Put cash where it is needed

6th January 2006 at 00:00
Presenting complex ideas in public is never easy. I would be grateful if you would allow me a second attempt in the case of the ALI's judgements on the Skills for Life programme. They have been simplified in the press, beyond the point where I can recognise them.

The 1999 Moser report pictured Britain as a low literacylow numeracy country. Lord Moser found that a lack of adult basic skills endangered our prosperity and social health. Lord Leitch made the same point a week or two ago. Skills for Life is a bold initiative to tackle the problem and the Secretary of State was justified recently in celebrating the millionth qualification achieved. However, there is concern that many of these were achieved by people outside Lord Moser's target group.

That is not to say the money spent on them was wasted. They plainly needed help. Recent research from the National Research and Development Centre has shown that the worst literacy and numeracy-led deprivation is suffered by a relatively small group of people with skills well below the upper qualifying level for Skills for Life support. Together with ALI's observation that teaching is not improving in Skills for Life, these facts suggest that we would get better results if we sharpened the focus of the programme.

Through my annual report, ALI reiterates that Skills for Life should concentrate on the least well-qualified adults, through outreach to workplaces and the community. Experience of delivery now allows us to refine Skills for Life. The tightening funding for adult learning suggests that money should be targeted where it is most needed.

It is regrettable that our analysis should be used as a stick to beat the Government, whose chief "sin" has apparently been to provide the resources to resolve a universally recognised problem.

David Sherlock The Adult Learning Inspectorate Herald Avenue Coventry

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