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Dimensions 4 & 5: Reduction of adult illiteracy and expansion of basic education and training in other essential skills

Given that the UK has few adults that are illiterate or innumerate in the literal sense but nevertheless has a sizeable minority with poor literacy or numeracy skills, this chapter examines Dimensions 4 & 5 together and concentrates on policies designed to improve basic skills.

The definitions used

The UK takes the term Basic Education to cover a wide spectrum of provision following the definition in use in further education which is:

"programmes of study in basic literacy, numeracy and English for speakers of other languages; discrete provision for students with learning difficulties and/or disabilities ; courses to teach independent living, numeracy and communication skills; other programmes of study for adults which do not focus on a particular curriculum area."

Basic Education to Foundation level provides education up to around level 1 of the Government’s National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) Framework - that is the equivalent broadly of the average attainment expected of 11 year olds in the National Curriculum. Key Skills is the term used to describe a wide range of life skills which are increasingly a part of education and training initiatives. They range from level 1 to level 5 of the NVQ Framework. The Key Skills comprise: communication, application of number, working with others, information technology, improving own learning and performance and problem solving.

Adult Literacy: The Evidence

As indicated above, few people in the UK are illiterate or innumerate in the literal sense of the words; but according to "Adult Literacy in Britain", part of the 1997 "International Adult Literacy Survey" (IALS) , around one in five of all adults has poor literacy and numeracy skills. This is twice the proportion of the best performing country in the survey, Sweden. The survey measures the skills used in understanding information from texts (prose literacy), using information from other formats such as timetables (document literacy), and applying arithmetic operations to numbers embedded in print for example in advertisements (quantitative literacy). Literacy skills in each of these areas were grouped from the lowest level (level 1) to the highest level.

Source: Adult Literacy in Britain

The distribution of literacy skills among the British population of working age is broadly similar for each of the three dimensions: prose, document and quantitative. The figures above show the proportions of the population of working age (aged 16-65) at each literacy level for the three scales. Overall just over a fifth of the population of working age have "poor" literacy skills i.e. performed at Level 1, on the prose scale. Similarly, 23% of the adult population aged 16-65 performed at Level 1 on the document and quantitative scales.

Among men, performance on the prose scale was poorer than on either the document or quantitative scales whereas women performed better on the prose scale. While the skill levels of men and women were very similar on the prose scale, significantly higher proportions of women than men were at Level 1 on both document and quantitative literacy (27% and 29% of women compared with 20% and 18% of men).

The Survey also provides evidence that poor literacy is most likely to be faced by those:

There is no comparable longer term evidence in the UK about the level of adult literacy. Surveys conducted on behalf of the Basic Skills Agency have consistently pointed to a core of around 6 million people with some degree of difficulty.

The Government continues to look into the relationship between skills and social deprivation. For example, as part of the Government’s Policy Action Teams charged with examining different aspect of deprivation to foster neighbourhood renewal, DfEE is leading Policy Action Teams looking into skills, jobs and schools. The skills PAT will examine why many people have low levels of basic and other skills needed for employability and active citizenship. This work will culminate in a report later in 1999 to follow up the Government’s Social Exclusion Unit report: Bringing Britain Together: A National Strategy for Neighbourhood Renewal.

Adult Learning in Basic Education

Raising the standard of basic skills education is key to the Government’s aims to raise achievement and to widen participation in lifelong learning. The Government’s immediate aim, set out in the 1998 Green Paper on lifelong learning, The Learning Age, is to double the number of adults helped with basic skills to 500,000 a year by 2002. A number of Government initiatives are designed to help meet this target. The new strategic Lifelong Learning Partnerships, responsible for co-ordinating local activity in support of the Government’s social inclusion and regeneration agendas, will include basic skills in their remit.

As awareness has grown of their importance, there has been a significant increase in the numbers receiving basic skills and basic education: more than doubling over the past ten years. In 1989 just over 100,000 individuals attended a course of basic skills education; whereas currently around 350,000 adults are being helped in basic education and training courses every year: with about 250,000 of these studying basic skills (literacy and numeracy) and the remainder other types of basic education.

The DfEE is, with its agencies, the main Government Department responsible for resourcing basic skills work in England and leads on a wide range of Government initiatives featuring basic education and key skills.

For post-16, the majority of these programmes are delivered through colleges of adult and further education, funded by the Government through the Further Education Funding Council (FEFC). All basic education courses provided by these organisation or as part of Government training and employment programmes are free to the learner, though there may be nominal registration and exam fees. Similar arrangements apply in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland with some regional differences.

From April 2001 the FEFC in England will be superseded by the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) which will also take responsibility for a number of other current basic education funding streams and so improve coherence of provision.

Resource is also provided for local initiatives through the European Social Fund, from the National Lottery, and from the Single Regeneration Budget which is directed towards areas of disadvantage. In addition to these, research has shown that 60% of prisoners, nearly three times the national average, have poor basic skills. The Prison Service and Home Office have set up a national strategy to tackle this by ensuring that all prisons have plans to assess how prisoners with basic skills needs will be supported, and by training civilian instructors and prison officers to support these needs.

Government initiatives to improve basic skills

The Government’s main aim has been to help ensure that basic skills education is included in mainstream Government initiatives. In practice, many courses provide basic skills education alongside the development of wider life skills including the key skills. The initiatives include government education and training programmes and family and community based initiatives, which by their nature, tend to be more attractive to women. Amongst these initiatives are:

Employment and Training Programmes

The Government’s key employment and training programmes have a crucial role to play given the high proportion of unemployed people with poor basic skills. The Employment Service are working to ensure young people facing issues associated with literacy and/or numeracy are identified as quickly as possible and referred to appropriate provision. An assessment instrument to assist this process is currently being piloted.

The New Deal for 18-24 year olds gives young people with reading, writing or numeracy problems who are at risk of finding it particularly difficult to find work the choice to enter the New Deal immediately upon becoming unemployed. The Government promised in its manifesto to help 250,000 young people into jobs and set aside 2.6 billion for this programme.

The New Deal provides "Gateway" provision which aims first to get young people into work, and includes help with jobsearch, careers advice and guidance, basic and key skills. There follow four work experience or learning options which each include an element of education or training. Finally, a Follow Through strategy ensures that New Deal clients are helped, throughout their participation on an option, to progress towards the goal of finding or sustaining employment, and are given further assistance if they return to unemployment.

Work Based Learning for Adults provides help for adults who have been unemployed long-term in England. There is a client group that has difficulty in getting jobs because of a combination of disadvantages, such as very low self-esteem, poor motivation or lack of interpersonal skills. This multiple disadvantage goes beyond simply a lack of basic skills. for example, a family history of being without work. Flexible learning packages are designed to meet their basic and occupational learning needs and follow up once in employment is also provided. Between 1998-2000, 668 million was made available to offer 235,000 opportunities of which one third included courses to support basic employability.

It is difficult to provide evidence of the effectiveness of programmes which have only been running for a short period of time. However, evidence from a recent evaluation of the Pre-Vocational Training initiative pilots, which preceded Work Based Learning, suggests that they were successful in attracting groups on the margins of the labour market and that most participants reported benefits, particularly increased motivation and confidence. Around a third of participants with basic skills needs gained a whole qualification during their training.

New Deal

In the past, Northern Ireland has tended to develop its own employment and training programmes, tailored to fit its own social and economic needs. However, the New Deal initiative which aims to assist the unemployed back into the workforce, is UK wide and the New Deal provision in Northern Ireland mirrors that in the rest of the UK.

The first element of New Deal for 18-24 year olds was introduced in April 1998 and aims to help all those 18- 24 year olds , who have been unemployed for six months or more, into work through a Gateway period of advice and counselling, followed by a choice of four options - employment, full-time education and training or a job/placement in the environmental voluntary sectors, each of which contains a training element.

In June 1998 the New Deal for 25+ was introduced which provides a Gateway provision, an employment option and Education and training opportunity for all of those who are aged over 25+ and have been unemployed for 18 months or more. A further element was added in December 1998 in the form of a pilot which provided an individually tailored three month intensive activity period.

Other, voluntary New Deal initiatives are also in place, each targeted at a different group, with advice and counselling and different employment and training provision tailored to meet the needs of that group. These include the New Deal for Lone Parents, The NewDeal for Disabled People, The New Deal for Partners of Unemployed People and plans are underway for the launch of the New Deal 50+ in April 2000.


Worktrack, a waged temporary employment programme was introduced in Northern Ireland in 1 August 1999. Its focus is on developing within previously long-term unemployed adults, those skills and competencies which will allow them to seek, find and retain employment. Worktrack places will devote between 30% to 45% of time to training and training related activity.

Young People

All this activity for adults builds upon work undertaken throughout the education system to promote learning throughout life in basic and key skills. They include the National Literacy and Numeracy Strategies and work to embed key skills in qualifications for 16-19 and beyond.

The Government is particularly concerned to focus attention on those young people about to leave school who have become disaffected with education/society in general , or those who have left school and have gone into jobs with no training or who are doing nothing at all. The Investing in Young People (IiYP) Strategy is targeted primarily at this group and supports the New National Targets for Education and Training.

One of the key themes of IiYP is outreach and personal support and a number of initiatives are already in place, including:

‘Bridging The Gap’

In July 1998, the Prime Minister asked the Social Exclusion Unit to look into the number of young people not in education, employment or training; to analyse the reasons why; and to put forward proposals to reduce the problem.

The Social Exclusion Unit's response to this remit, 'Bridging The Gap - New Opportunities For 16-18 Year Olds Not In Education, Employment Or Training', was launched on 13 July 1999 by the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Education and Employment.

Main conclusions of the report:

Key Recommendations:

Government departments are now working together to implement the ideas contained in 'Bridging The Gap', which will be developed alongside other key anti-exclusion measures that the Government is putting in place, for example, reducing teenage pregnancies and combating drug use. The Government is keenly aware that central to the success of its drive to tackle social exclusion is the ability to translate its policies into effectively co-ordinated and delivered local services.

Youth Support Service

The White Paper Learning to Succeed announced a new support service for young people. The aim of the new service will be to deliver high quality, consistent and co-ordinated advice and support which meets the individual needs of young people. Services will be delivered through a network of personal advisers. The new service will build on current best practice in the Careers Service, youth service and other statutory and voluntary services for young people.

The Service will provide appropriate advice and support to all young people aged 13-19 to help them gain the greatest possible benefit from education and training and to overcome any personal barriers to remaining in learning. This will mean working with both disaffected young people who have dropped out of learning, or who are at risk of dropping out, to help them return to learning; as well as with young people in schools and colleges to assist them in making appropriate choices.

The new service will need to draw in a wide range of organisations at local level, e.g. Youth Offending Teams, Drug Action Teams and voluntary organisations such as Foyers, to ensure a streamlined service, and one which builds on existing good practice.

The Basic Skills Agency

There are a number of key bodies responsible for helping widen participation and raise standards in basic skills and basic education. The funding and inspectorate bodies play a key role for their sectors be they amongst training providers or further and adult education colleges.

The Basic Skills Agency (BSA) is the national development agency (for England and Wales) funded by the Government to raise standards in basic skills. The BSA was established in 1980 under the name of the Adult Literacy and Basic Skills Unit, (ALBSU). Following a review in 1994/5 it changed its name to the Basic Skills Agency, and extended its remit to cover children as well as adults. Funding by the DfEE to the Agency has increased in recent years in line with its range of responsibilities. 4.3 million was provided in 1998-99 which will increase in 1999-2000 to 5.1million. A new Basic Skills Unit will be set up in Northern Ireland shortly.

The BSA plays a key role in developing new initiatives and programmes for use by young people and adults and in the provision of research, information and promotion of the issues to teachers, institutions and learners. Some examples of their work include:

Further Education

Further education (FE) makes a considerable contribution to basic skills and basic education. It is the main provider of learning opportunities for Government and other training initiatives. Its effectiveness is monitored by the Further Education Funding Council (FEFC) in England and colleges are reviewed once every four years.

The 1998 FEFC Inspectorate report on Basic Education expressed concern with the standards in the basic education programme area. In their view, although one of the most difficult and demanding areas in FE, basic education, rarely receives adequate attention and support from college managers. Inspection grades awarded to colleges' basic education provision between 1994 and 1997 were consistently around 10% lower than for other provision. There is also an increased rate of recruitment of inexperienced, under-trained and part-time teachers All this is reflected in a generally low achievement rate of 60% of learners achieving their primary learning goal, which drops to 43% for literacy and 44% for numeracy.

On the positive side, the report commented that FE clearly has a key role to play in widening participation in learning. Disadvantaged students in particular see basic education courses as a starting point on the way to more advanced or specialised education, or employment. More than half the colleges surveyed did provide effective provision and many of them provided learning in a wide variety of modes and settings. Students were motivated and teachers were conscientious.

The 1997 Report of the Tomlinson Committee set out a programme for improved provision for students with learning difficulties and/or disabilities in FE and brought the concept of "inclusive learning" into focus. The shift from educational courses solely directed towards basic education to learning support enables more students to follow a vocational course whilst receiving additional support for basic education needs, particularly literacy, numeracy and English as Another Language.

The "inclusive learning" approach avoids the idea that the difficulty lies with the student and instead focuses on the capacity of educational institutions to understand and respond to the individual student's needs. A recent Basic Skills Agency report has also identified the crucial importance of colleges supporting basic skills students in their education.

Both the Government and the FE sector warmly welcomed the Tomlinson report and many of the recommendations have already been implemented. In May 1997 the FEFC allocated 1 million for stage one of a three-year quality initiative to take forward the recommendation for a programme of staff development to develop inclusive learning in colleges. The FEFC committed a further 4 million to support this initiative over the following 2 years. The FE sector in Northern Ireland is equally committed to widening participation in adult learning and the Department of Education for Northern Ireland will be allocating specific resources for this purpose and for developing local partnerships.

The Moser Group

In May 1998 the Secretary of State for Education and Employment asked Sir Claus Moser, Chairman of the Basic Skills Agency, to chair a working group to draw up proposals for a broadly based Government strategy to raise standards and improve access to basic skills provision for adults. The Group's members were drawn from adult further education, industry, national and local government and other key players in the basic skills arena.

The Group found a number of significant weaknesses in the delivery of basic skills education (confirming many of those found by the Further Education Funding Council in their inspection report of 1998). These included:

The recommendations in the Moser Group Report, A Fresh Start: Improving Basic Skills for Adults, published on 25 April 1999, are designed to address all of these problems. They propose a National Strategy to comprise:

The Government welcomed the report and a strategy group, led by Baroness Blackstone, has decided upon the most effective way forward, building on the proposals in the report and the wide range of current Government initiatives. Important first steps included commissioning the Qualifications and Curriculum Agency (QCA) to produce national standards for literacy and numeracy at entry level and levels one and two (by March 2000) as a basis for curriculum and qualifications development and the start of programmes of intensive teacher training. Many of the Fresh Start recommendations will be taken forward as part of mainstream post-16 developments arising out of the Government's White Paper Learning to Succeed, particularly the establishment of the new Learning and Skills Council and its links with Local Lifelong Learning Partnerships. The National Strategy will be published in early 2000.

Adult Basic Education in Scotland

A wide range of providers are involved in basic education. The 1999 report "Communities: Change Through Learning" has recommended that local councils should develop community learning plans. We will explore how Adult Education is to be addressed by local authorities in community learning plans but as part of the process we would expect them to develop an adult literacy strategy which will respond to local needs.

The Scottish Office Education and Industry Department has recently commissioned Edinburgh City Council to undertake a development project which will look at the literacy and basic skills needs of adults. The project will identify good practice, guidelines on teaching and learning, guidelines on training for full and part-time staff and volunteers and a system of self-evaluation to support continuous improvement. The project will receive 90,000 and will run for three years to August 2000. The results will be disseminated throughout Scotland,

The Scottish Community Education Council supports a network of adult basic education co-ordinators to share good practice in developing learning skills. In addition, the Scottish Adult Education Forum brings together the community education, further and higher education planners and providers of community based adult education in Scotland.

In Scotland there are two distinct initiatives aimed at helping unemployed adults with poor basic skills; Training for Work and the New Futures Fund (NFF). Introduced in 1995, Training for Work (TfW) is the Government’s main training programme for adults aged 25 or over who are unemployed for 6 months or longer (training provision for 18-24 year olds being delivered through New Deal). The aim of the programme is to increase the employability of the individual by developing basic, and work related skills through the provision of appropriate training and structured work activity in line with assessed needs. Immediate entry is available for those unemployed people who are disadvantaged in the labour market. As of December 1998, there were 10,480 participants in-training on the programme.

The NFF Initiative seeks to work with a wide range of voluntary organisations in a distinctive Scottish approach to Welfare to Work to tackle social exclusion. The main focus is on young people aged 16 - 34. The main objectives of the NFF are:

Adult Basic Education in Wales

A report published by the Basic Skills Agency in July 1997 showed the extent of the learning deficit in basic skills in Wales. Some of the lowest scores were found in the 16-18 age group. Those who left school at 16 were over four times more likely to have poor basic skills compared to those who left education at 21. One in four adults of working age had poor or very poor reading and number skills. Less than 10,000 were receiving basic skills tuition in Wales in 1998.

The lifelong learning Green Paper for Wales, 'Learning is for Everyone', highlighted this deficit and proposed to bring it under a single learning strategy. Work is now underway on developing the National Learning Strategy for Wales, which is being considered by the National Assembly for Wales which took up office in May 1999.

The National Assembly Education Department provides funding to the BSA for a Family Literacy scheme in Wales. This year the sum awarded was 300,000. Over 900,000 has been spent on the programme over the last three years and outcomes have been very encouraging. A sister initiative, this time tackling poor numeracy, has now started.

Significantly, the 26 further education colleges in Wales, which provide learning for over 200,000 students, now include basic skills training, including problem solving, in their programmes.

In addition to UK wide programmes, such as New Deal and Individual Learning Accounts, Wales has a number of specific programmes including Skillseekers (work based training for young people aged 16-24), Modern Apprenticeships (providing employment with work-place and off the job training) and National Traineeships which follow the same pattern as Modern Apprenticeships.

A Youth Pathfinder Programme, called Youth Gateway is currently being designed to provide guidance to school leavers who are not following an academic route to the world of work and training. It intends to provide a full menu of training and development opportunities that can be tailored to meet the needs of each individual. All 16 and 17 year olds leaving full time education will be eligible for assistance, and will be appointed personal advisers to support them during the transition to further training, education or employment.

Adult Education in Northern Ireland

The Open Learning Access Centre Network offers a range of flexible and accessible courses and other training opportunities to help improve the employability and skills of those unwilling or unable for whatever reason to avail of traditional education and training opportunities - in particular the unemployed, persons with disability, and women wishing to return to the workforce. The training on offer consists mainly of IT, pre-vocational and personal development programmes.

The Open Learning Centre programme is funded by the Training and Employment Agency as part of the Lifelong Learning agenda. The approach to learning offered by the twelve centres located throughout Northern Ireland is consistent with that of the emerging University for Industry.

T&EA Basic and Key Skills Resource Centres

Since 3 June 1996 the Training and Employment Agency (T&EA) has supported a network of three Basic and Key Skills Resource Centres, strategically located throughout Northern Ireland, to provide the appropriate advice, guidance and facilities which are essential to support the staff involved in Key Skills and Basic Skills training and assessment being delivered by 130 Recognised Training Organisations (RTOs) to trainees in its Jobskills programme.

Support is available for staff at all levels within the RTOs, e.g. managers, vocational tutors, specialist tutors, assessors and internal verifiers.

The Resource Centres also permit usage by other organisations which wish to browse or research Key Skills and Basic Skills.


Jobskills is the Training and Employment Agency’s primary vocational training programme for young people. It overarches three distinct but interlinked strands namely; Access (NVQ Level 1), Traineeships (NVQ Level 2) and Modern Apprenticeships (NVQ Level 3), each addressing the needs of a particular group of trainees and increasingly meeting employer’s requirements.

The aim of Jobskills Access is to improve the employability of young people entering the labour market who, due to a disability or other disadvantage, are assessed as requiring pre-vocational, basic and/or foundation skills before progressing to NVQ Level 2 or equivalent training.

Over the past twelve months the Agency has been reviewing the Jobskills Access provision. The review has been informed by demonstration programmes, developed by a number of providers to test alternative approaches to training, by an evaluation of those programmes carried out by the Education and Training Inspectorate (ETI), and by studying examples of special needs provision elsewhere. Consequently the Programme has been redesigned to provide enhanced assistance for those who require significant extra or specialist support in order to benefit fully from their participation in training, and to allow a more flexible approach to meeting their needs.

The Agency’s careers staff provide pre-entry guidance to young people and continue to work closely with them during training particularly in their initial 13 week intensive assessment period.

The new arrangements will be continually monitored and the Agency will give consideration to further changes which it is planned will be introduced from September 2000 in the following areas:

- improved induction arrangements

- strengthened initial assessment procedures

- revised trainee categories

- review of funding arrangements.

Adult Basic Education in Northern Ireland

There have been many providers of adult basic education in Northern Ireland in both the statutory and non-statutory sectors for many years; and yet there remain problems with basic literacy and numeracy for a considerable proportion of the adult population. Further, those with poor basic skills will become even more disadvantaged over the next few years as competency in IT increasingly becomes a basic skill for everyday life.

The Northern Ireland policy statement on Lifelong Learning was published jointly in early 1999 by the Department of Education and the Training and Employment Agency - "Lifelong Learning - a New Learning Culture for all". This highlighted, inter alia, the need to put urgently into action arrangements for addressing the adult basic education problem. In addition to the UK-wide initiatives such as the University for Industry, New Deal, Individual Learning Accounts and a National Framework for Qualifications, a range of local initiatives is being implemented.

A major contributor to the provision of adult education in Northern Ireland is the community/voluntary sector. In addition to the specific initiatives mentioned, local community groups are being encouraged to develop partnerships with the larger statutory sector and with local government in order to identify and meet the learning needs of adults in their localities, to provide progression routes for learners and to maximise on scarce resources and expertise.

A new credit framework - the Northern Ireland Credit Accumulation and Transfer System (NICATS) - which will provide a single credit system across the further education and higher education sectors, is being developed to help maximise opportunities for participation and achievement in education and training at all levels. This will provide greater flexibility and choice to learners because they will be able to tailor their learning on a unit basis rather than on a full qualification basis and in manageable amounts to suit them individually.

The Northern Ireland Open College Network will also be a major contributor to the development of adult learning, particularly learning that is pre-vocational in nature, through accrediting the small steps required to encourage hesitant learners to build up a portfolio of credits recognised under NICATS.

Dimension 6: Increased acquisition of the knowledge, skills and values required for better living and sound and sustainable development made available through all education channels (including the mass media, social action, with effectiveness assessed in terms of behavioural change)

Schools can promote personal responsibility by teaching children the values of self-reliance, caring for the environment and caring for others. Personal, social and health education is an integral and important element of the secondary school curriculum but the curriculum could also do more to give young people a better understanding of their responsibility as citizens on a local, national and international level, and a fuller appreciation of environmental issues.

Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE)

The Government has made clear its commitment to raise standards of literacy and numeracy. Alongside this, there is an urgent need to address wider aspects of young people’s social and personal development so that they can understand themselves and their actions and take responsible decisions about their lives. Many schools explore these issues through broad programmes of Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE). PSHE can develop self-confidence and self-esteem, challenge stereotyping, sexism and racism as well as fostering tolerance and respect for others. It can also tackle the wider problems of social exclusion like unwanted teenage pregnancies and drug abuse.

The Government wishes to strengthen and support PSHE and ensure this important area of a school’s work receives the recognition it deserves. Ministers set up a National Advisory Group to develop a coherent national framework, building on existing good practice and spreading it to all schools. Its report was published in June 1999 and the Group is now moving on to its second phase of work, which will include considering training in PSHE skills for teachers and parenthood education in secondary schools.

In addition to raising the profile and status of PSHE, the Government is committed to ensuring that all our young people have the opportunity to learn about citizenship. Education for citizenship is vital to revive and sustain an active democratic society in the new century. It is central to the drive to create a modern caring society where everyone has a stake in its future. We are alone among our European partners in not having some form of citizenship education in the curriculum. As a result, the Secretary of State for Education and Employment set up an Advisory Group which identified three key strands to effective citizenship - social and moral responsibility, community involvement and political literacy. Its report was published in September 1998.

The recommendations of both the PSHE Advisory Group and the Advisory Group on Citizenship were fed into the review of the National Curriculum carried out by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA). On 13 May 1999, the Secretary of State published his proposals for the revised National Curriculum. These included a joint non-statutory framework for PSHE and citizenship in primary schools and a Statutory Order for a new foundation subject for citizenship in secondary schools.

Following the statutory consultation the QCA submitted its report and recommendations to the Secretary of State on his proposals. The Secretary of State announced his decisions on the revised National Curriculum will apply from September 2000. He confirmed that he was happy to accept the QCA's advice to proceed with the proposed frameworks for citizenship and PSHE. The QCA will be issuing national curriculum documents on each subject to schools in November.

Education for Sustainable Development

In 1992, the National Curriculum introduced for the first time a legal duty on schools to teach pupils about environmental issues, including sustainable development. The programmes of study for geography contain a number of requirements and opportunities to study these issues. For instance, at key stage 3 (ages 11-14), there are compulsory themes entitled "Ecosystems" and "Environmental issues" which include conservation and sustainable development. Other themes such as "Population" and "Settlements" also provide opportunities to study the impact of human activity on the earth's resources. Environmental issues also arise in the requirements for both science and technology, covering animal and plant life, the environmental effects of technological change, exploitation of resources, and environmental considerations in the development of design and technology capability.

In 1998 the Government established the Sustainable Development Education Panel under the chairmanship of Sir Geoffrey Holland, Vice-Chancellor of Exeter University. The Panel's brief is to identify gaps and opportunities in current education and training about sustainable development, identify priorities for action, highlight good practice, and report annually to the Secretary of State for Education and Employment and the Deputy Prime Minister with recommendations, where appropriate, for action by Government and others. In April 1999 the Panel published its first annual report, which proposes a ten year programme for education for sustainable development in schools, youth services, further and higher education, the world of work, and in the home. The Government will consider the report carefully in the light of wide-ranging consultation.

Education about international development

The DfEE is represented on the Development Awareness Working Group set by the Department for International Development, and has contributed to discussions about the role of development issues in the school curriculum. The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority has considered recommendations by the Working Group, designed to secure the educational aims of the International Development White Paper, and has taken them on board in its review of the National Curriculum.

Partnership with parents:

Home-School Agreements

Home-school agreements enable parents to be explicitly involved in their children’s education. They aim to promote a better understanding by schools, pupils and their parents of their respective rights and responsibilities.

Recent legislation ensures that there will be more parent governors on school governing bodies and new representation for parents on local authority committees dealing with education. School governing bodies are required to adopt a home-school agreement in consultation with parents. The agreement explains:

All agreements should include expectations about the standard of education the school will proved, the ethos of the school, regular and punctual attendance, discipline, homework, and the information schools and parents will give to one another. Parents will be asked to sign a declaration in support of the agreement.

School Community Links

The concept of community education has had a long history in England. A strong movement grew up in the 1970s in a number of areas, for instance, Cambridgeshire, Leicestershire, and North Yorkshire, which sought to promote community based learning in schools and the use of schools as community resources. However, the years after 1980 and into the 1990s saw budgets for community education cut in many areas and a generally sceptical view from Government about the positive impact it could have. Many local authorities and schools perceived the drive toward raising standards as counter to the community education ethos and cut back their activities.

The new Government’s ‘Excellence in Schools’ White Paper indicated the importance of links between schools and local communities. This view was taken forward by the recent Teachers’ Green Paper which stressed that the Government wanted to see more schools providing learning opportunities for people of all ages, including parents of pupils at the school.

Governing bodies of maintained schools are required by law to consider the desirability of making schools’ premises available to the community. Many schools are already very outward looking and welcome parents and others from local communities into their schools to participate in many and varied activities. Many of the DfEE’s initiatives encourage the involvement of schools in meeting the educational needs of both parents and the wider community. They are not necessarily aimed directly at schools but many schools can and do participate. Such initiatives include: Sure Start, Study Support, Family Literacy and Numeracy, out of school childcare, the Adult and Community Fund, Early Years Excellence Centres etc.

The Department will issue a booklet in 1999 giving schools guidance on school - community links. At the same time the Community Education Development Centre, with DfEE funding, will publish a much more comprehensive Toolkit of about 120 pages offering schools advice and support on how to develop as a community resource. The Schools Plus Policy Action Team at the DfEE was established following the Social Exclusion Unit’s report on ‘Neighbourhood Renewal’. The Team is looking at how ‘Schools Plus’ activities, which include study support activities, involving parents in their children’s education, as well as how schools can engage the community more widely, can help reduce failure in the most disadvantaged areas. The Team’s Action Plan with targets will be forwarded to the Social Exclusion Unit in December 1999.

Use of ICT in Education

The National Grid for Learning (NGFL)

The UK Government regards the development of the use of information and communications technology (ICT) in schools as of crucial importance. It will help the Government to meet its new targets for literacy and numeracy, boost performance across the curriculum and provide pupils and others with the skills they need in tomorrow’s economy and society. That is why it is developing the National Grid for Learning. The Grid is both an architecture of educationally valuable content on the Internet, and a programme for developing the means to access that content in schools, libraries, colleges and elsewhere.

The Grid will use a range of infrastructures, including digital television and broadband technologies, as well as conventional telephone connections. UK industry is being invited to provide "managed services" by supplying, maintaining and renewing ICT networks, either on a local or national basis. All schools can now be connected to the Internet for free and call charges are as low as 1 per pupil per year. Further discussions with the telecommunications industry are continuing. Currently, over 12,000 schools have access to the Internet

It is planned that the following targets will be met by 2002:


In Scotland a review of the National Guidelines for Environmental Studies, for pupils between the ages of 5-14, will be completed by 2000. This will assist schools in the implementation of Environmental Studies and provide added emphasis for the place of science, health education and personal and social education in the 5-14 curriculum.

In order to extend the use of ICT in schools, funding amounting to 62 million will be provided over three years to ensure the implementation of the National Grid for Learning by 2002. In addition, the Scottish Virtual Teacher Centre has been developed to provide on-line materials for teachers and pupils. Funding of 23 million is also being provided to train teachers in the uses of ICT.

In Scotland the Advisory Group on Sustainable Development (AGSD) published its final report in March 1999. The Group was set up in 1994 to examine the Scottish contribution to sustainable development. The work of the group - reflected in its report - has played a large part in changing attitudes and raising awareness of these vital issues. The recommendations in the report offer an excellent opportunity for the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Executive to increase the emphasis on sustainable development. The Group recommended a ten point Action Plan to the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Executive which would create a basis for a more sustainable Scotland. This would be a Scotland that uses all of its resources wisely and that uses only its fair share of world resources. It would integrate social inclusion, environmental responsibility and economic vitality. The ten Action Points for the Scottish parliament included the commitment to put sustainable development at the heart of education, and education at the heart of sustainable development.
Northern Ireland

All Northern Ireland schools are now connected to the NGfL three years ahead of the United Kingdom target of 2002, through NINE Connect, the Northern Ireland Network for Education ( NINE Connect is a collection of on-line services developed in line with the aims of the NGfL to support learning and teaching and schools’ administration. It provides every school with:

The Classroom 2000 managed service project, which is one of the largest and most comprehensive information systems public/private partnerships in the UK covering curricular and administrative systems, is expected to begin its 30-month roll-out to all schools from April 2000. Its main objective is to provide schools with the ICT infrastructure to support teaching and learning.

It is essential for teachers to have the confidence and competence to use these services to their best advantage. 2.5 million has been made available to raise teachers’ basic ICT skills to be followed by training in the subject use of ICT funded by the New Opportunities Fund.

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