A new survey looks set to spark a major rethink over support for literacy and numeracy. Ngaio Crequer reports.
More than half of all adults in Great Britain say their maths needs improving, while a third confess to problems with spelling, a new study shows.
According to the survey of 2,000 adults, writing skills worry 23 per cent of those questioned and reading 17 per cent.
The Mori survey was commissioned by the Basic Skills Agency to discover what motivates adults with poor basic skills to improve them.
The main reason people wanted to help was to feel better about themselves and "to be better at everyday tasks". Promotion at work or wanting to get a better job came next, followed by the need to help children with their education.
Alan Wells, director of the Basic Skills Agency, said: "It's clear from this survey that we need to spend more time asking adults how, where and when and why they want to learn. For too long we've been trying to make adult learners do things our way.
"Yet only about 1 in 20 of the estimated 7 million adults with poor literacy and numeracy ever join a course or go to a class. Asking potential learners what they want might mean that what we provide reaches more than the small proportion we reach today."
The major impediment for adults improving their skills was either that they were too busy or had no time. Nearly a quarter of the adults questioned said that lack of confidence was their main barrier. Lack o money and inability to get time off work were named as other impediments.
When asked where they would like to take part in a programme to improve their basic skills, 41 per cent said they wanted to learn at home.
Some 35 per cent of adults preferred to study at a college, and 8 per cent cited the local library. But 7 per cent were not interested in getting any help at all.
Of those who wanted to improve their skills, 53 per cent believed a teacher was necessary, but 36 per cent preferred to use a computer to learn.
The majority of people (92 per cent) were prepared to spend at least one hour a week improving their skills with more than half prepared to devote eight or more hours weekly.
The majority of participants in the study did not want to improve their basic skills at work. Among full-time employees, 30 per cent would like a work-based programme, but 64 per cent would not and for part-time workers, 28 per cent wanted to learn at work and 68 per cent would not.
The study showed people want qualifications. Some 47 per cent of adults definitely wanted a qualification and 26 per cent said they probably would.
Thirty per cent of adults who knew they had problems would definitely take up a course tomorrow if it met all their requirements, and 42 per cent said they would probably do so.
"Getting better basic skills - what motivates adults". The Basic Skills Agency, Commonwealth House, 1-19 New Oxford Street, WC1A 1NU.