NO ONE said it would be easy. Some 23 years after arriving at what was then called the Adult Literacy Resource Agency on an 18-month contract, Alan Wells is still at the helm of the Basic Skills Agency. Nevertheless, he seems to have confounded the predictions of his political masters at least.
"Every minister says when they first meet me: 'I'm here to put you out of business'," he revealed at the BSA's annual conference last week. "But where are they now? Williams, Baker, Patten, Shephard - forgotten people!"
Luckily their new Labour successors weren't there to hear that - especially as Alan confidently predicted that while the BSA's aim was indeed to eliminate the need for its own existence, he doesn't think it's going to happen in the next 18 months.
The agency's profile has never been higher, thanks in part to its chairman Sir Claus Moser's new report on the shocking state of adult literacy and numeracy.
But it hasn't all been a success.
Alan confessed the relentless quest for innovation has led down some blind alleys -- and none lacked vision more than the infamous literacy bus.
"We sponsored a number of them to go round villages with the simple message: 'If you can't read or write, get on the bus.' It went down like a mobile VD clinic. People waited outside to photograph whoever got on. Very few did."