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Time to dump the 'deficit approach', urges team's report

Efforts to raise literacy and numeracy levels in the past, the literacy team's report says, have been hampered by a lack of priority attached to what is not a statutory requirement, declining resources and insufficient central co-ordination and support.

The quality of provision is also patchy, the report adds, "but the overriding failure to date has been the inability of the system to provide the capacity for a substantial increase in the number of learners".

The report continues: "Two hard truths emerge from national and international evidence: learning programmes for adults with low literacy and numeracy do not easily attract those in need and many learners drop out before making real progress."

It urges adult literacy and numeracy practitioners to jettison the "deficit approach" which tests adults to demonstrate their failure, in favour of a lifelong learning approach which concentrates on how adults can apply their learning to real contexts and sets goals for future progress. Family literacy is hailed as an effective mechanism in which adults have the chance to extend their own abilities while helping their children at the same time.

The target groups identified in the literacy team's report to the Executive as a priority are:

* people with limited initial education,particularly young adults;

* the unemployed and those facing redundancy;

* those with English as a second oradditional language;

* people living in disadvantaged areas;

* workers in low skill jobs;

* people on low incomes;

* people with health problems anddisabilities.

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