading, writing and number.
The report on the strategy for 2004-05, issued by Learning Connections, part of the Executive's Communities Scotland agency, shows "excellent work" being done across Scotland, Allan Wilson, Deputy Minister for Lifelong Learning, told the conference.
Delegates also heard from Johann Lamont, Deputy Communities Minister, who helped launch a new Big Plus website which will provide online advice on improving literacy and numeracy skills.
This was "a powerful resource", Ms Lamont said, and would allow people to see how others had experienced learning and how they had overcome their problems.
Inability to read and write "blights lives", Ms Lamont said. Liberation came with being literate, she added, but that was not an easy task. This was borne out by a report from the education inspectorate, published in June, which called for the strategy to be given "clearer direction and impetus". Ms Lamont said the next step had to be to attract additional learners to literacy and numeracy programmes, particularly young people.
The target is 150,000 new learners by March next year.
"Engaging young people in literacies learning is one of the most important objectives in doing that, closing the opportunity gap for some of our most disadvantaged young people," she said.
Executive funding has been used to support the appointment of part-time youth literacies officers throughout Scotland.
Lillias Noble, head of Learning Connections, said there was a core target group - the 35,000 16-19s who in any one year are not in education, employment or training (the NEET group).
The conference heard on film from Denise, a 17-year-old from Galashiels, who said she always had problems with maths and had left school because of bullying.
She eventually joined the Borders Production training unit in Galashiels, which offers people opportunities in joinery, computing and catering. The unit uses this chance to improve basic skills.
"A recipe book is not much good if you can't read or add up," Bill Bell, one of the trainers, said.
Mr Bell added: "Many people join believing they cannot do anything but, within a few weeks, they are amazed at what they can do."
Denise is making considerable progress, to the point where she wants to work with young people. "They're a great laugh, although they can be a pain, but they're great fun," she says.
The conference also heard from William, a student at Glasgow Metropolitan College, who is receiving help with reading and writing while doing a painting and decorating course. He started taking stock of his life while sitting in a prison cell and concluded: "This isnae me."
Ms Noble said these were among many examples of the "very successful integrated work that is taking place".