Basic Skills Review by yaofenjin

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									       Birmingham and Solihull
       Adult Basic Skills Review




             Undertaken on behalf of
Birmingham and Solihull Learning and Skills Council,
via Birmingham Core Skills Development Partnership


                 (November 2003)
                                Contents

1. Context of the review                                            p. 2

2. Scope of the review                                              p. 3

3. Information, advice, guidance and promotion                      p. 5

4. Levels of need
    4.1 Description of needs
    4.2 Meeting the needs of employers and employees

5. Participation in basic skills learning
    5.1 Participation in LSC funded programmes
    5.2 Participation in other programmes
    5.3 Potential for widening work with key target groups for the LSC
          and for the national strategy
    5.4 Gaps in participation

6. Diversity of learning opportunities
    6.1 Range of providers
    6.2 Variety of modes and models
    6.3 Use of ICT as a tool for basic skills improvement
    6.4 Embedding of basic skills into other activities
    6.5 Role of the voluntary/community sector

7. Quality
    7.1 Quality standards and initiatives
    7.2 Outcomes from inspection reports
    7.3 Benchmarking against quality standards
    7.4 Staffing, management and capacity
    7.5 Use of volunteers, learning assistants and mentors
    7.6 Links between referrals, assessment and learning plans
    7.7 Achievement, progression and tracking issues

8. Implementing the ‘Skills for Life’ adult basic skills strategy
     8.1 Progress in implementing the strategy locally
     8.2 Attaining short and medium term targets

9. Potential for further developments
    9.1 Next steps in implementing the Skills for Life strategy in
         Birmingham and Solihull
    9.2 Shifting attitudes to adult basic skills
    9.3 Adult basic skills and Neighbourhood Renewal
    9.4 Potential for Floor Targets
    9.5 Area based activity
    9.6 Clarity of roles
    9.7 Funding Issues
    9.8 Adult Basic Skills Strategy Group
10. Conclusions, recommendations and actions taken as a result of the
    review

11. Statement from Chair of the review process.
Section 1: Context of the review

Adult basic skills is currently a national priority through the ‘Skills for Life’ adult
basic skills strategy. Launched in March 2001, this is a comprehensive drive
to increase the uptake of basic skills improvement activities; to improve the
quality of support and provision offered by a wide range of organisations; to
raise the levels of skills outcomes against nationally-agreed curriculum levels;
and to put basic skills work appropriately onto everyone’s agenda.

The strategy links across to the overall skills and employability agenda; the
antipoverty and neighbourhood renewal agenda; the schools standards
agenda; and the wider social inclusion agenda.

The ‘Skills for Life’ mission is to give adults in England the opportunity to
acquire the skills for active participation in twenty-first century society and to
engage their energy and commitment. The goal is to reduce the number of
adults with literacy and numeracy difficulties to the levels of our main
international competitors – that is from one in five adults to one in ten or
better. The priority is to target those groups where literacy and numeracy
difficulties are known to be common and where intervention can have the
greatest impact. These groups include unemployed people and other benefit
claimants; prisoners and those supervised in the community; public sector
employees; workers in low skilled jobs; other groups at risk of social
exclusion. The strategy aims to focus on delivering higher standards;
increasing demand; improving supply; meeting learners’ needs through new
technology; establishing national core curricula for adults; introducing new
national literacy and numeracy assessments; using a national research centre
to identify and further develop best practice; and enhancing quality assurance
and inspection processes.

The national increased focus on adult basic skills is continued at regional,
subregional and locality level through the variety of planning, funding, delivery
and support organisations.

The past year has thus seen an acceleration in the amount of change
underway. Adapting to the new speed of change has been described by a
manager in one local organisation as ‘like stepping into a fast-flowing river’.
Planners and providers have had to manage the turbulence to maximum
effect, in a geographical area that was already benefiting from a high degree
of adult basic skills development activity and which is working at, as well as
responding to, the national edge of strategy implementation.

This review has been commissioned in order to take stock in this time of rapid
change; to focus on the specific themes of adult basic skills; and to highlight
potential next steps. The outcomes from the review coincide with the
announcements from the latest Comprehensive Spending Review. Some of
the proposals within those announcements link across to the topics covered
by this review, specifically a new target of 1.5 million adults to have improved
their basic skills by 2007.
This maintains the momentum of the 2001-2004 period and reconfirms that
Skills for Life is seen genuinely as a long-term strategy for change and not
simply a shorter-term set of infrastructure shifts. The additional target of 1
million adults in the workforce to reach NVQ2 level in the period 2003-2006
will similarly require the sort of focused dual attention that is being taken
within the employer pilot in Birmingham and elsewhere.

The Review ended at around the same time as the confirmation of ‘Success
for All’ as a modernising strategy for further education. The intentions of that
strategy coincide with some of the gaps identified in the Review i.e. the need
to raise aspirations re outcomes for basic skills learners; the need to prioritise
adult basic skills as a key growth area; the need to strengthen the use of ICT
to deliver the basic skills curriculum; the need to meet employer needs in
more systematic ways; the need for more leadership on key issues; and the
shift to 3 year planning models that guarantee minimum levels of outcomes.
The Success for All strategy reconfirms the need for increased access for
adults to excellent basic skills improvement.

This review of adult basic skills is therefore both timely and necessary in order
to get a more robust ‘fix’, in a shifting context, on what is currently happening,
what is not happening and what needs to happen in order to significantly raise
levels of adult basic skills across Birmingham and Solihull.
Section 2: Scope of the review

•   This review has covered the whole range of adult basic skills activity:
     o Learning and Skills Council funded; Job Centre Plus; Business Link;
         Regeneration funded; Local Education Authority/voluntary sector
         funded; European funded
     o Literacy; Numeracy; ESOL/Language support
     o Basic skills for people with learning difficulties and disabilities

•   It has been applied across the full range of settings:
       o vocational training; work related/work place; family learning;
          community/voluntary; via offender services; via
          housing/health/libraries etc; adult/further education

•   Its intention is to create insights that can be used to inform future strategy
    and planning:
      o of local Learning and Skills Council/LEAs/Job Centre Plus
      o of Core Skills Development Partnership
      o in relation to the local implementation of the national adult basic skills
           strategy
      o relating to other reviews (planned or underway) of 16-19 learning;
           adult & community learning; etc
      o at regional and subregional levels

•   The review work has made explicit linkages
     o with Learning Gateway; Connexions
     o with youth justice processes
     o with neighbourhood renewal processes
     o with Learndirect activity
     o with trade union activity
     o with school standards agenda
     o with voluntary sector strategy; workforce development strategy
     o with regional development agendas
     o with key skills issues
     o with other reviews
     o with the alignment of organisational plans/area plans/national
         strategy
     o with national programmes and developments
     o with a range of funding streams/development opportunities
     o with the various plans of funders and providers

This Review deliberately did not undertake work that was to be covered by the
planned Adult and Community Learning Review i.e. geographical patterns of
provision; quality of venues etc. Where general issues have been addressed,
these have been from the specific perspective of adult basic skills.

The review has been managed by the Birmingham Core Skills Development
Partnership and, as such, has had active involvement (at the specification
stage, the exploratory stage, the interim reporting stage etc) of a range of key
partner organisations.
The detailed work has relied on Philida Schellekens and Jim Pateman, two
well-respected national consultants, who have met with planners and
managers; brought together focus groups; visited or surveyed the range of
providers; reviewed plans, strategies and reports; made comparisons with
other areas; and helped to keep this work located within the larger national
pictures. In turn they have been able to draw on the time and expertise of
particular people brought in around specific topics.

Supporting desk review work and data analysis work was undertaken by the
Birmingham Core Skills Development Partnership. This drew on plans of a
range of organisations, returns from questionnaires, a variety of surveys and
audits, and the information (including views of teachers and learners) from the
Pathfinder activity. The Review has therefore been inclusive across the
widest variety of inputs, and wide ranging across topics covered.

A review steering group has met 5 times and has had senior representation
from:
          - Birmingham and Solihull College Principals’ network
          - Solihull LEA
          - Birmingham LEA – Family learning Service
          - Birmingham LEA – Adult Education Service
          - Birmingham and Solihull Learning and Skills Council
          - Birmingham Voluntary Service Council
          - Careers Education Business Partnership/Connexions
          - Birmingham and Solihull Job Centre Plus
          - Learndirect
          - Learning and Skills Development Agency
          - Basic Skills Agency
          - Adult Basic Skills Strategy Unit
          - Advantage West Midlands

This group, and the stages of the review, benefited from the oversight and
guidance of Barry Brooks, Head of the National Adult Basic Skills Strategy
Unit. Data analysis work has been undertaken by Birmingham and Solihull
Learning and Skills Council, by Opinion Research Business, by Be
Consultancy and by Cambridge Training and Development. In all the review
has drawn on inputs from more than 200 individuals and organisations.

This review is a specific activity undertaken at the request of the local
Learning and Skills Council. It sits, at the same time, within a flow of
continuous review of various aspects of adult basic skills developments
across the area and will feed into other ongoing reviews i.e. it is a specific but
not isolated undertaking.

At first reading some aspects of the review report may come across as more
negative than intended. It is important, therefore, to say at the outset that the
situation of adult basic skills in Birmingham and Solihull was felt to be very
positive. National strategy implementation is being taken seriously; there is a
strong sense of purpose; planners and providers work well together; there is
an adequate volume and variety of provision; the quality of provision is
satisfactory across this variety. The need, now, is to highlighting the areas
that still challenge us all, and to identify ways forward in relation to these
challenges.

Within the timescale of the review (designed to be undertaken over a period of
5 months) some of the earlier findings were already being acted on by the end
of the review period i.e. it was not the kind of external review where actions
await reported recommendations but a reflexive, externally-moderated review
that attempted to capture the patterns of change as they were happening and
to chart out some future potential pathways.
Section 3: Information, advice, guidance and promotion

Information, Advice and Guidance Partnerships can help employers identify
literacy and numeracy skills needs among their staff, and can provide wider
advice on appropriate skills training opportunities in the local area. Member
organisations can offer high quality information and guidance to members of
the public wanting to improve their skills. These functions apply equally to
those who may have low levels of literacy, numeracy or English language
skills. Information, Advice and Guidance networks, therefore, need to ensure
that staff in their constituent organisations are properly trained to identify
clients with poor basic skills and make suggestions and referrals quickly to
match the person’s need with the most appropriate opportunities for
addressing these needs.

Birmingham and Solihull network is large, having more than 220 members.
This gives it good community penetration and excellent links to target groups.
Its size also reflects the complexity of the patterns of support organisations.
Within this complexity, it is currently somewhat difficult for all advisers to
provide reliable and appropriate information. Some opportunities are missed,
e.g. in learndirect and UKOnline centres, to offer broader information and
guidance. The centrally-located Learning Shop handles several thousand
enquiries per year and maintains information from across the network.
Currently around 4% of enquiries at the Learning Shop are from people
wanting to improve their basic skills, with most being referred to adult
education or colleges.

Information about basic skills provision still tends to focus on 1 or 2 types of
provision, without taking the full range of basic skills support into account.
There is a lack of co-ordinated information on provision even across providers
in the same broad locality or targeting the same type of clients.

This is being addressed by a revision of the ESOL directory, with information
on different providers, contact details, details on levels and type of provision,
etc, with the inclusion of specific information (e.g. advice relevant for asylum-
seekers and refugees). Where advisers want to rely on resources that are
easy and quick to use, this is in paper format. It could also be made
accessible via the www.learninginformationpoint.co.uk website, and could be
extended into a combined wider basic skills guide.

Information, advice and guidance workers may not be basic skills specialists
but increasingly have a role in appropriately judging whether someone’s basic
skills levels are affecting their learning and work options. The distinctions are
made between recognition of the possibility of low basic skills, appropriate
screening (to identify and record the likelihood of a basic skills need), initial
assessment (to identify skills levels) and diagnostic assessment (to explore
the details of skills achieved and needed). These distinctions are not always
clear to workers who offer first steps into basic skills improvements. The level
of turnover of staff means that there is a need for constant refreshing of
awareness and understanding.
It may be too ideal to expect every librarian, every business adviser, every
personal adviser, every careers officer, every youth worker, etc to be able to
give basic skills information, advice, guidance, screening, assessment and
diagnosis to members of the public who they meet a part of their normal work.
Services such as guidance and assessment often require specific knowledge
and skills, and may not be appropriate for many front-line information staff.

A more realistic aim may be for a tiered set of support mechanisms,
appropriate to people's jobs. However, everyone should be able to make
early ‘screening’ judgements appropriately. This may simply draw on an
enhanced basic skills awareness or may use an appropriate screening tool.

All information, advice and guidance workers may not be fully aware of basic
skills issues, may not be familiar or comfortable with screening tools that
currently exist, or may feel that current tools are inappropriate to their context.
They do need to know where different types of support are available, and be
proactive in making referrals. There remains a difference in outlook between
an approach that stresses screening and referral, and an approach that
stresses helping people decide where they want to go with their life and the
place basic skills enhancement might have in this. The whole area of adult
basic skills advice continues to be over-influenced by an attitude to basic skills
needs as something that needs to be ‘hidden’ and approached by stealth
rather than made overt. Information, advice, guidance and promotion are all
currently, to a degree, hindered by inappropriate attitudes to basic skills by
key intermediaries.

National promotional campaigns have been effective in stimulating new
enquiries about adult basic skills opportunities. There were an estimated
2,000 enquiries from adults in this area to the ‘Get On’ hotline after the early
TV promotions. It used the learndirect number as the way of channelling
national enquiries to local advice and guidance mechanisms, but locally there
is still further to go to ensure that robust linkages are sustained between such
national enquiries and the current local learning opportunities data.

The network of community-based information points has a high level of
potential to drive forward key priorities. This is not being maximised in terms
of disseminating commonly-agreed key messages. This potential is not being
made full use of e.g. to have a concerted push on promoting NVQ2 level
opportunities; or basic skills; or work with young people.

Additional work can be done to include residents as community champions for
learning, including precise basic skills messages.

Basic skills promotion features in many organisational and strategic plans. A
planned, local, co-ordinated promotion would make a strong impact, on the
back of the national promotions. Various vehicles already exist for increased
promotion of the 'improve your basic skills and get on' message. These
include the information and guidance points; specific developments such as
the LSC workforce development pilot, Entry to Employment etc; the Business
Link support activities; key intermediaries such as Union Learning Reps; and
so on.

The range of possibilities can be brought together as part of a wider
‘promotion of learning and the benefits of learning’ campaign, directed via the
Lifelong Learning Partnership.

The conceptual model usually relied upon for promotional campaigns is one
that attempts to persuade individuals to join identified provision. An
alternative model recognises the 200,000+ adults who are already engaged
with structural programmes, around 80,000 or more of whom could relatively
easily raise their levels of basic skills, and to ‘internally’ promote the need to
address these needs.

Potential Developments:

 Information, Advice and Guidance network ensures all basic skills contact
  details are appropriately registered with national referral processes.
 Audit of basic skills awareness, screening and assessment training needs
  of network members, leading to planned costed programme of updating
  (linking, where appropriate, to new assessment tools to be available
  nationally in the autumn)
 Area-wide guides to types of support and provision to be produced
 Multi-agency promotional campaign, making use of wide range of
  mechanisms and drawing on some of the insights from the survey of need
  to use differentiated promotional messages, often via intermediary
  organisations or structures.
 Network’s capacity to promote key basic skills strategic
  messages/outcomes be made more use of.
 Front-line worker training to be revisited, with new content, against a
  revised estimate of continuing need
 Ensure that all learners, already in contact with programmes are aware of
  the possibilities for improving their basic skills
 Explore the use of community champions for learning, including basic
  skills
 Promotions to build more appropriate attitudes to, and understanding of,
  ‘basic skills’, particularly by key intermediaries
Section 4: Levels of Need

4.1 Description of Needs
   (a) Context
       Since 1990 Opinion Research Business has been measuring adult
       numeracy and literacy skills levels across England and Wales, on
       behalf of the Basic Skills Agency.

      The original national baseline survey was conducted using a
      representative sample of adults that was used to predict the levels of
      numeracy and literacy in every ward within England and Wales. Levels
      of need in Birmingham and Solihull were useful for planners and
      managers at the time. The figures were, however, based on a very
      small sample of people from this area and were generated by scaling
      up using a range of indicators for factors prevalent at that time. They
      usefully disaggregated the data to ward level but not beyond that. The
      levels of need were reported as low/very low and covered the lower
      levels of the current standards i.e. were mostly at Entry Level and part
      of Level 1. To an extent the original baseline study underrepresented
      the needs of ethnic minority groups.

      Birmingham Core Skills Development Partnership wanted to update
      their information about levels of needs in Birmingham and Solihull,
      using a large local sample to more adequately reflect the changed
      population of Birmingham and Solihull, to capture basic skills levels in
      2002, and to describe basic skills levels in terms of the new standards
      and skills descriptions.

      Opinion Research Business was therefore commissioned to conduct a
      survey of literacy and numeracy needs in Birmingham and Solihull
      between Nov 2001 and Jan 2002. Outcome conclusions were based
      on 1325 interviews and assessments in Birmingham and Solihull
      (giving a 97% accuracy).

      This is the first time such a detailed analysis of local need has been
      undertaken and, as such, this work is of interest not only to local
      providers and to the local Learning and Skills Council, but is also of
      interest as part of a wider contribution to national strategy
      developments. The approach used has since been taken up in a
      number of other LSC areas. For these reasons considerable care was
      taken with methodological issues and time was taken to have the
      approaches validated by other relevant people.

      This is one part of an ongoing attempt to establish data that is more
      reliable, more meaningful and more informative as a basis of planning
      decisions. The work is seen as a key step forward in the need to
      constantly refine data in order to get a better ‘fix’ on the variety and
      range of basic skills needs, as a basis for planning interventions. As
      such this work builds on the earlier excellent baselining work,
complements Household Surveys and lays the basis for further work to
get more segmented and sophisticated data.
It is currently being added to by other local surveys (e.g. of employers
and employees; of claimants) and will, no doubt, continue to be refined
as part of the overall development of adult basic skills work in the area.
It also forms part of ongoing information that can be set alongside
proposed national surveys of need, as a way of getting ever-more
robust triangulations of the rapidly shifting picture within Birmingham
and Solihull.

Although, in what follows, percentage numbers are shown against
levels and categorisations it always has to be remembered that:
    • the survey could only test certain skills (and did not for example
       test writing skills)
    • the survey did not include small groups of residents (e.g. those
       in prison; those in long stay hospital; those with strong special
       needs; people whose level of English was so low that they were
       not able to undertake any of the tasks etc). These account for
       around 5% of the population.
    • the weighting of data relied on the most recent profiles for
       population. These were for 1998, and the weightings can be
       redistributed once the 2001 population data is released
    • that adults are not ‘at a level’ but have a variety of skills that
       range across levels
    • whilst the absolute numbers are of interest, these will always
       only be indicative of levels of need (rather than precise
       numerical descriptions of need). What is of more interest is the
       various relative differences between various categorisations,
       and the implications that these may have for activity designed to
       make a difference.

Analysis of the survey allowed the data to be disaggregated by
geographical area; by gender; by work status; by work sector; by age;
by ethnicity etc. Analysis also enabled basic skills levels to be reported
alongside attitudes to learning; access to Internet; preferred mode of
learning; home language; religion etc. The full data set was available
for further analysis locally to unravel more detailed ‘stories’ re adult
basic skills in Birmingham and Solihull.

The new standards for adult basic skills are described in terms of
levels: Entry 1, Entry 2, Entry 3, Level 1 and Level 2. Entry 1 would
imply quite minimal skills at survival level, able to deal with basic
material only, needing sustained tuition for noticeable skills progress to
be made. Entry2/Entry 3 would imply needing both general support
and teaching of specific skills in order for the learner to be confident of
progress towards functional access to straightforward everyday
material. At, or near, Level 1 implies need for more
rehearsing/brushing up of specific skills in order to get a secure level of
proficiency. Level 2 implies the incorporation of skills to the extent that
they are reliable in their use, and able to be transferred to underpin
other career and social developments. This is the level needed to
ensure successful access to other training and to e.g. Health and
Safety materials.

The percentages of adults currently able to ‘achieve at each level’ are
as follows:

        Level                                     As a %

        Literacy Entry level 2                    93%
        Literacy Entry level 3                    88%
        Literacy Level 1                          85%
        Literacy Level 2                          82%


        Numeracy Entry level 2                    91%
        Numeracy Entry level 3                    81%
        Numeracy Level 1                          63%
        Numeracy Level 2                          50%

The figures indicate that there is a small but significant group of adults
with severe needs in both literacy and numeracy. Less than 5% of the
population would fall into the category ‘illiterate’ or ‘innumerate’. Yet
the image of people who can barely read or write or use numbers still
predominates in people’s perception of ‘basic skills’ when, in fact, basic
skills are defined as up to GCSE level. There are substantial groups of
adults with needs at Entry 3 level who will need sustained learning in
order to reach the higher skills levels. In literacy a further 20,000 need
more focused interventions to lift them to Level 1; and beyond that yet
another 20,000 who need to improve specific skills in order to move
from Level 1 to Level 2. There are greater levels of need in numeracy,
particularly at the higher levels.

The fall off in skills up the various levels holds up reasonably well for
literacy, but falls off dramatically at the higher levels for numeracy.


  100

   80

   60                                                   Literacy
   40                                                   Numeracy

   20

    0
            E2        E3         L1       L2
   Particular wards were identified, in previous surveys, as having
   relatively much lower levels of skills in literacy and numeracy. After 5
   years these same wards are still demonstrating relatively low skills
   levels. In such areas in Birmingham more than 21% of residents have
   below average literacy skills at Entry level and would be unlikely to
   currently achieve an Entry 3 level literacy accreditation. In similar
   areas in Solihull 12% of residents have below average skills at Entry
   Level.

   As indicated earlier the survey figures only tested particular skills and
   do not necessarily translate across to ‘all basic skills’. The survey
   population, also noted earlier, could not test those who were not able to
   answer simple questions in English. The survey tables thus
   overestimate the percentage of the population capable at literacy Entry
   level 2, and slightly underestimates the numeracy levels, if one were
   considering numerical skills alone rather than numerical problem
   solving, where the problem is stated in English.

   The survey answers not only showed variability across levels for each
   individual, but also showed the variability of abilities across different
   kinds of literacy and numeracy skills within each level. People may be
   confident in one kind of task at Level1, but not at other tasks at the
   same level. This corresponds to the results of people’s estimates of
   their own confidence with a range of skills e.g. within the survey work
   undertaken in the preparatory stages of the Regeneration Zones.
   Where providers have used diagnostic tools to do specific skills
   assessments these have also shown the wide variation of abilities
   across the skills expected at each standards level for literacy and for
   numeracy.

   Where the questions allowed direct comparisons with previous figures
   for Birmingham, these show a steady improvement across the levels of
   literacy, and virtually no improvements across the levels of numeracy.
   The overall findings from the survey also reads across fairly well to the
   few pieces of other data from Household Surveys, Zone surveys etc (in
   terms of adults self perception of their literacy and numeracy levels)
   and to the small recorded levels of improvement in particular core skills
   between the 1998 Household Survey and the 2000 Household Survey.

(b) Levels Of Literacy Need

   The measurement of literacy skills in Birmingham and Solihull
   produced the following overall achievement results:

             Level                    Achievement

             Entry level 2            93%
             Entry level 3            88%
             Level 1                  85%
             Level 2                  82%
        93% of residents in Birmingham and Solihull have literacy levels which
        are equivalent to those of Entry level 2. Literacy levels then fall with
        the increase in level, with just over four in five residents (82%) having
        the equivalent literacy level to the Level 2 standards.

        Across the sub-region, of course, there are dramatic differences in the
        standards of literacy. Overall, as one would expect, standards in
        Solihull are better than those in Birmingham. However within the three
        high need wards identified in Solihull, standards are significantly lower.

        Clearly within the high need wards in Birmingham there are still urgent
        problems that needs addressing despite the successful work done over
        the last five years. One in four (26%) residents in these wards are
        below average at Level 2 Literacy and one in five (21%) would not
        currently achieve an Entry level 3 Literacy accreditation.

Table 1: Profiling Literacy Needs – Sub-Region
                 Birmingham                          Solihull

Level            Total   High need     Other         Total      High need   Other
                         areas         areas                    areas       areas

Entry level 2    92%     87%           94%           97%        93%         98%
Entry level 3    86%     79%           88%           94%        88%         95%
Level 1          83%     76%           86%           92%        87%         93%
Level 2          80%     74%           82%           90%        83%         92%

        The full report contains a disaggregation of wards. This includes a
        disaggregation by ACORN classification of broad residential/lifestyle
        groups. Whilst not identifying discrete geographical localities this
        analysis does allow a more sophisticated understanding of the spread
        of skills across the various communities in each ward.

        Taking one specific ‘low skill’ ward as an example, whilst overall the
        skills levels are well below average for most of the population at all
        levels there are some groups for whom this is not so. Within this one
        area: older people; homeowners with young families; clerical and
        administration workers; single people in council flats; lone parents in
        council accommodation etc have skills that are average or below for
        the area. Adults in home owning working families, young professional
        single people, young professional couples are well above average for
        the same area.

        This kind of analysis gives a much more refined picture of need than
        that previously held, and expresses this need in terms of the new
            ‘standards’ levels that are integral to the national ‘Skills for Life’ adult
            basic skills strategy.

            There are significant differences in literacy needs by ethnicity. It
            should be noted here that the screening questionnaire relied upon
            participants in the survey having a sufficient understanding of spoken
            English to be able to be surveyed i.e. in addition to the figures below
            there is a cohort of people (predominantly older, Asian, non-working,
            who do not have basic language skills in English. Table 2 below
            demonstrates the literacy needs of the Asian community, and the black
            community. At all levels, these communities have significantly lower
            levels of literacy. In addition, whilst white residents’ achievements
            reduce by 10 percentage points from Entry level 2 to Level 2, amongst
            the other ethnic groups the fall is at least 15 points

 Table 2: Profiling Literacy Needs - Ethnicity
Level            White           Asian                                   Black                   Other
Entry level 2            95%                    87%                      88%                     89%
Entry level 3            90%                    79%                      81%                     78%
Level 1                  87%                    75%                      80%                     80%
Level 2                  85%                    72%                      73%                     63%

            As one would obviously expect, there are significant differences
            between those that were educated in the UK and those that were not,
            and between those that predominantly speak English at home and
            those that do not.

            When looking at overall basic literacy skills ability by gender, females
            have slightly higher levels than males (on average by 1 or 2 percent).
            When analysing the data by other factors, there are relatively few
            differences. Older people are just as likely as younger people to have
            the same levels of literacy. Single mothers have no worse than the
            average levels of literacy.
            There are significant differences in the literacy levels of those who
            do/do not have access to the Internet. As a nation, 60% currently
            have access to the Internet either at home or at work. In Birmingham
            and Solihull access is lower, with 54% currently claiming to have no
            access (although in Solihull this drops to 40%, matching the national
            figure).

            There is also a strong correlation between the levels of literacy skills
            and those receiving benefits (other that those solely claiming universal
            child benefit).

 Table 3: Profiling Literacy Needs – Internet Usage and Benefits Claimants

                         Internet Access                                 Claiming Benefits


                                                                          st   rd
     ORB nationally representative sample of 1,004 adults throughout the UK (1 – 3 March 2002)
Level            Yes              No                 Yes              No

Entry level 2    97%              90%                86%              96%
Entry level 3    93%              83%                78%              92%
Level 1          91%              80%                75%              89%
Level 2          89%              77%                72%              86%


        There are recognised links between people’s underpinning attitudes
        towards health and their underlying levels of literacy. By and large
        those that claim that the current state of their health is generally ‘not
        good’ have below average levels of literacy. This was true within the
        population in this survey.

 Table 4: Profiling Literacy Needs - Health

                          Person believes own health to be:

        Level             Good             Fairly Good        Not good
        Entry level 2     95%              91%                91%
        Entry level 3     90%              83%                83%
        Level 1           88%              77%                82%
        Level 2           85%              73%                77%


        There are understandable indications of a lasting impact of previous
        education on literacy levels much later in life. Amongst those leaving
        school at the age of 19+, on average 90% have literacy skills
        equivalent to Level 2 literacy. This compares with 79% amongst those
        who left school at age 16 or before.

        In summary, literacy levels in Birmingham and Solihull are hugely
        different, as they are in different localities within these two areas. The
        detailed demographic profile of respondents allows Birmingham Core
        Skills Development Partnership to more accurately pinpoint areas
        where literacy skills needs are the greatest; to more clearly identify key
        target groups where there are substantial literacy needs; and to further
        determine the profile of who within these groups are most likely to have
        low levels of literacy.

    (c) Levels Of Numeracy Need

                  Level                     As a percentage
                  Entry level 2             91%
                  Entry level 3             81%
                  Level 1                   63%
                  Level 2                   50%
        The geographically varied distribution of basic skills needs within
        Birmingham and Solihull is again evident when analysing how
        numeracy results differ between high need and other wards. Only one
        in three (36%) of those living in the high need wards in Birmingham are
        likely to have ‘average or above’ numeracy skills at Level 2, compared
        with 51% of those living in the other wards.

        As the following table demonstrates, even in Solihull, in the least
        prosperous areas there are clear numeracy needs – only 41%
        succeeding at Level 2 in the high need wards.


Table 5: Profiling Numeracy Needs – Sub-Region

                  Birmingham                         Solihull

Level             Total   High need    Other         Total      High need     Other
                          areas        areas                    areas         areas


Entry level 2     89%     81%          92%           97%        91%           99%
Entry level 3     79%     68%          83%           90%        75%           94%
Level 1           59%     49%          62%           78%        57%           84%
Level 2           47%     36%          51%           62%        41%           67%


        The full report contains disaggregation by wards. As with literacy there
        was a further disaggregation within each ward by ACORN
        classification. Whilst these analyses bear out the overall
        generalisations from the survey there are specific details that apply
        within each ward which may prove useful in devising more focused
        provision.

        Unlike literacy, men are slightly better than women at numeracy.
        Although these differences are hardly noticeable at the Entry levels 2
        and 3, they are slightly larger at Level 2:

Table 6: The Measurement of Numeracy Skills – Gender Differences

          Level            Male                   Female
          Entry level 2    91%                    91%
          Entry level 3    82%                    81%
          Level 1          65%                    62%
          Level 2          53%                    48%

        There are also differences in numeracy levels by age. At nearly all
        levels it is the youngest group (16-24 year olds) that have the lowest
        levels of numeracy. This is most noticeable at the higher skills level
        (Level 2) where 46% of those aged 16-24 were classified as ‘average
        or above’ 54% of those aged 35-44 years, and 50% of those aged 45+
        were average or above in their numeracy skills.

        Those that are working full and part-time are, as one would expect,
        higher than average in their numeracy skills, whilst those that are
        retired appear to perform better at the harder numeracy tasks. There
        are clearly numeracy gaps amongst the unemployed, with one in five
        not reaching Entry level 2.

Table 7: The Measurement of Numeracy Skills – Working Status Differences

                  Working status

Level             Full time Part        Retired     Student*     Unemployed Housewife
                            time
Entry level 2     96%       97%         93%         96%          80%             87%
Entry level 3     89%         86%       83%         87%          65%             71%
Level 1           72%         68%       60%         75%          45%             51%
Level 2           58%         53%       58%         63%          33%             35%
(* other than university students temporarily resident in the area)

        As with literacy, the amount of time spent at school impacted heavily
        on numeracy skills. Even at the more basic numeracy level (Entry level
        2) there were noticeable differences in skills, which became more
        substantial when comparing numeracy skills at the harder level (Level
        2)

        The self-assessed health levels also related across to the level of
        numeracy skills.

Table 8: The Measurement of Numeracy Skills – Education and Health

                  Terminal Education Age               Person believes own health to be:
Level             Up to 16 17-18          19+          Good           Fairly good Not good
Entry level 2     88%         98%         97%          92%            88%        88%
Entry level 3     78%         89%         90%          84%            75%        72%
Level 1           57%         78%         79%          68%            51%        54%
Level 2           43%         65%         67%          56%            32%        42%

        When analysing the results by ethnicity, Asian and black adults have
        lower skill levels in numeracy than the white population. But unlike
        literacy where black adults had slightly higher skills than the Asian
        adults, in terms of numeracy skills they appear to have lower skills.
        Just over one in three (36%) black adults have average or above
        numeracy skills at Level 2, compared with 43% of the Asian community
        and 53% in the white community.

 Table 9: Profiling Numeracy Needs - Ethnicity

Level            White            Asian              Black            Other
Entry level 2    93%              82%                87%              80%
Entry level 3    85%              67%                71%              62%
Level 1          67%              51%                48%              39%
Level 2          53%              40%                36%              21%


    (d) Levels And Spiky Profiles

        The survey used a range of questions with varying levels of difficulty.
        These questions were randomly located within each section i.e. in the
        literacy section, questions did not steadily become harder, rather they
        switched back-and-forth between the 4 levels.

        Previous studies that have attempted to measure numeracy and
        literacy have disregarded respondents' answers from a higher level if
        they were unable to score 100% at the lower level. But as the following
        shows, certainly in literacy and to some extent in numeracy, there are
        significant proportions of adults who have a range of skills
        encompassing different levels.

        It might be assumed that all of the people able to answer successfully
        at Level 2 would be able to successfully demonstrate the skills at the
        lower levels (Level 1, Entry 3 etc). In fact only 64% of those answering
        successfully at Level 2 were also able to answer successfully at Level
        1 in numeracy.

        The same is true across the other numeracy levels. Of those able to
        demonstrate the skills at Level 1, only 89% were able to answer
        successfully at both Level 1 and at Entry 3.

        The gap at Entry 3/Entry 2 is nil i.e. all of those able to successfully do
        tasks at Entry 3 numeracy were also able to do the tasks at Entry 2.

        At levels above Entry level, in numeracy, therefore attribution of the
        ‘success’ label at a particular level:
            (a) did not mean that the person consistently demonstrated skills at
                that level
            (b) did not necessarily mean that they automatically demonstrated
                lower level skills
            (c) did not mean that they had no skills at higher levels.

        In literacy the gaps are wider:
       •   of those ‘at Level 2’ only 85% show at both Level 2 and Level 1.
       •   of those ‘at Level 1’ only 86% show at both Level 1 and Entry 3.
       •   of those ‘at Entry 3’ only 93% show at both Entry 3 and Entry 2.

   It would appear therefore, that learners can broadly be attributed to
   levels so long as it is remembered that their profile of skills in literacy
   and numeracy is likely to spread across various levels for different
   combinations of skills.

   Numeracy skills are rather more uniform than literacy skills, but also
   more limited overall. Literacy skills are more diverse with respondents
   having a variety of gaps in their skills, whereas in numeracy many
   attain the basic levels but relatively few have higher level skills.

   The numbers of correct answers, for each individual, at the different
   levels thus provides evidence of large numbers of adults who have
   performance gaps in skills across levels, rather than consistent
   achievement at a single level i.e. the data confirms the prevalence of
   the ‘spiky profile’ of skills for individuals. This phenomenon has
   implications for how programmes are structured and delivered;
   demanding closer attention to specific skills, to ‘top up/booster’ activity,
   and to the way courses are described.

   Further analysis by specific groups
   The full survey data was made available, with software able to analyse
   it further. The data was thus able to be worked on to unravel a number
   of ‘stories’. These included:
        • Women working in retail need to improve their literacy skills
           more than their numeracy skills
        • Whilst a number of women wanted to learn at home, seven
           times as many women (whether born in this country or
           elsewhere) wanted to learn at some other community venue.
        • The literacy levels of single parents are not much different from
           the population as a whole. Black single parents have lower
           numeracy levels than white single parents, and both groups
           have lower levels of numeracy skills than for the population as a
           whole.
        • Those who do have access to the Internet at home use it very
           little (less than one day per week). Internet access is most used
           by young people, and (within this) by Asian young people.
        • People aged 50+, who were interested in learning in general,
           had a higher proportion of people at Entry 2 level (in both
           literacy and numeracy) than for the population as a whole – with
           women having lower levels of literacy than men.
        • Whilst Asian men and women were slightly more interested in
           improving their literacy than their numeracy, all other groups
           were more interested in improving their numeracy than their
           literacy.

(e) Implications for provision
       Finding solutions to these problems is made easier by an
       understanding of the learning aspirations of the population. The same
       survey of need also highlighted some of the possible routes to meeting
       these needs:
           70% of the population were not at all interested in taking up
             courses as currently on offer. This may appear depressingly
             high – but is accompanied by a figure of 15% who would be very
             interested. This in itself is almost 5 times the number currently
             doing courses. There is an even higher (19-23%) interest
             amongst young residents to improve their numeracy and literacy
             skills.
           There is a problematic 10% of the whole sample who clearly
             have basic skills needs but are ‘not at all interested in improving
             those skills’.
           Practical difficulties (transport, child care, access etc) are
             minimal compared to issues of motivation.
           Although Asian and black communities, overall, have lower
             levels of basic skills they are also twice as likely to want to do
             something about it.
           Those living in the areas of highest need are also at least twice
             as likely to want to improve their skills.
           Choice of location for skills improvement are to an extent
             determined by people’s experience of what is currently
             available. There is, however, a higher than previous level of
             interest in learning via libraries (14%) and at home (17%), and
             interesting links can be made e.g. between the high interest in
             libraries and those currently unemployed. Options to diversify
             learning opportunities, and to mix modes of learning, are
             opening up with the increase of e.g. UK online centres.
           80-85% of adults with basic skills needs, claim that access to
             nationally-recognised certification would be a strong motivational
             influence. This was just as likely for those living in the highest-
             need wards of Birmingham as for the highest-skill wards of
             Solihull.
           29% of those in work reported access to IT courses and an
             encouraging 11% access to communication/number training.
             83% of these work-related opportunities take place within the
             on-going work setting.
           Asking people to self assess their levels of skills gave a way of
             checking this against their tested levels. Adults are realistic
             about the gaps in their numeracy skills but are more variable in
             their perception of literacy and language skills.

Potential Developments
   • Clearly within certain areas and demographic groups, there are
      significant proportions of adults in Birmingham and Solihull with basic
      skills needs. Basic skills work is thus likely to need to remain a priority
      area for some time to come.
•   It is difficult to directly compare these results against the original
    national baseline survey and therefore to measure what absolute
    progress has been made. Although choice of some common questions
    does allow for some comparison, the recent establishment of new
    curriculum skill levels makes historical comparisons of percentage
    figures very difficult. Calculating the best relationships between the
    current and past data, indicates that almost no progress has been
    made in improving overall levels of numeracy skills. Literacy skills
    have, over a 3 year period, been improved. This report offers a
    reasonable baseline against which future progress can be assessed.
    This will be assisted by any planned national baseline survey work.

•   It is clear that overall skills levels in Solihull remain above the national
    average and those in Birmingham remain below the national average.
    This ‘headline’ can be disaggregated by priority areas, by population
    group etc in order to get a more sophisticated map of levels in literacy
    and numeracy need across the sub region. Aligning this with an
    analysis of current provision and participation data offers the
    opportunity for providers, the local Learning and Skills Council and
    other agencies to determine changes that need to be made in the
    pattern of basic skills learning opportunities over the next few years.

•   There are very few adults who have barely any basic skills. Most
    adults are competent, to varying degrees, across varying skills and are
    able to demonstrate the need for differentiated actions to meet their
    needs. Attention needs to be given to booster provision, focusing on
    rehearsing specific skills, linked to national accreditations.

•   The data consistently suggests that across all levels, there are more
    severe problems with numeracy. Whilst the standards of numeracy
    and literacy at Entry level 2 are similar (roughly 9 in 10 adults at or
    above this level) from there on the gap widens. At Level 2 only one in
    two (50%) adults have average or above numeracy skills, compared
    with 82% in literacy.

•   Generally residents recognise that they have lower levels of numeracy
    than literacy skills. They are twice as likely to say that their numeracy
    skills are “poor” than they are their literacy skills. A clearer
    understanding of the levels of numeracy skills needed to operate
    functionally, in a range of contexts, will highlight the adequacy of
    existing numeracy provision.

•   There are significant proportions of the population that are willing to
    improve their skills. Provision is still far from meeting the needs of
    even the more motivated potential ‘improvers’.

•   Learning courses are already substantially provided part-time and at
    local college/adult education centres. If they are not already, these
    need to be more clearly defined by purpose, level etc. This will need
    some common understanding about whether ‘a Level 1 course’
    represents a course, with people having various individual skills
    profiles, where Level 1 accreditation is an expected learning outcome,
    or whether ‘Level 1’ means recruiting learners roughly at this level who
    then take a wide variety of individual ways forward. There are
    advantages to an assessment process that is separate from delivery
    courses, and which directs learners into the most appropriate route for
    their planned outcome.

•   The range of local learning access points is growing and each new
    development needs to ensure that it incorporates an appropriate basic
    skills dimension.

•   A feature of change over the past 2 years has been the rapid growth in
    access to ICT – Internet use at home or at work; the opening of UK
    Online centres; the promotion of access to learndirect materials etc.
    As ICT usage increases in Birmingham further attention may need to
    be given to this method of learning for basic skills support.

•   Providing those completing learning with a national (preferably, if not
    local) certificate which would be recognised by employers will increase
    motivation to learn. This will be particularly effective amongst those
    unemployed, who have some of the lowest levels of basic skills. This
    suggests that area wide promotion of the new national certificates at
    Entry Level, Level 1 and Level 2 should be encouraged.

•   Given the interest in home study/self study and the use of libraries,
    there may be a need for more ‘public access’ assessment centres that
    do not require course attendance as a pre requisite for entry to the new
    national qualifications.

•   Clearly there are a number of groups to target. The Asian and black
    communities have lower levels of skills but are also the most likely to
    want to learn. A more intractable problem may be those areas of high
    need, with a culture that has less recognition of the value or learning,
    and high social acceptance of poor basic skills levels.

•   Targeting the unemployed, in ways that ensure access to achievement
    as well as screening and referral, will be particularly important. Moves
    are already underway to highlight basic skills progress through
    Gateway processes, New Deal programmes etc.

•   Within Birmingham in particular, there are still massive differences in
    standards across areas. The eight high need wards are the root of
    much of the need in Birmingham. However, it appears that many
    adults in these areas can see the value of basic skills and are some of
    the most willing to improve their own levels. In some of these areas
    participation levels are already relatively high. In the medium term it
    may be achievement rather than participation that is the real issue.
    Some study of achievement rates compared with participation rates
    (across literacy, numeracy, ESOL – at different levels) might suggest
    more focused work at the local level in these wards with the local
    communities, in more planned ways, that could prove more likely to
    improve standards in the long-term.

•   An increased number of companies are currently offering some sort of
    basic skills training. Continued highlighting to employers of the need to
    address basic skills and the support available will benefit all involved,
    especially if done in the structured way being promoted by Birmingham
    and Solihull LSC.

•   A strong focus on sector-specific work-related basic skills is needed.
    This is being taken forward by the approach that is currently being
    developed including Business Link, brokers, trade union learning reps,
    customised provision, learning points on employer premises, sector
    specific materials etc. This survey has indicated some of the levels of
    need in various sectors. The employer survey should take further this
    understanding of need by sector.

•   There is a case for some small scale qualitative research amongst
    those with lower skills and who are willing to attend courses. This
    would explore the awareness of current courses, the attitudes towards
    attending and suggestions for making courses more widely known and
    popular. It would also present an opportunity to test new concepts and
    positioning statements.

•   This survey has highlighted broad indicators of levels of absolute need
    in relation to the new national standards. Attributing numbers to levels
    may be helpful as a tool in broad planning terms but it always needs to
    be remembered that individuals are not absolutely at one level or
    another but have spiky profiles of skills competence that range across
    the levels to varying degrees. This needs to form part of the recurring
    messages that contribute to the necessary culture change around adult
    basic skills (i.e. a shift onto specific skills acquisition, and away from a
    focus on inadequacies of individuals – a deficit model, but one phrased
    in terms of skills deficits not personal deficits).

•   The levels of need indicated against standard levels does not, in itself,
    indicate the extent to which this is a disadvantage in undertaking
    particular tasks at work, in involvement in regeneration processes, in
    financial matters etc. The Partnership could complement the work
    done on levels of need, in this survey, with levels needed for specific
    (current/future) work rules via the planned employer survey, and with
    levels needed across a range of other individual, social and community
    activities aimed for by all people, or for specific purposes, and will aid
    the thinking on establishing aspirational ‘floor targets’ below which no
    area, or group, should remain.

•   Consideration should be given to testing a series of key messages that
    could be used to promote the availability of courses and to encourage
and motivate potential attendees. Key areas for consideration could
be:

   -   Priority Messaging: the target audiences are to a large extent
       already separated into distinct prioritised groups within the
       national adult basic skills strategy and within local strategic
       plans (primarily that of Birmingham and Solihull Learning and
       Skills Council). A range of key messages for each could be
       developed for use;

   -   Addressing the reluctance to admit to literacy gaps: it is perhaps
       more socially acceptable to admit to numeracy than literacy
       problems. Any campaign to encourage take up of literacy
       campaigns must address this in a way that allows recipients to
       accept their skills needs without feeling patronised or socially
       lacking;

   -   Motivating the unemployed: the data shows a distinct reluctance
       amongst elements of the unemployed to improve their basic
       skills levels. This could be the result of a number of factors. Any
       messaging campaign to this group needs to be direct,
       encouraging and offer some strong reasons/incentives to raise
       basic skills levels.

   -   Drop out from training: For any campaign to work successfully,
       the potential for drop out from training needs to be addressed
       from the outset. Whilst the data shows overwhelming
       enthusiasm for some form of certificate for completion of
       training, research into smaller, ongoing means of maintaining
       commitment and drive across a training programme could be
       examined.

   -   Reward: Further work is needed to consider messaging the
       benefits of improving ones basic skills in a local or national
       context.

   -   Ethnic group targeting: overall messaging for the variety of
       ethnic groups need be little different from group to group.
       However, some differences do exist and need to be reflected.

   -   Channels of communication: Further work could be undertaken
       to identify key means of communicating with the target
       audience. Links could be explored amongst local media
       (broadcast and press), local amenities; local employers and
       community resources. Work is already underway to work
       through key intermediary organisations and through learning
       champions, and work with these organisations could ensure a
       clarity and robustness to the basic skills messages being
       promoted.
          -   By undertaking this additional work a highly focussed, targeted
              set of messages can be developed that encompasses the
              divergent target groups and which can be prioritised as the
              target planning requires.

4.2 Meeting the needs of employers and employees
The traditional approach to raising the basic skills levels of employees used to
rely on separate providers making links, one-by-one, with companies and
working with relatively small numbers of workers in relatively low numbers of
companies.

Whilst much of this was excellent work, and was given boosts in numbers
where it proved possible to work through employer networks, this approach
was never going to unlock to high volumes of employee development work to
make the skills breakthroughs required.

The survey of need highlighted the levels of literacy and numeracy amongst
working adults. This was disaggregated by sector, by gender, by full time/part
time working (and was able to be analysed by other factors such as ethnicity,
age etc).

The data was able to tell a number of ‘stories’ that might inform targeting of
work within sectors. For example, low skill workers in Health and Care have a
disproportionate number of employees at Entry 2 literacy level. Whilst
numeracy levels in Health and Care are well distributed across the levels for
white employees, and are better than average for Asian employees,
numeracy levels of AfroCaribbean employees in this sector are quite low.

Parallel work by Beevers Consultancy and by Be Consultancy has been
analysed alongside the outcomes of the general survey of need. For
example, using Health and Care as the example again:
        Only 15% of care workers have achieved NVQ2 level
        Risk assessment is high on the agenda, as is Care Planning – both
          need increased levels of basic skills
        Recruitment to produce a more diverse workforce will require better
          language training and numeracy training in pre-employment
          training.

A specific, different example is that of language need within the variety of
Asian Businesses (of which there are between 4,000 and 8,000 in the sub
region). The lack of adequate language levels leaves large numbers of
employees vulnerable in Health and Safety awareness; with less access to
(increasingly statutorily required) training; access to wider markets etc.

Potential developments
   • .
   • .
   • .
   •
Section 5: Participation

5.1 Participation in LSC funded programmes
   The figures across colleges and adult education services for adults (16+)
   on courses previously funded by the Further Education Funding Council,
   and now the Learning and Skills Council are available on an annual basis
   as fully verified sets of figures. These however have up to now only been
   available retrospectively as data that is already at least one year out of
   date. Nevertheless, this annual recording of the figures does give an
   indication of trends.

   The recording of figures for participation have become more refined over
   the last six years:
    from: a loose definition of basic skills; multiple counting of learners as
               enrolments at different sessions and across sites within the
               same provider counting enrolments rather than learners; high
               percentages of ‘not known’ recordings for age/ethnicity/disability
               etc.

    to:     a tighter definition of basic skills provision; single counting via
             individual learner records; much lower percentages of ‘not
             knowns’; possible (but still some limited?) double counting
             across initiatives and across providers.

   The figures still:
      ~ historically have been presented by providing organisation. Data
          presented by Birmingham or Solihull postcode (whoever the
          provider organisation) creates a different picture
      ~ are viewed as data to be returned for contract purposes more than
          a rich wealth of information for early analysis by basic skills
          managers, then able to make in-year adjustments to patterns of
          provision
      ~ rely heavily on accurate data input, with providers still warning that
          their data ‘probably isn’t totally accurate’
      ~ report learners that fall within fefc/LSC categories; so that learners
          in a range of agencies; special projects; voluntary sector activity;
          outreach etc go unrecorded
      ~ are retrospective – being available as validated figures more than 9
          months after the end of courses and, as such, are not useful as the
          basis of forward planning. Although Birmingham and Solihull
          Learning and Skills Council are indicating that current software will
          give more ‘real time’ analysis is, this has yet to be demonstrated.

   Even with these caveats, the data for Birmingham and Solihull represents
   the most reliable figure for a number of years, even if an underestimate
   (maybe by around 15%) of the total number of people being taught basic
   skills to levels matching the new standards.
For the academic year 1999-2000, the adult basic skills data show a total
of 12,234 individuals addressing their basic skills needs via FEFC/LSC
funded provision.

Of these:
            10%   were 16-19
            15%   had a disability/learning difficulty
            53%   were female
            34%   were on ESOL courses
            51%   were on literacy courses
            15%   were on numeracy courses
            36%   were white
            5%    were Bangladeshi
            20%   were Pakistani
            10%   were Black Caribbean
            59%   were aged 25-44
            17%   were aged 45-60
            11%   were 19-24

These 12,234 basic skills learners represented 16,206 enrolments i.e. an
average of 1.3 enrolments per learner. Basic skills activity is spread
across almost all provider organisations, but with a concentration of 65%
of the learners within three organisations. The LSC-funded learners were
spending an average of 5 hours per week on basic skills.

There was also no rational pattern to the qualification outcomes being
pursued. Numeracy learners aimed for a narrow range of qualification
aims. ESOL learners aimed for a very wide range of qualification aims.

Comparable data, validated by LSC, for 2000-2001 shows:
  • A total of 17,099 basic skills learners on discrete courses, of whom:
        16% were 16 –19
        84% were 19+
        50% were on ESOL courses
        36% were on literacy courses
        14% were on numeracy courses
        38% were white
        3% were Bangladeshi
        13% were AfroCaribbean
        14% were Pakistani

(In addition a further 8,679 adults had additional support on other courses,
some of which would have been basic skills support).

The unvalidated figures are available for 2001-2002. These indicate a
total of 21,688 basic skills learners on discrete courses, but, in comparison
with figures for previous years, this is likely to be an overestimation by
inclusion of a number of non basic skills learners (i.e. by the inclusion in
current LSC counts of learners on GCSE, key skills and other courses who
would not, in the past, have been registered as ‘basic skills’. Similarly,
   providers; strategic plans for 2002-3 show planned growth to almost
   29,000 ‘Skills for Life’ learners only 16,000 of whom would ‘traditionally’ be
   counted as basic skills). The outturn figure will be known by March 2003.

   The indicative figures for actual enrolments in 2002-2003 suggest a further
   increase in basic skills numbers, with more basic skills learners are still
   being recruited. The likely outturn figure for 2002-2003 is in the order of
   20,000 discrete ‘basic skills’ learners, plus a further 8,000 receiving basic
   skills support or doing courses that additionally count towards LSC targets.

   The total is higher than the aspirational participation target for the year
   2002-2003 and reflects well the drive for increased numbers in adult basic
   skills learning (particularly across colleges).

   The growth in numbers of individuals in the area who are directly
   addressing their basic skills needs via established provision has increased
   since 1995/6.


  25000

  20000

  15000
                                                              Numbers of Basic Skills
  10000                                                       Learners

   5000

      0
          95/96 96/97 97/98 98/99 99/00 00/01 '01/02 '02/03




   The Skills for Life Strategy anticipated that 8% of these in need would be
   in provision by 2002. Whilst there are clearly problems with pinning down
   a figure that adequately covers ‘those in need’, certainly one might expect
   that at least 12,000 individuals were in the main programmes of providers.
   This compares with the figure of 21,688 that is the estimated final figure for
   2001/2. Although it is still only addressing a small proportion of the overall
   need, the current delivery system is performing very well on participation
   expectations. Any larger step-changes in participation will require
   significant shifts of emphasis within the current system.

   The analysis of participation data by locality; ethnicity; age etc is very
   valuable. The subtleties of gaps between groups of learners becomes
   more apparent when:
      • participation data is matched by equally informative achievement
         data
      • data is able to be interrogated across categories (e.g. young
         Bangladeshi women) since it is usually at this level that the more
         interesting messages become transparent.

5.2 Participation in other programmes
   The figures above represent learners captured via the former
   Individualised Student Record (ISR). Basic skills support on other
   programmes is not well recorded with the same degree of accuracy.
   Records for language, literacy and numeracy on the former TEC
   programmes database recorded only starts and Word Power/Number
   Power assessments which, whilst accurate for claim purposes, did not
   capture the number of individuals in any one year substantially addressing
   basic skills needs.

   Surveys of the voluntary sector regularly show more than 80 voluntary
   organisations that ‘offer basic skills and ESOL’. The numbers of adults
   these organisations work with is reported as being in excess of 4,000
   basic skills/ESOL beneficiaries. Stripping out from these the ones that are
   LSC/JCP providers (i.e. their numbers are already counted elsewhere); or
   are not really adult basic skills as now understood – there are still around
   1,000 adults being assisted with their basic skills in a variety of ways
   directly by voluntary sector organisations.

   Across the sub area there was very little other basic skills activity (in terms
   of real learners) of any substance, except for the growth from 1997
   onwards of:
        increased numbers of adults on family literacy/numeracy courses,
           which now stands at almost 900 learners
        the much slower, but increasing, growth of learners addressing
           basic skills via learndirect. In 2000-2001 the Skills for Life learners
           barely reached double figures. In 2001-2002 there were 752 Skills
           for life learners. By 2002-2003 this has risen to 508 learners in an
           11 week period (i.e. an annual estimate of more than 2,000 learning
           units/year)
        the numbers working to raise own basic skills levels via Probation
           Service in Birmingham and Solihull. This is currently around 800
           learners, sometimes via Probation’s own staff but mostly via
           separate contracts with recognised providers.
        the very recent activity through JobCentre Plus programmes that is
           increasing the identification of basic skills needs amongst claimants
           and meeting these, predominately via the full time education and
           training option for more than 1,000 people.

5.3 Potential for widening access to key target groups for the LSC and for the
national strategy
   The Skills for Life strategy identifies a number of key target groups that will
   need to be given particular attention if rapid movement is to be made in
   reducing overall levels of need. These target groups include:
       Young people
       Offenders
       Parents
       Asylum seekers
       Speakers of other languages
       Low skill employees
       Unemployed/claimants
        Public sector workers
        Adults in disadvantaged communities

The strategy does not regard these as discrete groups (i.e. there is an
obvious understanding that individuals can be, at the same time, unemployed
and parents in disadvantaged areas) nor as absolute (i.e. not all parents;
public sector workers; offenders etc automatically have low basic skills levels).
At the same time, there is an approach that equates each national target
group with an expected structural ‘vehicle’ that will address the basic skills
needs of large numbers of people in this group.

e.g.   unemployed        =   programmes such as New Deal
       offenders         =   work via probation/prison services
       parents           =   family literacy/numeracy programmes
       young people      =   Connexions/Gateway processes linked to further
                             education

For some groups, however, national structural vehicles do not yet exist (e.g.
asylum seekers) or the programmes are being tested (low skill workers; public
sector employees); or the answer is still likely to be particular further
education provision (for speakers of other languages; for adult in
disadvantaged communities).

Where specific structured programmes do exist these are dealt with in the
sections (a) to (i) below.

(a) young people
    Addressing the overall skill level of people aged 16-25 has been a national
    and local priority for some time within this, one thread has been to pay
    specific attention to raising the basic skills needs of young people, in order
    to underpin this drive for higher vocational qualifications and increased
    access to higher education. Alongside this has been a weaker drive to
    ensure that young people increasingly engage with social regeneration
    and renewal decision-making processes, and have the communication
    skills to be able to do this.

   Whilst the Skills for Life is an adult basic skills strategy i.e. relating to
   people 16+, the aspirations for Birmingham and Solihull rely on lifting
   levels of core skills for young people pre 16 so that the flow of people with
   low levels of basic skills is reduced from a figure of around 3,000 in 1999
   to a figure of less than 200 by 2010. Work to raise literacy and numeracy
   standards at Key Stage 3, and GCSE English/Maths achievements at Key
   Stage 4 are being supplemented by:
            developments to increase the basic skills focus within the
              vocational contexts of a Pre Learning Gateway for 14-16 year
              olds;
            attempts to strengthen the core skills contribution to
              complementary and alternative curriculum options for 14-16 year
              olds
        supporting the development of a Student Apprenticeship
         programme for 14-16 year olds with basic skills at Entry 3/Level
         1 and for whom a Modern Apprenticeship is a potential
         progression route
        providing a particular focus on young people known to Pupil
         Connect, to Drug Action Team; and to Unit for Looked After
         Children

Young people are one of the groups to be focused with the Skills for Life
strategy. Increasing basic skills participation and achievement by young
people is a specific strategic objective in the local LSC’s Basic Skills
Development Plan with actions covering:
     i. incorporating basic skills into all provision targeting young people
    ii. increased use of intensive basic skills provision to meet young
        people’s needs
   iii. increased uses of ICT to support basic skills development with
        young people
   iv. building the capacity of existing and new organisations that have a
        role to bridge young people into provision, or to offer direct basic
        skills provision (by linking to established further education
        providers)
    v. to improve rates of identification, assessment and referral

Recent developments with young people have focused on specific
intermediaries:

(i) Connexions Service
    The Birmingham and Solihull Connexions Service became operational
    from September 2002. Build up to this service has included the
    existing work via Birmingham City Council Youth Service, the Careers
    Education Business Partnership, and the ESF funded Connect project.

   The local Connexions Service will provide a personal advisor for each
   young person between the ages of 13–19. For those with special
   needs the age range can be extended to 24/25. There will thus be
   large numbers of mentors to potentially assist in improving adult basic
   skills of young people, including young offenders, within the
   Birmingham and Solihull area. Connexions personal advisers will fulfil
   an outreach and support role with young people; and will track young
   people into work directly from school to enable them to undertake
   appropriate training. Outreach workers are already targeting 16-19
   year olds most at risk of disconnection from ongoing training, including
   those young people leaving the care system.

   Targets for the Connexions service locally include increasing the
   percentage of Year 11 progressing into further learning from 91% to
   100% by 2001. Coupled with real improvements in discrete and
   embedded basic skills for 16+ learners, this should begin to
   substantially reduce the basic skills problem for young people.
(ii) Foyers
     There are around 1,200 homeless young people with sufficient bed
     spaces provided by more than 90 housing organisations, many of
     which cater specifically for particular client groups. There are about
     200 young people associated within the Foyer associations. There is
     one outreach worker working with the foyers, the 60+ hostels in the
     area, and with young people in temporary accommodation. Although
     more than 200 young people are contacted, per year, by this outreach
     work there is a very low conversion rate of contact into basic skills
     outcomes.

   A number of the Foyers have received staff training and basic skills
   resources. In Birmingham, increasing numbers of foyer staff are being
   trained to undertake assessments, and to do basic skills support work.
   The nationally-funded Foyer Federation Training Project engages
   young people with training that includes a basic skills element. Three
   foyers are linked to a Birmingham college in this project, targeting 50
   young people with basic skills needs. The local LSC is using uplift
   funding to allow more focused work to take place, and is assuming that
   this will lead to basic skills outcomes.

(iii) Youth Offending Service
      Much of the work of Youth Offending Service is with children under 16,
      but there are clear links to the overall basic skills agenda through the
      Youth Offending Service targets that focus on keeping young offenders
      linked into provision and to minimise educational loss through
      exclusion. There are more than 1,000 young offenders and the bulk of
      these are at the key transition age of 15-17. A basic skills learning
      adviser has been attached to the Youth Offending Service to ensure
      that all young people known to the service have their basic skills needs
      met in structured ways. Learning Support Centres are being
      established at each of the Youth Offending Service centres for young
      people, with basic skills work being supplemented via a mobile bus
      facility.

(iv) Other developments
        Entry to Employment
        This pilot programme (to August 2003), managed by the local LSC
        is designed as a stepping stone into Modern Apprenticeships for
        young people aged 16-129. A key learning objective for
        participants is the development of basic and/or key skills. The
        Basic Skills Pathfinder experience of delivering basic skills in
        intensive and focused packages is being built into this programme,
        as is the expectation that participants will be offered opportunities to
        enter for the new national accreditations. It is anticipated that 250
        young people will be aiming for basic skills outcomes via the
        programme.

       Young People’s involvement in decision-making
          There is an expectation that the Birmingham and Solihull
          Connexions processes will absorb some of the activity formerly
          delivery via Young People’s parliament etc. Work, still at an initial
          stage, to boost the communication skills for young people who feel
          hesitant taking part in these social engagement activities will be
          carried forward via Connexions.

          Overall, therefore, there are around 800 young people addressing
          their basic skills needs. To substantially increase this Birmingham
          and Solihull LSC is supporting a set of common developments to
          increase the numbers actively working on their basic skills. These
          include:
               each organisation having a focused set of developments in
                 relation to basic skills support
               the need for better assessment and referral processes
               access to basic skills materials
               access to consistent assessment tools that are appropriate
                 to this client group
               links to colleges e.g. for organisational support
               links to enable access to mainstream LSC programme
                 funding

(b) Probation Service work with offenders
    Of the estimated 2000+ people on probation orders in the area more than
    50% have strong basic skills needs. Whilst some of these can move into
    mainstream provision after a short amount of preparatory work, others are
    very transient (reoffending before being securely linked to provision) or
    erratic (because of the linkages across to complex lifestyles).

   Education and training has an increased role to play in reintegrating
   prisoners back into the community. Providing basic literacy and numeracy
   teaching as part of an offender’s daily regime can reduce reoffending rates
   by as much as 12 per cent. For this reason improving the basic literacy
   and numeracy skills of prisoners and those on supervision orders is one
   key part of the Government’s Skills for Life strategy. This year there is a
   national expectation that 28,800 offenders will achieve a basic skills
   qualification at entry, level one or level two, rising to 32,000 in 2003-4.

   A circular from the National Probation Directorate in 2000 required
   probation areas to increase the educational and vocational qualification of
   offenders on supervision. In addition to setting achievement targets the
   National Standards for the Supervision of Offenders in the Community
   required ‘that every Probation Service Report should contain an offender
   assessment which shall state the offender’s status in relation to literacy
   and numeracy’. There are around 8,000 Probation Service Reports each
   year in the area, i.e. 8,000 reports that state the literacy/numeracy levels
   of offenders.

   Probation Areas were allocated funds within the cash limit for the provision
   of basic skills programmes from the current spending round totalling
£3.6m, nationally, for 2002/3 and £7.9m for 2003/4. Areas will be able to
use this additional funding to complement their existing spend on basic
skills programmes and target its use on reaching the new targets. From
September 2002, the Learning and Skills Council is able to fund probation
service provision directly.

The provision of basic skills programmes for offenders within the
community has not been previously undertaken, by the probation service,
on this larger scale. The West Midlands Probation Service has responded
well in developing an effective infrastructure in order to deliver more basic
skills programmes. They have appointed a basic skills development
officer and have a development agenda that includes:
    • Using basic skills tutors with recognised national qualifications
    • Using approved screening, assessment and individual learning
        plans.
    • Direct provision of, and/or access to, nationally approved
        programmes of learning, using materials approved by Adult Basic
        Skills Strategy Unit and appropriate to the level of offender
    • Providing advice and guidance on progression to other learning
        opportunities at higher levels within the community
    • Ensuring that there is access to esol where this is needed
    • Learning programmes flexibly constructed including group
        provision, intensive courses, individual programmes, as well as
        methods that exploit new technologies.
    • Learning mentor support for those who would benefit, with mentors
        appropriately qualified, supervised and developed
    • Access to nationally recognised qualification and accreditation
    • Systems for effective monitoring

Given the high potential for attrition between screening at Probation
Service Report stage and participation in learning programmes,
appropriate assessment needs to take place as soon after referral as
possible. Appropriateness of, and familiarity with, screening and
diagnostic assessment tools is a continuing issue.

There is a need to find ways in which basic skills teaching can be provided
whilst an offender is attending other interventions, for example whilst
undertaking a general offending behaviour programme, a drug programme
or in a hostel.

The Probation Service has clusters of staff (Employment Liaison officers;
hostel staff; Probation Service officers; volunteers etc) all of whom can
have specific contributions to make in terms of supporting offenders to
access basic skills provision. Delivery is a mix of inhouse and contracted
in (from a variety of providers). Good use has been made, since 1998, of
paraprofessionals in hostels (including specialist hostels such as one for
men with mental health problems); use of ICT with basic skills software,
including flexible use of laptops; customised basic skills provision; 1:1 and
drop in work (with visiting teachers) in hostels/day centres. These
   activities were initially externally funded as development activities but have
   increasingly been funded by the Probation Service itself.

   Stronger links between probation activity and activity through providers
   already funded via the Learning and Skills Council will enable offenders to
   access ongoing community provision and appropriate support.

   A substantial proportion of those currently worked with have been
   successful in the new national tests. This, combined with increased use of
   assessment tools, and an approach based on topping up spiky profiles etc,
   has led to more focus on the achievement of outcomes. There is still
   clarification underway re the targets that the Probation Service have for
   offenders in Birmingham and Solihull; that these are for qualifications
   rather than individuals; and how these targets align and overlap with local
   LSC targets for basic skills achievements. In Birmingham and Solihull the
   Probation basic skills targets for 2002-2003 are 174 starts with 60 going to
   the test at any level. In 2003/4 achievement targets are 54 awards at
   entry level, 213 at level 1, and 53 at level 2.

   In the period April to June 2002 the Probation Service locally had achieved
   37 starts via hostels and 28 starts via field work (scaling up to 260 starts
   for the year). A Pre New Deal Programme has targeted those offenders
   (16+, but predominantly 25+) released into Birmingham from Birmingham
   Prison. This programme included provision based on assessment in the
   context of guidance. Given the basic skills support infrastructure
   development within the Prison Service it is becoming more feasible for
   such adults to bring Individual Learning Plans with them on release and to
   more seamlessly continue their progress towards basic skills
   accreditations.

(c) parents
    Many of the individuals on basic skills programmes, or other programmes
    with basic skills support, will be parents. Addressing their needs as
    parents is not, however, the prime driver for this provision. Other
    programmes are targeted at parents (e.g. Help Your Child with Reading)
    but are not basic skills provision, although could be developed to have
    clear basic skills goals (mapped to the standards) embedded in them and
    separately accredited. The programmes that most directly address the
    basic skills needs of parents are the family literacy and numeracy
    programmes delivered, via LEAs, with funding that comes from the DfES
    partly via the Basic Skills Agency and partly via the Learning and Skills
    Council. These courses are not simply an attractive form of adult learning
    but have a double adult/child purpose.

   The family literacy/numeracy model is based on research into most
   effective practice and is structured as courses (72 hours for literacy; 45
   hours for numeracy) supported by shorted workshop courses (10 hours).
   These models have three interconnected aims:
            to raise the literacy/numeracy levels of pupils (contributing to the
              school standards agenda)
        to increase support from parents for children’s literacy/numeracy
         developments (i.e. links directly into child’s existing activities)
        addressing the basic skills needs of adults, by measurable
         progress within the course and by uptake of further basic skills
         learning, or other learning with appropriate degrees of basic
         skills support (i.e. contributes to adult basic skills agenda).

The courses are targeted by LEAs on schools in disadvantaged areas,
where key stage results are low, and where this activity will best fit into the
wider support and challenge to schools which is the LEA’s function. The
involvement, with schools, of appropriate advisory input from the LEA is
important.

In Birmingham and Solihull more than 85 substantial courses are delivered
each year. Birmingham LEA delivers the largest programme nationally
(and probably in Europe). The programmes are part of a wider Family
Learning Strategy that has gained some national recognition – bringing
together various policy agendas (school effectiveness; Skills for Life;
Family support; social inclusion etc) into a coherent approach.

The model is ‘schools driven’ to the extent that the content derives directly
from the participating pupils’ current activity in terms of the National
Literacy/Numeracy Frameworks. Schools select the year group that is
most in need of this particular support and release a teacher to jointly
deliver with the most appropriate adult basic skills provider. The LEA’s
role is to provide strong brokerage, support and monitoring.

Whilst much family literacy work, nationally, has ‘collected’ at the
preschool/early years stage the school-led model has raised pupil
standards throughout Key Stages 1 and 2. Work is currently being carried
forward to work with large numbers of secondary schools in similar ways.

The impact on pupil attainment is clearly recorded. Ensuring the same
accelerated basic skills impact for adults needs more attention. Adult
providers are sometimes unsure of the extent to which parents should be
making progress in their own basic skills; are weaker at recording such
progress; and weak at sensitively driving towards basic skills recognised
outcomes. Given the rapid expansion in volume an early emphasis was
on getting the practice right. There is now an emphasis on recording the
outcomes from these processes.

For the proportion of money that comes via the LSC, the LEA has included
family literacy/numeracy along with family learning in its Adult Learning
Plan. This is a whole LEA plan but in the current year there has been a
confusion between this and the transitional ‘adult education service
guarantee.’ The LEAs currently broker this money, on behalf of schools,
to get the best outcomes for adults and pupils. In Birmingham this is done
collaboratively by a group whereby the LEA brings together a range of
providers, library service etc and ensures a joint and cooperative
approach.
   Work is beginning to unlock additional basic skills learners by
   strengthening the role of particular intermediaries in organisations working
   with substantial numbers of parents in ‘high need’ areas. Through the
   national Step into Learning activity (which is led by the Basic Skills Agency
   on behalf of the Adult Basic Skills Strategy Unit, and in which the
   Birmingham Core Skills Development Partnership is one of the key
   partners) managers of Neighbourhood Nurseries are being trained in basic
   skills awareness. Similar links are being made with the range of Sure
   Start programmes in the area, and with the LEA’s support to parents in a
   number of hostels.

   There are a number of programmes that are engaging with large numbers
   of parents. Bookstart, for example, contacts 14,000 parents every year at
   the time when their child is having its initial health check. The Inspire
   programme is currently engaging more than 50,000 parents a year.
   Neither of these are adult learning programmes and both would easily lose
   their impact and potency if skewed towards adult learning agendas. At the
   same time the programmes are in contact with more adults with basic
   skills needs than there are altogether in all adult basic skills provision. The
   puzzle is how to unlock more of the basic skills dialogue with these
   parents without spoiling the effectiveness of the programmes at what they
   do so effectively.

   All of this work involves complex negotiations of substantial courses
   across a range of partners. This cannot be efficiently delivered, at current
   volumes, on a year by year basis. Planning would be easier if shifted into
   the basis of 3 year indications of funding.

   The LEA has a commitment to reduce the organisational burdens on
   schools. One effective model involves channelling the money through the
   LEA which then negotiates with schools and brokers the best provision on
   an area basis by commissioning delivery from the best combination of
   providers in that area.

(d) public sector workers
    The public sector workforce is one of the key target groups for the adult
    basic skills strategy. Within the two Local Authorities alone there are more
    than 10,000 workers who have basic skills gaps. Whilst Birmingham City
    Council has put this work as a priority within its corporate plan, work has
    been done with less than 100 employees over a 2 year period. There is
    clearly scope for expansion of activity. Some Departments have
    responded well but others have yet to engage with the basic skills needs
    of their own employees. Clearer links with the LSC and potential
    providers, and a clearer understanding of the scale of work to be expected
    (and funded) would help.

   Other public agencies in Birmingham and Solihull i.e. Connexions,
   Advantage West Midlands, Learning and Skills Council, Probation, police,
   fire service, health service, JobCentre Plus are all actively considering the
   basic skills needs of their workforce or represent large numbers of staff
   with the potential to do targeted work.

   Birmingham and Solihull Learning and Skills Council has recently brought
   together the range of major public sector employers around a workforce
   agenda that includes post-employment skills training, which will include an
   element of addressing basic skills levels.

   The Department of Health has included basic skills as a priority in its
   lifelong learning strategy, with early intervention planned by the NHS
   University, the local workforce confederation, and the LSC Health and
   Care Sector processes.

   All of these processes will lead to a substantial increase in public sector
   basic skills activity in 2003.

(e) unemployed people
    It is estimated that at least 32% of all unemployed people have basic skills
    needs and that these, in part, prevent them from improving their prospects
    of finding and keeping work.

   A key priority for JobCentre Plus is to improve the literacy and numeracy
   skill levels of people whose need is greatest. Their focus includes
   unemployed people and benefit claimants, and other groups who are at
   risk of exclusion including the homeless, and refugees and asylum
   seekers.

   Even where there is a national requirement to screen clients for basic skills
   needs at the six months point of the process, in Birmingham and Solihull
   screening is done from day one. This has the potential advantage of
   earlier identification of need (and therefore earlier meeting of those
   needs). The disadvantage is that the screening is done not by New Deal
   Advisers but by new claims advisers, restart advisers or intervention
   workers i.e. brings the need for more awareness training with a wider
   range of staff.

   This commitment from JobCentre Plus to reposition the New Deal
   screening and assessment of clients for basic skills support is in
   recognition that such support is needed if the programme is to secure
   significant further reductions in the numbers out of work. The literacy and
   numeracy skills needs of jobseekers are tackled through a systematic
   process, conducted by a personal adviser. Those assessed as having
   poor literacy and numeracy can be referred to external experts for further
   assessment using the Basic Skills Agency test. Clients on the New Deal
   for Young People are screened at the point of entry and those aged 25
   and over are screened after six months on Job Seekers Allowance as part
   of their Restart interview. For clients with fewer skills gaps there is a need
   to review basic skills self-identification and participation in self-directed
   study, through further education or learndirect, and how this data might
contribute to the achievement of JobCentre Plus basic skills annual
performance targets.

New targets of 90% screening of clients form part of the JobCentre Plus
Business Delivery Plan to support and improve performance. Locally the
rate of screening has risen from around 80% to 97.4%, making it one of
the best performing districts. The number going on to actively address
their basic skills needs remains quite low however. The low numbers
referred has a consequence for contractors financially being unable to
maintain contracts. Progress is being made to improve the take up rate
and in the period April-June 2002 929 New Deal clients accessed basic
skills support via the Full Time Education and Training option.

During the past year JobCentre Plus District Office has worked with
Birmingham and Solihull LSC on what to do about basic skills as one of
their agreed priorities. This has involved basic skills practitioners’ network,
Basic Skills Provider Forums and EQUAL basic skills sub-groups being
established with a remit of researching and mapping existing basic skills
provision and potential levels of learners need and to clearly identify the
issues regarding basic skills and language development in New Deal and
Work based Learning for Adults.

The areas identified as requiring further development centred upon the
following:
 A recent review of figures for stock levels, by local office, of those not
    in New Deal, Work Based Learning for Adults or other training activity,
    provides a challenge for front-line staff in supporting the progression of
    clients.
 Weaknesses in the identification and assessment of basic skills
    centring on the current processes, assessment tool used and staff
    expertise
 Difficulties of persuading clients to undertake basic skills as part of their
    New Deal Programme
 Lack of awareness of the underpinning basic skills/language required
    for employment by both New Deal Personal Advisors, tutors and New
    Deal clients
 The need to develop the capacity of some sections of the voluntary
    sector involved in New Deal in order to deliver basic skills/language
 Insufficient New Deal provision for basic skills, and particularly for
    ESOL

Colleges and training providers offer the bulk of JobCentre Plus basic
skills provision. Considerable work is already taking place in improving
basic skills provision by local delivery organisations:
 Exploration of organisational development needs for Real Work
    Experience Options provider involved in New Deal basic
    skills/language delivery. Work is ongoing to develop the capacity of
    Real Work Experience providers to address basic skills need
 Joint working and planning between JobCentre Plus providers and
    Adult Education providers to form short-term projects to increase and
    improve networking activity aimed at benefiting client progression
    between Adult Education, LSC and JobCentre Plus Pre-vocational
    suppliers
   Flexible learning approaches and collaboration among JobCentre Plus
    Local offices basic skills providers has led to additional piloted ESOL
    provision, targeting Gateway clients and is now rolled out include 25+
   On-line basic skills provision will be encouraged through the work with
    learndirect allowing individuals to study to via personal computer at
    home or at local community centres
   Marketing of basic skills will be important to consider what stops adults
    from acknowledging that they have a basic skills need as many do not
    know, or will not accept that they have a need.
   Basic skills training and staff development priorities for the coming year
    will include a Training Needs Analysis in relation to understanding and
    involvement in basic skills support training for staff and advisers on
    core curriculum and the new assessment framework and developing
    interview procedures and reviewing process.
   Appointment of additional Basic Skills support hours (as two co-
    ordinators, one for Birmingham and one for Solihull) as an additional
    resource for local offices and contract teams with the responsibility for
    promoting basic skills to managers and staff, and to develop basic
    skills champions in local offices.
   A health equality checklist to be developed and incorporated into basic
    skills monitoring to ensure contract compliance on basic skills
    screening, diagnostic assessment, and quality assurance of basic skills
    delivery
   With over half the people identified with basic skills needs being in the
    workplace, employer involvement in provision is critical. The Business
    Development Team representatives will act as basic skills advocates to
    encourage employees to provide basic skills learning.

The majority of people attending some New Deal basic skills courses have
learning difficulties. This raises the question as to whether JobCentre Plus
advisers and providers have an accurate understanding of what basic
skills are and that basic skills needs stretch far beyond the lower levels of
skills.

If providers are only getting referrals of learners with very low levels of
English skills, there are real difficulties for them in getting to positive
outcomes within the contract time period. If this is combined with low
numbers being referred, then contractors may not be able to run contracts
effectively.

JobCentre Plus are about to issue new contracts for workbased training.
As a result of reviewing their provision, more attention is being given to the
basic skills components of these contracts. If the enhancements outlined
above are securely put in place there is the potential for more than 4,000
adults to be improving their basic skills via JobCentre Plus programmes,
with 2,000 moving up a level each year.
(f) voluntary sector
    A major issue within the national strategy concerns the engagement of
    new kinds of learners and in order to effectively widen participation a key
    aim is to find ways of making basic skills learning a positive experience
    that will ‘hook’ in new learners and enable them to achieve their aims.

   The TEC/LSC project to build capacity in the voluntary sector has now
   been underway for several years. It sprang from the need to involve the
   voluntary sector in vocational training. The LSC works closely with
   Birmingham Voluntary Service Council and voluntary organisations have
   so far achieved three stages of development: Grassroots: Quality First;
   then building Quality Systems via PQASSO; lastly, attaining Investors in
   People status (of which 11 voluntary sector providers went through last
   year.)

   In addition Birmingham Voluntary Service Council runs three service
   development groups: Human Resources (audit, Training Needs Analysis
   etc); management in the black voluntary sector; and secondments
   intersector. There are also three topic groups with a focus on health/social
   care; housing; education & training. The Human Resources development
   group and the three topic groups have more potential to push the basic
   skills agenda forward.

   Over the past 3 years there have been a number of disconnected national
   developments, via different national intermediaries. Whilst these have
   been made use of locally it has always been argued that bidding; small
   projects; nationally managed reporting etc do not aid the strategic
   development at local level and that better progress would come from a
   unified, ring fenced development fund administered locally. This is now
   partially available as the LSC Neighbourhood Renewal Fund.
   Organisations are currently making proposals for best use of this money.
   It is uncertain where the responsibility lies for bringing these proposals
   together with co-financing proposals, capacity-building proposals etc
   especially where tendering mechanisms are used.

   A range of voluntary organisations (including some well established ones)
   are concerned with structured basic skills delivery; and local community
   and voluntary agencies are additionally often well placed to identify basic
   skills problems and work with individuals in an informal way. In this context
   the review commissioned a piece of work to identify the levels of
   engagement of voluntary and community sector organisations with basic
   skills signposting and delivery, and also their capacity to bridge learners
   between informal and formal learning.

   More than 100 organisations in Birmingham (often with a sectoral focus
   that includes: social housing, homeless, disability, mental health, young
   people, and ethnic minorities) are currently engaged with basic skills
   activity in some way. Capacity-building support has been available to
   enable these organisations to improve the support and delivery of basic
   skills, to enable learners to move into mainstream learning and to support
organisations to work towards the Basic Skills Agency Quality Mark, where
appropriate.

Voluntary and community organisations across Birmingham initially
identified the following factors, to improve their basic skills work:
    Lack of information on how to get easy access to basic skills staff
        training and professional development
    Poor resources and lack of knowledge concerning what counts as
        ‘a good resource’
    Poor use of assessment tools and weak development of individual
        learning plans for their clients
    Lack of understanding concerning the issue of basic skills, its
        impact on people and how it should be tackled
    Basic skills being the responsibility of one part of an organisation
        rather than it being treated as the responsibility of everyone in the
        organisation.
    Little understanding of how basic skills can be supported using ICT
    Lack of information concerning any wider basic skills strategy,
        expectations and developments
    Lack of support from the organisation’s senior management for
        basic skills work in the context of their core service delivery

There has been a recent drive on building the strengths of the voluntary
sector to address basic skills by focusing on:
   ♦ increasing the engagement with people who have a basic skills
       need.
   ♦ Making better best use of intermediary organisations.
   ♦ Providing training for intermediaries and mentors so that they are
       able to advise and refer effectively
   ♦ Raising the standards of the voluntary sector so that it is more able
       to provide basic skills training itself
   ♦ Clearer linking of voluntary projects with other providers

Support has been available through the use of a consistent menu of
activities, through the development of a training ladder and through the
deployment of a small number of voluntary sector basic skills advisers.
This work has been of high quality, with an emphasis on meeting the
specific organisational needs. This work has, to an extent, mirrored the
Basic Skills Quality Initiative available to substantial providers, although
the voluntary sector has not had direct access to financial support for
quality improvement in basic skills delivery.

The basic skills adviser is an important key to the success of this activity.
This person works as an intermediary understanding both the needs of the
organisation and needs of funders who maybe providing the training and
development revenue. The development of the role of the learning
adviser is critical to the increased involvement of the voluntary sector in
the delivery of the basic skills agenda. A person specification is being
developed to formalize this work, and work is beginning to outline the
   training and support such basic skills advisers need as well as to estimate
   the numbers of advisers needed in different contexts.

   Existing providers (colleges etc) have undertaken this role in relatively
   uncoordinated ways, but this has often been from the basis of the
   voluntary organisation being subcontracted or being seen as a source of
   learners. In some cases there has not been an appreciation of the skills
   within the voluntary organisation. This is particularly acute in those cases
   where the voluntary sector has felt ‘used’ by mainstream providers looking
   to boost their student numbers.

   Organisational support has covered:
       Strategy for the delivery of basic skills support within the
         organisation i.e. signposting, one to one support, integrated basic
         skills within other activity or basic skills direct teaching
       Recruitment of clients and recognising their basic skills needs
       Quality of teaching
       Teaching resources/materials
       Community linkages/interagency work
       Assessment of basic skills
       Staffing arrangements

   In addition to its role as a broker or ‘unlocker’ of basic skills needs
   because of its close relationship with target client groups, the voluntary
   sector also has a role in its capacity as a major employer and as a route
   into basic skills work with key officers and participants in community and
   renewal processes. It is now recognised as an employment sector and
   work is starting to structurally address the training needs of the sector
   (including their basic skills needs).

(g) Issues specific to ESOL
    Second language speakers are found in large numbers in adult and further
    education provision with a very large proportion being placed on general
    ESOL provision without any progression routes. This can mean a lack of
    links with other areas of college provision e.g. advice & guidance and
    progression to mainstream learning. The result is that ESOL learners in
    many ways are, and remain, an isolated community or learners. Esol
    provision remains an area that will benefit from wider clarification,
    particularly given that some learners are anticipating multiple outcomes
    from their learning.

   Participation on JobCentrePlus-funded programmes and LSC-funded
   Modern Apprenticeship is low. This is also identified as an area needing
   attention by the 16-19-wide area inspection report which identified that
   only 18% of trainees are from ethnic minority groups. This is significantly
   lower than the minority ethnic population in secondary schools in the area,
   and also lower than that of the population as a whole.

   The questionnaires and provider visits undertaken as part of this current
   review, show that Modern Apprenticeships and JobCentre Plus training
   providers offer literacy and numeracy but generally did not offer ESOL.
   Providers gave a number of reasons for this. These included (a) that they
   did not accept the ESOL client group because they could not be expected
   to achieve in time and (b) that they felt unable to take the ESOL client
   group because they did not have the skills to deal with the different
   learning needs required by this group.

   The assumption needs to be challenged that ESOL always equates to
   provision for people with very low level of English language skills.
   Providers and advisers too often perceive second language speakers as
   people who have little English; and do not consider people with an
   intermediate or advanced amount of fluency as fitting in this target group.
   If all provision remains at the lower (e.g. Entry) levels, there are
   implications not only for learner progression and provider expectations, but
   also for the capacity of the system to offer sufficient movement ‘up a level’
   and contribute to local and national targets.

   In addition to the group with substantial language needs there are many
   2nd/3rd generation second language speakers who have mother-tongue
   influence. The needs of these learners are not being picked up at all even
   though they are found in large numbers across Birmingham & Solihull
   training and education. Providers welcomed the proposed LSC project to
   look at mother-tongue influence.

   Advisers realised that a non-New Deal course of 26 weeks may not be
   sufficient to teach second language speakers English from scratch. They
   welcomed the suggestion that people with substantial language needs,
   which cannot be ‘fixed’ in 26 weeks, should be referred to full time,
   intensive language provision which teaches English not just for survival but
   also in the work context. As soon as they have sufficient English to benefit
   from specific vocational support programmes, they could then progress to
   these programmes with language support and specific help with jobsearch.

(h) Adults with learning difficulties and disabilities
    The quality questionnaire responses seem to indicate that people with
    learning differences and disabilities only have access to stand-alone
    provision and are excluded from mainstream education and training
    courses. Access to basic skills can be expanded by opening up a fuller
    range of opportunities for this client group, and creating specific provision
    tailored to the needs of groups of adults with particular disabilities.

   Birmingham Core Skills Development Partnership commissioned
   Cambridge Training and Development Ltd to investigate the level and
   range of provision for adults with learning difficulties and disabilities in the
   Partnership area. The research included the collection and collation of
   information, where available, from providers. It also included contact with
   statutory and voluntary organisations working with the range of adults
   represented; and gathering their impressions of available provision.
   The aim was to capture what basic skills provision exists in the
   Birmingham area for adults with disabilities, including adults with special
   educational needs, physical disabilities, mental health issues and complex
   disabilities.

   The report includes feedback from fifty-four organisations contacted. Thirty
   of the organisations either offered basic skills help to this client group in-
   house or referred them on to other providers.

   Six voluntary organisations had considerable involvement in basic skills
   provision and at least ten more were keen to develop and have further
   involvement in basic skills.

   Discrete basic skills provision was seen as unmotivating to many in this
   particular target group. Most organisations reported the need to integrate
   basic skills into other provision. This was often into Independent Living
   Skills and work related provision, but there is an increasing desire to
   provide basic skills within more specialist and innovative courses such as
   Photography, Computer Skills, Office Skills, etc.

   Most organisations felt that current resources are only just beginning to
   meet the basic skills needs of client groups. There is a significant need to
   develop ESOL resources that integrate basic skills in order to measure,
   assess and deliver basic skills in an integrated package for this client
   group (particularly materials that are usually strong and available on
   CDROM).

   Clients with physical disabilities need specialised and often expensive
   equipment, but even where this is not needed it is possible to broaden the
   modes of delivery using more appropriate methods individually tailored to
   needs.

    There have always been issues of achievement and funding of
     outcomes for this group. This does not prevent best use being made of
     the curriculum standards, the core curricula, the ‘Access for All’
     guidance materials, and the expectation that skills progress will be
     negotiated, planned and recorded.
    As more work is done with adults e.g. with mental health issues, then
     more sophisticated approaches to providing learner support need to be
     explored.
    The learning offer needs to be broadened to enable some
     customisation for the range of learners with disabilities, to match any
     broadening of opportunities for other learners.
    The needs of adults who are deaf …

(i) low skill workers
    It has been almost impossible to record, or even estimate, the number of
    adults addressing their basic skills needs via employers’ own training and
    support. Where the work is contracted on to a provider, or where the
    employer is funded as a work based learning contract holder, then
numbers show through. New arrangements in 2002-3 which will allow
employers to receive funds directly from the local Learning and Skills
Council will assist in capturing the volume, levels and outcomes of this
work. The local LSC consistently makes the point that having gaps in
basic skills does not necessarily mean that workers are vocationally ‘low
skill’, or do not have Level 1 basic skills.

Birmingham and Solihull Learning and Skills Council have been working
with a range of agencies to develop an approach that will lever out much
higher levels of work-focused basic skills developments. There are a
number of strands to this model. These include:

(i)        Stressing the strategic importance of work with employers/employees
           • high profile in Birmingham and Solihull LSC’s strategic plan to
              2005
           • linked to national drives via ‘Skills for Life’ national adult basic
              skills strategy
           • inclusion in co-financing framework
           • build into sector development plans/Human Resource plans
           • high level of development activity in 2002-2003 via Core Skills
              Development Partnership resources
           • high priority within Regeneration Zone activity

(ii)       Promoting importance of basic skills at work
           • better understanding of specific needs of each sector – by job
              levels; by changing nature of jobs etc
           • employer briefings, making use of ‘champion’ employers
           • strengthened links to developments via CBI; Sector Skills
              Councils; TUC etc
           • marketing campaign to sectors/employers

(iii)      Integration into unified business support package
           • part of company process analysis work
           • part of support for Investors in People
           • part of company Training Needs Analysis (using Skills Scan etc)
           • linked to sector/company Human Resource strategies (via HR
               Planner etc)
           • recognised brokerage processes to give access to appropriate,
               skilled providers
           • part of development of learning points/learning centres on
               company premises
           • sector specific curriculum development work – focusing on work
               tasks (e.g. sector-focused CD-ROMs on bite-sized learning)
           • linked to role of union learning representatives

(iv)       Business Link (for smes) and local LSC (for larger companies) hold
        promotion and brokerage role
           • Two kinds of trained brokers – ‘generic’ and ‘more advanced’
           • Generic brokerage promotes the value of basic skills
              development in the workplace and discusses general needs.
           This function likely to be fulfilled e.g. by existing IiP Advisers and
           Business Skills Advisers
       •   More enhanced brokerage, e.g. via Business Link staff who
           have specialisms in a sector, able to discuss the support
           available and to create links to appropriate external providers

(v)    Improved range of providers
       • ‘First steps’ provision often able to be made in company via
          sector-specific software, learning points, boxes of learning
          resources, trained learning champions/learning representatives
       • work with learndirect to ensure that on-line learning in
          companies, adequately covers basic skills needs
       • Including company trainers in any basic skills training sessions
       • Providers increasingly benchmark to higher standards re
          Common Inspection Framework; and as a minimum meet a
          standard equivalent to the Basic Skills Agency Quality Mark
       • Providers offered training on how to more effectively work with
          different companies and deliver in an employer context
       • Providers encouraged to see this work as part of longer term
          relationships with companies
       • LSC and ES providers become more familiar with NTO/Sector
          Skills Council mapping re basic skills and vocational
          programmes

The recent Comprehensive Spending Review set a target of 1 million
adults in the workforce, nationally, to achieve NVQ Level 2 between 2003
and 2006. This requires parallel attention to the underpinning core skills to
ensure that NVQ2 achievements can be secured in large numbers locally.

A number of activities with employers/employees that were initiated via
Birmingham and Solihull TEC, and further developed via Birmingham and
Solihull Learning and Skills Council are now being incorporated into
national developments.

As with other things, there is not really one ‘workplace’ but a spiky
spectrum of workplaces – some easier to access than others, some with
rhythms that are difficult to match; some that simply want a ‘quick fix’ for a
number of staff (and only after that is met, to be offered a wider menu of
options).

The Employer Training Pilot (one of six national such pilots) in Birmingham
and Solihull will work with 4,200 employees, across selected sectors,
between September 2002 and August 2003. 2,000 of these will be
working on basic skills achievements at Entry level, Level 1 or Level 2.
This will be the first testing of the capacity of the system to deliver large
scale activity over a short time scale. This in turn is raising queries about
the extent to which the elements are in place re brokerage; capacity of
providers to really deliver basic skills in work contexts etc.
Much is now known about what motivates employers, marketing to
employers and the overall structures that can be lined up to produce large-
number activity. There are excellent examples of practice within providers
and within employers but there is a case for fast tracking a larger number
of provider staff to create a larger ‘bank’ of people to draw on. There are
providers of vocational programmes whose staff may be able to be trained
up to deliver basic skills with a sector specialism.

Within approaches that offer support both for NVQ and for basic skills
outcomes there may be employers who ‘know’ NVQ but don’t ‘know’ the
basic skills test i.e. there is a need to promote the benefits of the tests
(possible as a milestone with NVQ2 as a subsequent outcome, especially
for 25+ age group).

The term ‘basic skills’ is acting as a barrier with some brokers, employers,
and providers. This is both in terms of the assumption that basic skills
implies Entry level skills rather than skills up to GCSE level, and in terms
of basic skills continuing to be seen as skills that cannot be discussed in a
neutral, up-front way.

There has been local activity around linking Trade Union Learning Reps to
the basic skills agenda for a few years, but there are only a few examples
of extensive real basic skills outcomes. TUC Learning Services have
confirmed that an estimated 50 or more Union Learning Representatives
are established in the area. They are all involved in work established over
the last 18 months (mainly via Union Learning Fund activity). Union
learning reps have been trained as workplace basic skills brokers.

The support infrastructure includes the TUC Education Centre (part of
South Birmingham College), the TUC Learning Services Midlands team
which builds and maintains links with Union Learning reps. A pilot
programme of English support alongside union training assists the learning
reps with some of their own communication skills, and increases basic
skills awareness amongst the reps.

There is a fair amount of union learning rep activity but not as much as in
other areas, and it has not been easy to identify clear benefits to the local
basic skills agenda, in any substantial way.

Providers appear to be polarised on company-related training. On the one
hand, there are training providers who have experience of vocational
training and an understanding of the workplace, but little or no
understanding of basic skills and adult learning. On the other hand, some
colleges have staff with extensive experience of basic skills delivery but
little understanding of delivery in the workplace, experience in the sector,
or sector understanding. Tutors need to have advanced skills in teaching
basic skills and an understanding of the context in which basic skills may
be applied in the workplace. This happens in the ‘best case’ examples,
but is far from universal.
   The experience of several basic skills providers shows how complicated
   the process of commissioning, designing and delivering in-company
   training is. They also need to be able to assess quickly what skills are
   needed since employers are reluctant to spend large amounts of time with
   basic skills tutors to set up a programme of learning. Employers who
   participated in the basic skills review suggested that basic skills
   practitioners are simply not able to survey the situation and design
   learning programmes quickly enough and that, if tutors are not up to
   speed, the employer will disengage.

   Six Job Recruitment Agencies will be engaged to provide 100 of their
   advisers to be trained in using screening and diagnostic tools in sector
   contexts; to strengthen their links with workplace basic skills providers;
   and to build on the Basic Skills Agency sector skills work that has mapped
   sector skills to the basic skills framework. A ‘centre of excellence’ will be
   developed, that will incorporate work-related basic skills work, and which
   will act as a resource base for more than 50 employer providers.

   Best practice models will be used to mount at least 10 programmes for
   100 employees. These will be alongside pilots to extend this work into
   non-traditional workplace settings.

Potential developments
   • More reliable participation data is able to provided
   • Analysis of this data (by gender; age; ethnicity; area/postcode;
      curriculum area (literacy/numeracy/esol); level (Entry; Level 1; Level 2);
      target client group; structural programme; mode of delivery etc) will
      enable data on provision to be aligned with data on need, and gaps
      identified for the commissioning of programmes
   • 2001 census data will allow need and participation to be triangulated
      with up to date demographic profiles
   • More use can be made of data (once has a certain level of reliability)
      as a basis for forward planning
   • Data on achievement across levels will become more important to
      record accurately
   • JobCentre Plus has drawn up its basic skills action plan and is
      prioritising its ‘next step’ developments. These are likely to include:
               - frontline adviser training
               - better data analysis re levels of conversion from screening,
                  to assessment, to needs being met, to accreditation
               - provider development re basic skills, particularly esol
   • Clarification of approaches to English for Speakers of Other
      Languages, particularly the need to boost participation at higher levels
      leading to national accreditations
   • Reshaping some provision to meet the differentiated needs of various
      groups of adults who speak other languages
   • Clarification of effectiveness of linkages between screening processes,
      outreach processes, bridging processes and main programme activities
      (for a variety of target client groups)
•   Coherent development framework agreed with range of organisations
    that are not direct providers of basic skills, but who are active with large
    numbers of disadvantaged young people and whose core business
    links easily across to basic skills issues
•   Basic skills issues to be built into Connexions personal adviser training;
    and basic skills outcomes to be promoted substantially via Connexions
    activities
•   Stronger links made between existing LSC providers and organisations
    such as Foyers, Youth Offending Service, Drugs Action Team etc
•   Increasing the basic skills outcomes from youth contact activities
•   Work to be done to explore boosting communication skills for youth
    involvement in social decision-making
•   Promotion of the dual purpose of the strong schools-led model of family
    literacy/numeracy
•   Increasing the adult basic skills outcomes from family basic skills
    programmes
•   Family basic skills to give maximum support to schools by moving to 3
    year indications of scale of activity brokered, via the LEA schools
    section, to include the most appropriate area-based adult basic skills
    provider
•   Substantial increase in work with public sector workers
•   Use of employer research to specify some of the work to be
    undertaken with employers
•   Access to national basic skills accreditations to be actively promoted
    via employer training pilot; EQUAL programme; Entry to Employment
    etc
•   Benefits in establishing the level of ‘real’ basic skills outcome activity
    via brokerage; Trade Union learning reps etc
•   A clearer estimate is needed of the number of voluntary sector basic
    skills advisers who will be needed each year over the next 3 years
    (linked to specific target groups)
•   The role of umbrella organisations and key intermediary organisations
    to be further classified.
Section 6: Diversity of learning opportunities
6.1 Range of providers
    The Birmingham and Solihull area is well served by a large and varied set
    of provider organisations This provider base has grown from a position
    where adult basic skills was delivered almost entirely by 3 or 4 providers to
    a position where every provider is delivering some form of adult basic skills
    support. This increase has been in response to shifts in national
    legislation, changing funding priorities and recent strategy drivers.

   Much of the rapid shiftings within and between providers has been not so
   much the management of change as the management of accommodation
   to these new national drivers.

   Organisations that previously may have held a view of themselves as the
   sole provider of basic skills in an area have had to adjust to:
       a recognition of a much widened agenda for adult basic skills work;
          with it now forming a part of many other activities
       multi agency activity with the same client group; requiring the
          mental shift in seeing this less in terms of potential for competition
          and more in terms of potential for collaboration
       other agencies, that were a partnership source of learners,
          increasingly taking on their own direct delivery staff
       increased specifications for basic skills work; the need to be much
          more explicit about the ‘what’, ‘why’ and ’how’ of the work
       higher gear/brighter spotlight expectations for this area of work; the
          challenge of now being called on to deliver all that was claimed to
          be possible ‘if only the funding were available’
       the beginnings of a cultural shift from ‘participation’ to
          ‘achievement’; from ‘process’ to ‘outcome’; and from ‘caring
          provision’ to ‘skills acquisition’.

   As the range and volume of basic skills work increased to put it
   everywhere all the time no one organisation in the subregion, or in areas
   within it, had a ’natural lead’. At the same time there is clearly the
   potential to both expand the variety of basic skills opportunities available to
   adults and to increase the local area coherence of the opportunities.

   Appendix A shows the current list of local Learning and Skills Council and
   Job Centre Plus contracted providers of basic skills education and training.

6.2 Variety of modes and models
    Across the provider base there are large variations in the volume and
    balance of programmes offered by different partners. Sometimes this
    reflects the needs of the community, sometimes it is more the result of
    organisational constraints, sometimes simply the result of relatively
    unplanned organic growth. Some examples of this variety are:
 ESOL/ language support varies from almost zero to more than 30% of
  the activity in providers that have substantial numbers of learners with
  language needs.
 Most providers offer a range of literacy/ numeracy/ ESOL – but the
  balance varies dramatically from provider to provider, with varying
  relationships to levels of need in the area. Overall numeracy provision
  is relatively sparse.
 Training providers are more experienced in offering embedded basic
  skills. Embedded work is less prevalent than it could be within other
  providers.
 One of the largest providers delivers overwhelmingly discrete courses
  of below 8 hours a week; and very little integrated basic skills support

   Overall, models across the range of basic skills provision in
                        Birmingham and Solihull have been diversified in
                        the past two years, beyond the ‘staple diet’ of part-
                        time programmes and generalised learning support.
                        Examples of this increased diversity include:
     ~ more short course provision
     ~ intensive 60-hour model being introduced for more learners
     ~ some modular, focused programmes – linked to learning specific
         skills or to early entry to national tests
     ~ the activity of the People’s Learning Partnership and Learning
         Exchange learndirect hubs etc
     ~ increased bridging work and some increased direct delivery via
         voluntary sector and health organisations
     ~ the increased volume and variety of the family literacy/numeracy
         provision
     ~ increased delivery supported by ICT, with an expansion of
         locations equipped with more reasonable levels of equipment
     ~ more systematic, and clearer, use of diagnostic assessment
         enabling providers to identify both adults’ existing skills and their
         gaps in knowledge and skills; and construct programmes to
         move people on in their skills levels

All of this is an indication of the trend away from generic, mixed level,
mixed skills, ‘facilitated’ groups to specific, taught courses based on skills
analysis; targeting basic skills outcomes; within particular contexts;
enabling rapid progress to be made.

At the same time, despite these changes, it remains the case that a large
proportion of the provision is in the form of discrete, non-contextualised
general-skills, year-long courses, with few hours teaching each week.

Not only has meeting basic skills across the curriculum not received the
same attention, but the funding and structures for delivery of basic skills
have traditionally, to most providers, equated adult basic skills work with
‘classes’, ‘groups’ and ‘courses’.
This has created some problems for agencies working with transient client
groups (e.g. probation), with very small numbers (e.g. work in hostels, or
outreach with particular target groups), or in non-traditional ways (e.g.
‘light touch’ support across large numbers in community settings). In
these cases the basic skills work has often been adhoc in its presence,
short-term in its funding, relatively unmanaged, and with lower standards
sometimes being accepted.

This suggests a need for new managed services, with different funding
and delivery mechanisms, whilst still drawing on the highest quality skills
of practitioners. This will be in addition to the established group teaching
and embedded basic skills.

There is also scope for further exploring options for direct delivery of self-
teaching materials directly to targeted homes. If supported by home
tutoring, care would need to be taken re Health and Safety issues, quality
issues etc. More sophisticated targeting of spiky profiles of skills could
mean larger numbers in the community learning without intensive tutor
support.

Throughout the review the key role of the teacher, in whether or not
learners make substantial progress, has been clear. Work is needed to
enhance the attitude of many tutors, but there are other organisational
factors that assist or hinder learner progress.

Modular, focused provision offered in the same place or same locality is a
requirement if learners are to make rapid progress. Putting a wider range
of provision into one venue facilitates the establishment of learning
pathways. Having so much basic skills provision in one venue defines that
place as a ‘basic skills centre’ and can act as a barrier to progression to
the wider curriculum. Where possible basic skills only centres should be
avoided if the venue is large enough to support both an adequate range of
basic skills provision and learning opportunities across a broad curriculum
range.

Such a broadening of the menu of basic skills support would also be able
to assist with strengthening the basic skills of adults and young people
inhibited from broader social involvement in community engagement such
as Young People’s Parliament; Neighbourhood Renewal fora; consultative
groups etc. In support for some of these social involvement activities
basic skills will be practised, but as part of a wider package (and often
without any direct basic skills teaching and learning). A ‘learning adviser’
role can help to make the basic skills aspects more explicit and more
effective without necessarily being identified as a taught element. There
are funding implications for such support and outreach work.

Potential developments:
   • More provision to deliver intensive progress towards planned skills
      outcomes to adults with the greatest levels of need.
•   Increased (and diversified) provision at Entry 3 and above, to meet
    the range of needs revealed by the 2002 survey – more higher level
    skills focus (especially in ESOL)
•   Increased focus on numeracy at all levels
•   A menu of programmes to enable adults to make quicker and more
    effective progress in identified skill areas.
•   Possibility of developing a range of new programmes for home
    learning.
•   An appropriate offer and ‘customisation’ for the range of learners
    with disabilities, that matches the broadening offer for other
    learners.
•   Specific attention to meeting the needs of adults with deafness or
    hearing loss; and the needs of adults who are blind or partially
    sighted.
•   A more adequate range of full-time/ short/ modular courses
•   Better performance on progression, for example from family
    programmes into substantial basic skills provision or from outreach
    work into effective basic skills provision; or from ‘guidance’/’contact’
    on to basic skills assessment with young people
•   A refocusing of the ESOL component of basic skills strategy. Whilst
    key provider staff were happy with the development progress
    recently made in literacy and numeracy, there was felt to be a need
    for robust attention to:
        - responses for people with low level English skills needing
            intensive provision which teaches English not just for survival
            but also in the work context.
        - programmes to give sufficient English learning before
            progress onto specific programmes with language support
        - rethinking of the ESOL element of employment related
            courses
        - meeting differentiated needs e.g. of adults who have low
            written skills and high spoken skills
        - training providers to offer an appropriate range of ESOL
            opportunities to meet the language needs of new arrivals
            who have no English language skills at all, as well as to
            those who were born here but whose English is influenced
            by the mother-tongue of their community (e.g. Creole).
        - not necessarily delivering to single-language groups
        - meeting the language needs of those adults who do not have
            major language needs i.e. ESOL not simply being equated
            with entry level
        - a better balance in ESOL provision, which still consists
            largely of general, home centred language learning on Adult
            and Further Education programmes with little progression to
            mainstream learning or embedded provision
        - increasing the volume of ESOL provision via JobCentre Plus,
            within an overall expansion of the numbers being referred to
            basic skills support
        Booster provision to support entry to national tests
         (literacy/numeracy certificate at Levels 1 and 2; public service
         entrance tests etc)
        Exploring the possibilities for new ‘managed services’ that are able
         to extend the reach of high quality basic skills work beyond
         courses/groups
        Targeted work to meet the specific skills needs of officers/members
         of community organisations; adults/young people wanting to
         participate more in community involvement processes
        Targeted work to meet the numeracy and communication skills
         needs of managers across a range of public services
        Need for recognition that wider diversity of learning modes will need
         a wider range of roles and responsibilities in relation to enhancing
         the basic skills levels of adults
              - different functions; at different levels
              - with on the ground flexibility; in a standardised framework
                 corresponding to FENTO/PAOLO/MTO expectations

6.3 Use of ICT as a tool for basic skills improvement
    Overall, ICT support for basic skills has developed well:
           The use of ICT to support basic skills learning is now seen as
               more routine in a number of providers
           There is increasing access to adequate ICT hardware;
               increasing use of internet as a resource; and use of a more
               consistent set of software (increasingly related to the adult basic
               skills standards)
           There has been some customised development and use of
               software, including vocational CD-ROMs, as well as more
               widespread use of standard set of assessment and learning
               software (Target Skills) etc
           There has been some involvement in testing the application of
               new technologies, providing a focus for links with national
               developments in ICT use re adult basic skills
           A larger number of ICT-rich venues has been established
           Tutors and learners are responding with more motivation

   At the same time, ICT is not used as broadly to teach basic skills as the
   rhetoric might suggest. Its use is dependent on two conditions: access to
   facilities and an enthusiastic practitioner. Good use has been made of
   area regeneration funding to ensure increased ICT facilities in local
   venues used for basic skills teaching.

   Almost all providers provide access to ICT for some or all of their basic
   skills learners but it is clear that some are better equipped to do so than
   others. At least one organisation is making increased substantial use of
   interactive whiteboards, data projectors etc. At the same time there are
   still gaps even at the basic video and audio equipment level. Even more
   worrying are the reports of lack of more fundamental resources such as
   paper for photocopies. Access to reliable technical support is viewed as
   vital once the use of ICT starts to reach substantial levels. There is the
potential to create new network-based services to supply some of the
support needed.

More is achieved when the use of ICT underpins the goals set in the
learning/training plan rather than ICT being seen as tacked on as an
additional activity. This presupposes prior knowledge of suitable software
packages and whilst this is so amongst an increased number of teachers
and managers, there are still many basic skills/esol staff (particularly in
training provider organisations) who do not feel confident that they have
this knowledge.

There is uncertainty over the use of ICT because of confusion over
different names and models such as open, distance, flexible, or supported
learning. References to digital learning; ‘broadband’, ‘wireless’; and many
of the technical debates have left some teachers with a sense that ICT use
is beyond them, because of an overemphasis on the technology rather
than the content.

ICT is widely reported, by providers, as having strongly motivational roles
(particularly with young people). It also offers some more efficient ways of
individual learner support but on its own, i.e. without some direct teaching,
is not leading to large learning gains. It was reported as improving the
quality of the experience more than leading to accelerated outcomes.

There are sometimes assumptions made that using computers will
‘automatically’ increase people’s basic skills levels. More curriculum
linkages can be made between the ‘standard’ ICT skills (word processing,
spreadsheets, databases etc) and literacy/numeracy skills, within generic
ICT activities. Certainly more remains to be done to ensure that all basic
skills learners are offered access to ICT-based learning, and all ICT
learners are able to access basic skills support.

Over the last two years there has been a significant increase in the
diversity of learning modes through the establishment of a large number of
UKOnline centres and learndirect centres. A telephone survey of
UKOnline centres in the area produced a number of insights:
        in many cases it was extremely difficult to contact the centre
           (wrong contact number/names listed; telephones not answered
           etc)
        the UKOnline branding, and thus the organisation’s recognition
           as a learning point, was weak. Many of those phoned didn’t
           recognise that they were a designated UKOnline centre
        the ‘access to neighbourhood ICT facilities’ was predominantly
           ‘access to email facilities’ with no support
        potential linkages between their various functions (as a
           library/as an ICT access point/as an IAG function etc) were not
           always being made i.e. the same organisation answered in
           separate ways depending on the question asked.
UK Online and learndirect centres currently play a specific role in national
adult learning strategies. They are seen as the major vehicle for
encouraging community uptake of ICT activities and a major access route
to skills training. Within this basic skills was identified as one of the key
priorities for UFI / learndirect in its initial strategic plan. This recognises
that, if learndirect and UKOnline centres are to act as the new access
routes, then work has to be done to strengthen the basic skills
components, not only of the products but of the staffing – learndirect
centre staff are rarely basic skills experts, and basic skills delivery staff are
still largely unaware of the learndirect products and processes. Staff in
learndirect centres have little knowledge of the adult basic skills
development agenda. The range of basic skills products available via
learndirect is growing, with a wider range being promised over the next
year, but at the moment remains patchy with each isolated product not
linked to others. Adult Learning Inspectorate reported a lack of overall
systems within learndirect to ensure that all learners have their basic skills
reviewed, to ensure that they can meet the demands of their course
programme.

Learndirect is a key resource for employees, and its basic skills support is
improving. There are other ICT products available, some as CDRoms
customised for specific sectors and produced using Birmingham relevant
material. These CDROMs can be used with workplace learning
points/learning centres. This will rely on workplace support being in place.

There are policy linkages across from increasing basic skills support, via
increased access to ICT based learning, to ‘bringing on’ new provision via
voluntary sector outlets. In learndirect terms this is exemplified by the
Peoples Learning Partnership which has more than 15 voluntary sector
outlets, often ones that are agencies specifically for target groups such as
homeless adults, offenders, mobile adults, etc. The potential to bolster
this work with voluntary sector capacity building resources is clear.

During the timescale covered by this review, additional basic skills support
has been developed around the learndirect activities. Recognising this
some actions have recently been taken. These have included:
       awareness raising with staff of learndirect centres
       basic skills awareness training
       information about national tests and national standards etc
       provision of additional basic skills tutor support time
       appointment of a basic skills development worker etc.

In parallel, at a less structured level, there has been activity to place
laptops, loaded with consistent sets of basic skills software, within a wide
variety of community organisations. These have been used flexibly and
creatively in settings such as work with deaf adults and young people,
work with young homeless, work with young people in ‘cyber-café’
settings, work with people with disabilities, work with a range of users of
established community projects etc. In the majority of these cases,
workers within the community organisation have had some ‘basic skills
   and ICT’ training and are able to make ‘first steps’ use of the equipment
   opportunities have been taken to link the extension of this access to
   locally-flexible basic skills resources, to the development of a range of
   paraprofessionals and community tutors.


Potential developments
      • further expansion of ICT-based, basic skills learning opportunities
      • integration of basic skills ICT capability within existing and new
           basic skills programmes – more than ‘your turn on the computer’
      • integration of basic skills work into ICT courses and other ICT-
           based opportunities
      • understanding the best use of Internet, electronic whiteboards etc,
           in group and other provision
      • wider sharing of information on suitable software and ICT
           approaches
      • promotion of level of adequacy re hardware specification, learner
           support for using ICT to support basic skills and ESOL learning
      • increased basic skills support in ICT learning centres e.g.
           UKOnline/learndirect centres; better staff support for basic skills
           work at these centres
      • developing the non basic skills providers’ ability to relate ICT activity
           directly to the needs and interest of the learner, and the adult basic
           skills curriculum
      • encouraging providers to have a broader overview of ICT provision
           including Learndirect provision
      • increasing the connection between other activities and
           learndirect/UKOnline opportunities
      • use of other area regeneration funds to ensure maximum number of
           centres are appropriately equipped.
      • Increase opportunities for ICT based assessment
      • Additional sector-specific CD-ROMs be produced, with a coherent
           plan for their distribution and use in the workplace

6.4 Embedding of basic skills into other activities
    Providers are largely aware that embedded learning and support provision
    offers a substantial way forward in raising basic skills levels in the
    population as well as meeting the Birmingham & Solihull LSC targets but
    there is uncertainty how to go about delivering it.

   The delivery of basic skills within the context of mainstream
   education/vocational courses can take the form of either embedded
   provision (i.e. integrated within the main course) or support provision
   where people get discrete basic skills support as an addition to their main
   learning programme. These are being provided in some
   curriculum/vocational areas but they are still not the norm, especially in the
   embedded form. In at least one provider the individual learning plan is
   jointly set between the learner, the basic skills tutor; and the vocational
   teacher. This ensures that basic skills work is related to the occupational
   area.
The concept of integrated basic skills/language and vocational/education
courses is taking root and OFSTED reports etc are beginning to identify a
more consistent approach, within some providers, to integrated basic
skills. There are some indications that training providers are substantially
more experienced than the colleges and adult education service in
delivering vocationally embedded basic skills.

Whilst there has been a steady increase in the volume of this embedded
work over the last ten years, little attention has been given to establishing
models that will have the high-volume, multi-context applicability needed if
the numbers of basic skills ‘succeeders’ is to be dramatically increased.

Issues of teaching styles and resources will have to be dealt with if
embedded and supported basic skills/ESOL is to be delivered effectively.
The Basic Skills Agency/Advantage West Midlands pilot initiative to
provide training re embedding basic skills in vocational programmes
(undertaken with staff from 46 providers in the Birmingham and Solihull
area) was very much welcomed, but further development work still needs
to be done to develop the impact of this training and to get the involvement
of many more vocational tutors.

Currently, within colleges and adult education providers, mainstream
teachers and basic skills/ESOL teachers have too little contact with each
other. Basic skills tutors and managers recognise that vocational staff are
central to embedded basic skills delivery but historically it has been difficult
to engage them. Staff delivering basic skills/ESOL felt strongly that the
support from management was vital to ensure that mainstream tutors
engage with basic skills. There are examples of excellent practice, where
Teachers Pay Initiative and other external resources have been used to
train vocational staff in basic skills qualifications – a process that ensured
the additional engagement of unions and governors.

Within Jobcentre Plus activity, training providers and colleges there are
some courses (e.g. Administration, IT and Health/Care, GNVQ Foundation
warehousing, hospitality service) which seem to attract larger numbers of
trainees with basic skills needs. Basic skills tutors are comfortable to
deliver basic skills in these areas. Other areas (e.g. crafts, engineering
and sport & leisure) may have many learners with basic skills needs that
are not being addressed to the same extent. There are issues around the
extent to which screening/initial assessment is not yet systematic across
all courses.

Some of the inhibitors are built into funding mechanisms. Nationally the
Learning and Skills Council and others are looking at models that
encourage joint planning and don’t add disincentives e.g. in converting
basic skills to key skills qualifications. Clarification is needed about the
extent to which including basic skills into a programme makes the whole
programme ‘basic skills’.
There are inadvertent funding disadvantages to seeking key skills
outcomes as opposed by basic skills outcomes, and yet there is a growing
stress on being able to apply skills not simply demonstrate then.

There were consistent reports from colleges and training providers that
key skills was not popular with the learners. Young people see key skills
as boring; attendance and retention are poor; and some providers reported
that behaviour was affected. While we should recognise that key skills is
often delivered in isolation and without relation to the subject area, this did
not appear to be the reason for all the negative reports from the
organisations interviewed for this project. Feedback is that the learners
simply do not see the point of key skills. This lack of enthusiasm for key
skills is also affecting the completion rates of trainees on FMA
programmes.

The 16-19 area wide inspection indicated that ‘too few trainees completing
foundation and advanced Modern Apprenticeship frameworks’. The
reasons underlying this low achievement are very likely the lack of
enthusiasm for key skills; and the providers’ concern that the trainees low
level of basic skills stops them from completing. See also p 12: ‘In
2000/01 only 14% of those who left the advanced Modern Apprenticeship
programme had completed the apprenticeship framework. The completion
rate for foundation Modern Apprenticeships was even lower at 12%. In
many cases the failure to complete frameworks is due to poor key skills
pass rates’.

There is a tradition that promotes the integration of basic skills into wider
learning as necessary because basic skills are (at least with some client
groups) best addressed ‘by stealth’. The danger with this approach is (i)
that the basic skills component is so hidden that it becomes almost
invisible (and thus unproductive in terms of substantial basic skills
outcomes) and (ii) it reinforces the cultural attitude to basic skills as skills
that cannot be discussed upfront, as ‘neutral’ skills-gap conversations.

Any moves to embedding basic skills in other programmes are in order to
make the basic skills outcomes more explicit not more invisible.

Potential developments:
Embedding basic skills/key skills in vocational/ non-vocational
programmes was an area that was highlighted by staff interviewed as a
potential focus for staff development, including:
        further training of vocational and other staff, building on the
           Regional training already developed via AWM; Basic Skills
           Agency; and Core Skills Development Partnership.
       • the clarification of further delivery models, linked to basic and
           key skills outcomes
       • producing exemplar activities which integrate basic skills in
           meaningful Individual Learning Plans, session plans and overall
           schemes of work
          •   identifying which providers deliver successful, systematic
              embedded basic skills and disseminate good practice through
              staff training sessions and exchange visits
          •   organisations considering the setting of specific targets to
              expand embedded basic skills delivery; and for particular
              courses. This should include those courses which traditionally
              do not have basic skills support
          •   providing training for basic skills tutors so that they are able to
              assist with embedding basic skills in such less commonly
              covered areas
          •   setting targets for the number of vocational/educational
              specialists who are trained and active in basic skills delivery.

6.5 Role of the voluntary/community sector
    Substantial work (initially as an Adult and Community Fund initiative, and
    later as part of an LSC contract via Birmingham voluntary Service Council)
    has been undertaken over the last 3 years to unlock basic skills support
    activity at the small community-group level. This has involved more than
    120 organisations identifying people within their membership who can be
    turned to for first-step support with basic skills. This has produced more
    than 100 volunteers, supported via BVSC, working to support more than
    150 learners within the community groups they normally attend. This
    development is in addition to the range of volunteers recruited to work
    alongside tutors, and is being incorporated into the national Link Up set of
    developments – with BVSC being the main contact point.

   A number of interesting community-based developments are taking root.
   These include:
          Provision in south west Birmingham which offers 1:1 support, in
             community settings, to learners who are not yet prepared to
             attend groups. The aim is to provide short-term boosts to their
             learning confidence. The support is offered to local people
             recruited and trained as community tutors, who are matched to
             learners for a ten week programme. This initiative has been
             supported from a range of sources including provision of laptops
             to be used flexibly to support basic skills; access to curriculum
             training etc. This activity has produced 20-30 volunteers per
             year (with a heavy turnover as they move on to other things),
             supporting 50-60 learners in the community through this
             programme. There are benefits to this volunteering/mentoring
             scheme as a ‘first rung’ activity, particularly if clear processes
             are put in place for learners with basic skills needs are able to
             be supported to a level where they can have recognised
             assessments, access skills teaching by staff delivering to
             national standards, and access appropriate national
             accreditations.

           A scheme that uses the parish network of the catholic church in
            target, high need, wards of Birmingham. Members of the church
            community are trained as basic skills community support people.
          They have access to basic skills resources and each work with
          small numbers of people who have basic skills needs. This
          model rapidly produced more than 11 volunteers, focusing
          specifically on adult basic skills, working with 45 adults. It has
          been recognised, as an interesting development, by other
          members of Birmingham Churches Together.

          There are crossovers from this work to work via church schools
          to give additional support to parents of school age children.
          There is a recognition that future volunteer training need to align
          with the new City &Guilds Level 2 Qualifications. Funding for
          these developments is being taken on by the church who have
          the potential, through their teacher training/PACE distance
          learning packages to consider offering Level 4 teacher
          qualifications for future teachers.

       Work with a number of community organisations whose prime
        purpose is to offer social support to large numbers of
        disadvantaged adults (one city centre group currently works with
        more than 100 adults per day, the majority of whom have
        substantial basic skills needs). In such settings where large
        numbers drop in on a fairly random basic, because of the
        complexities of their lifestyles, traditional group teaching is not
        necessarily the solution. One challenge is to come up with
        robust, costed, managed models that fit these contexts (where
        the organising body is not a recognised ‘provider’) and which
        meet requirements re quality without necessarily being
        constrained into existing quality control.

There are some concerns that a blanket application of standards quality
expectations will lead to the loss of such developmental programmes. At
the same time there is an onus on such programmes to strive to link into
quality expectations as far as possible and not to use a ‘community’ label
as a reason for learners being offered low-quality learning opportunities.

Some organisations will wish to build their capacity to become LSC-funded
providers. A better role for others may be as advocates/brokers of
learning, holding an amount of money and able to commission provision
that best meets the needs of their client group.

Potential Developments:
• Voluntary sector to be one focus of a capacity building drive
• Range of initiatives to develop innovation via voluntary/community
   sector to be brought into a more coherent framework, with clear links to
   mainstream activities and developments
• Clarity around the variety of basic skills roles within community settings
   – linked to the emerging FENTO standards; whilst retaining some
   flexibility to test out the variety of approaches
• Voluntary/community based processes to be clearer about anticipated
   outcomes, and likely routes for participants.
Section 7: Quality

7.1 Quality standards and initiatives
   This review was not an inspection of provision but visits made to providers
   gave ample evidence of good delivery: lively teaching, variety of individual,
   group and pair work, and effective teacher input. At the other extreme
   there were also indications of poor teaching with learners working on their
   own through a meaningless sequence of worksheets or with under
   resourced, unambitious teaching.

   Most training providers have realised that elements of their work need to
   change. The past introduction of materials related to Wordpower and
   Numberpower had encouraged many training provider basic skills tutors to
   rely overly on published packs of worksheets. One provider observed
   ‘Staff have lost the skill to deliver imaginatively and to the need of the
   learner’. The increased focus on teaching was welcomed and there is
   more to be done to further develop the ability of some staff to teach basic
   skills rather than being a basic skills facilitator or assessor.

   Overall, providers welcomed the introduction of the new basic skills
   initiatives but acknowledged that it was hard to keep up with them all.
   Staff training and the embedding of the new curricula were taking up a lot
   of time while providers still had to engage with a wide range of other
   quality development issues and to sustain contract delivery.

   Most were considering restructuring programmes to make more space for
   diagnostic assessment, Individual Training Plan development and the
   need for reviews of trainee progress. Changes were easier to implement
   in some contexts than in others (e.g. with young learners who needed
   constant supervision and who could not be left on their own while the tutor
   reviewed progress of individual learners). Colleges and adult education
   providers had more capacity to respond to the various quality initiatives
   than was the case with those training providers who had to maintain more
   tightly contracted delivery.

   There is a clear understanding that responsibility for quality primarily rests
   with each provider organisation. Others, notably the local Learning and
   Skills Council, have a duty to both challenge and support organisations in
   their structured work to continuously improve the quality of basic skills
   learning.

7.2 Outcomes from inspection reports
   Most organisations have been inspected in the past two years. For some,
   this was inspection within the Further Education Funding Council
   framework or within the Training Council Standards Framework.

   A large proportion have now been inspected against the new Common
   Inspection Framework with the remainder likely to be inspected before
   May 2003. Even against this new framework, however, the basic skills
   elements were reported within the broader ‘foundation programmes’
section and were sometime undertaken before inspections had the benefit
of the recent DfES guidance re inspection of adult basic skills. It is
believed that the intention is for inspections to give separate grades and
comments for literacy, numeracy, ESOL, learning difficulties and
disabilities in future reports. This will be very helpful to managers. Even
where the basic skills comments have to be drawn out from wider
sections, there are some features that can be noted.

It is recognised that inspections are, especially in those organisations
delivering high volumes of diverse forms of adult basic skills work, only a
snapshot of the work – an indication of the full picture. Even so, given the
range of documents and practices covered, the Common Inspection
Framework, and the self assessment process that goes with it, gives a
good tool for assessing the overall quality of basic skills work across
provider organisations.

There is a case to be made for making more frequent use for the self
assessment process as part of the continuous improvement expected of
organisations, with key ‘next steps’ being linked to performance review
and development support funding.

Of the inspections to date, the basic skills components have been shown
to be satisfactory or better in all cases. There are a number of examples
where the basic skill provision is graded as good or excellent. Even in
situations where organisations have had poor grading in other aspects
(and recognising that poor overall management/leadership, quality
assurance or equal opportunities will have an impact on the basic skills
sections) the basic skills grades have remained satisfactory.

Basic skills strengths within organisations in Birmingham and Solihull
across organisations (with not all of these applying in each case) have
been listed as:
       - successful teaching: high retention and pass rates
       - good accommodation
       - good links with other providers and agencies
       - effective widening of participation
       - effective processes for staff training
       - responsive flexible provision to meet diverse needs
       - good support for learners
       - innovative ways of embedding basic skills work in other work
       - extensive use of external qualifications
       - effective management and support of staff
       - good use of ICT
       - motivated learners
       - strong focus on individual needs in many sessions
       - use of individual learning plans to identify learner targets
       - well planned sessions
       - most lessons have pace and challenge
Basic skills weaknesses: (again generalised across organisations) tend to
be:
       - inconsistent identification and review of targets for this area of
           work
       - insufficient attention to longer term progression for learners
       - weak linkage of initial assessment to learning plans
       - poor levels of take up of additional support
       - materials do not match needs of learners
       - low specialist support for numeracy
       - insufficient coordination across different sections of organisation
       - assessments not related to context
       - individual learning plans not used enough as working
           documents (to get challenging learner targets; reflect
           accomplishments etc )
       - expectations of learners not high enough
       - demanding and realistic targets to be better set for various parts
           of service
       - schemes of work underdeveloped
       - narrow ESOL curriculum
       - inappropriate / weakness in staff qualifications
       - lack of clarity re expected outcomes from some provision
       - inconsistency of advice offered re progression from discrete
           basic skills activity


A whole organisation may be awarded a composite grade for its basic
skills work, but the reality is more likely to be a more ‘spiky’ range of
performances across the inspection grade levels. One section of basic
skills work may be well managed, another section less so. One team of
teachers may be uniformly excellent, another much more variable in
quality. One site may have excellent resources; an ‘outpost’, part-time
venue may be less well equipped – and so on.

It is recognised from the school sector that thinking in terms of beacon
departments/fragments of excellence may be more useful than beacon
schools/centres of excellence. This then opens the way for fragments to
be linked together across organisations and creates more realism to
‘building on excellence’. There are development examples from the
introduction of the National Literacy/Numeracy Strategies in primary
schools (where teachers were asked to share with others the one or two
particular bits of the strategy that they had really got to grips with) that can
be directly applied re the implementation of the adult literacy/numeracy
strategy.

Certainly the Review noted a wide range of expertise and excellent
practice that is currently locked up within organisations, partly because of
a lack of any realistic mechanism for unlocking and sharing of such
expertise and partly because of a lingering ‘secrecy’ amongst providers.
   Potential Developments
   It is clear that there are some commonly recurring developments that need
   to happen. Whilst these remain primarily the responsibility of each
   separate organisation, there is value in identifying opportunities for:
        • several organisations to undertake developments (around one
            specific item) together, thus benefiting from cost effective
            collaboration
        • those organisations whose inspection reports highlighted excellent
            practise to be commissioned to share their expertise with other
            organisations in the area
        • the basic skills guidance accompanying the Common Inspection
            Framework to be reshaped into guidance sheets to be issued to
            organisations that need support on specific aspects
        • pre-inspection work to be encouraged in organisations - as with the
            good practice trial inspection and subsequent working groups
            embedded as part of one organisation’s ‘best value’ review of its
            service.
        • Learning and Skills Council/JobCentrePlus quality development
            resources being linked closely to gaps identified through rigorous
            self-assessment.

7.3 Benchmarking against quality standards
   Responsibility for quality rests ultimately with each provider organisation.
   In the long term all organisations should be able to reliably monitor their
   own provision.

   The recent publication of a basic skills guide to the Common Inspection
   Frameworks means that there is now a consistent framework for all
   organisations to self-assess against. Clearly some organisations are more
   experienced and more skilful at this self-assessment than others.

   A number of providers suggested that some form of inter-organisational
   mentoring re self-assessment against the framework would be of value to
   them. Self-assessment and benchmarking activities would include
   identifying the benefits of their basic skills provision and the improvement
   of the learner’s performance as a result of the basic skills intervention.
   Providers should also be able to evaluate the effectiveness of any aspect
   of the learning process (e.g. reviewing the effectiveness of the diagnostic
   assessment process in the light of the achievement of the learners at the
   end of the course - allowing the provider to check if the assessment
   process gave the right information to plan and deliver the learning
   programme; and make adjustments if necessary).

   A number of providers were not aware what might be required to measure
   and report on the added value of basic skills/language provision. Most
   providers will need a more rigorous approach to recording basic skills
   levels on entry to a programme, individual achievements at the end of the
programme, and overall programme performance against expected
retention and achievement targets.

The five-point performance review framework, used twice a year, should
begin to highlight areas to be worked on. Such reviews will be of extra
benefit to basic skills managers once their use is customised and used
internally as part of ongoing continuous improvement processes.

There is a wide variety of quality assurance activity across the provider
base. In some cases, management arrangements make it difficult to see
who ultimately is accountable for the quality of basic skills provision. In
other cases the accountability is clear, but the quality agenda is a static
contract compliance ‘quality control’ one rather than a dynamic centrally-
managed drive for improvement. Structures do not allow these latter
providers to rapidly deliver the new agenda.

The Basic Skills Agency Quality Mark has been being reviewed as part of
a wider DfES review of quality initiatives in basic skills. The Quality Mark
is currently held by several organisations in the area. It remains well
regarded as a useful tool by organisations who wish to demonstrate some
minimum organisational practices re basic skills delivery. It has a number
of key areas of quality that are not covered (e.g. the observed quality of
teaching and learning) but nevertheless sits within the wider Common
Inspection Framework and is seen as a useful starting point by
organisations beginning to address issues of quality and standards in their
basic skills activities. At the moment it is used as a sign of competence for
LSC/JCP contracts and some comparable ‘minimum standard’ will be
needed for this purpose.

There is an issue of how new ‘potential’ providers can initially fund the
provision necessary to be able to gain any such standard required, and
thus able to be listed as an organisation recognised as able to start to hold
funded contracts.

The Basic Skills Quality Initiative is a DfES activity funded via the
Standards Fund and now incorporated into the ongoing responsibilities of
the LSC for supporting improvement in the quality of the provision it funds.
Organisations have been able to draw on an agreed number of
consultancy days around an area of service improvement identified by
themselves (increasingly referenced across to the Common Inspection
framework). Where organisations have been good at assessing their own
development needs, have been clearly able to specify these, and have
had access to high quality consultant time – the process has been of
strong use to those organisations.

This particular initiative is due to end, in its current form, in December
2002. Across the region there will be a variety of consultants who have
built up experience and expertise in supporting a variety of organisations
to improve the quality of different aspects of basic skills provision.
   The Association of Colleges has supported inservice courses for basic
   skills managers, to assist with strengthening the overall position of this
   curriculum area. Where providers are ‘upbeat’ about their basic skills
   activities there is often a clear route from basic skills co-ordinator to senior
   management team.

   All of these quality improvements should be leading to better outcomes
   and this is, indeed, the case. Retention rates have improved over a three
   year period and are consistently in the range of 80-100% across the
   majority of courses. The 87% average retention rate is ten percentage
   points higher than two years ago.

   Achievement rates are more variable, both across providers (ranging from
   50% to almost 100%) and across curriculum areas (67% overall in ESOL;
   74% overall in numeracy; 75% overall in literacy – with higher rates being
   achieved in ESOL and numeracy, where learners are on courses carrying
   external accreditation).


   Potential developments
      • Achievement rates are also variable across ethnic communities.
         Further, and more robust, analysis of attainment gaps between
         different groups (in the context of overall progress towards targets)
         will form a basis of planning provision and service improvements.

7.4 Staffing, management and capacity
   (a) Teacher supply and capacity building
       More than 90% of provision of adult basic skills is via colleges, adult
       education and training providers. Of the basic skills staff in these
       organisations:
               80% are on permanent contracts; 10% are on fixed
                 term/short term contracts; 10% are Agency staff
               More than 40% are employed for 6-15 hours/week; less than
                 20% teach under 6 hours/week
               More than 80% are white; just under 10% are Afro-
                 Caribbean; 2% are Indian. There are extremely low numbers
                 of teachers from the Bangladeshi and Pakistani communities
               Relatively few are over 55 (i.e. there is not a large gap about
                 to be created by large scale retirement) and very few are
                 under 25. There is a spread across the 25-55 age range.
               73% are female
               It is a reasonable well qualified workforce. 72% have some
                 form of Level 4 qualification – 42% as a teaching
                 qualification. There are up to 50% who have only the barest
                 introductory qualifications re teaching of basic skills
               It is a relatively experienced workforce. Almost 40% have
                 worked in this area for more than 5 years. 25% have worked
                 for less than a year in teaching basic skills.
Of the organisations who provided data on their ability to meet learning
needs, most felt that their current staffing levels and skills were fairly
acceptable for existing volumes, modes of delivery, and client groups –
with the recognition of an underlying need to continuously upgrade the
level and range of the basic skills teaching skills of some of their tutors.

More work needs to be done by organisations, supported by the local
LSC, to scale out the growth of provision; the contribution to targets;
estimated guided learning hours etc – that will lead to estimates of tutor
need (and whether meeting this need can be managed at provider level
or whether it needs some LSC-supported collaborative activity).

As a start, the LSC needs to establish the patterns of current provision,
by numbers of learning hours.

As far as the day-to-day running of programmes was concerned, the
lack of capacity to cover sickness was of immediate concern as well as
(in a few cases) low staff morale and (generally) difficulties to recruit
new staff. Whilst the provision of new training opportunities was
welcomed, this caused problems for management because they had
difficulty in finding cover while the tutors attended the training.

Providers were much less sure about their ability to provide adequate
staffing levels and skills to cater for future provision. Projected levels
of growth in basic skills work, a clear focus on particular target groups,
and an expectation of use of ICT would all create their own difficulties
for existing staff levels and capabilities. Many providers described their
ability to deliver embedded basic skills provision – both currently and
future – as barely adequate or worse.

Almost all organisations reported some difficulties in finding new staff
with sufficient qualifications and experience, particularly related to any
new growth in work-related provision, in numeracy, in higher level skills
work, in work with particular target groups (e.g. young people) etc.
One college had been extremely successful as a result of a concerted,
widespread drive to find new basic skills teachers.

One proposed solution to increasing the workforce is to expand the
hours of the large number of existing part-time staff. A number of
providers have a high percentage of tutors who only do a small number
of hours a week. There is a management acknowledgement that while
such tutors are experienced and valuable to the service, it is not
efficient to continue to attempt to manage a fleet of part-timers
effectively within current organisational models. The solution may not
be solely for these tutors to work more. There are limits to the
additional teaching which part-time teachers are able/willing to
contribute. At the same time, in a context that is demanding an
increase in the volume and the quality of basic skills work, there is
clearly a need for the advertisement of new, substantial teaching posts.
   Sometimes opportunities to create an increase in direct delivery hours
   have been missed. Overall there has been a shift away from
   advertising for teachers for specific groups to more generalised adults
   for teachers to be deployed across a range of groups/contexts. There
   are more organisations that are beginning to advertise for several full
   time teachers, whilst others are still advertising several posts, each for
   as low as 2 hours per week tutoring. In addition, when additional
   resources have become available, some organisations have opted to
   divert these into more co-ordination and management rather than into
   increased delivery. Short-term, outcome-focused development posts
   (more often than not in partnership across sections or across
   organisations) have been used less than more structural posts that
   have added to infrastructure costs.

   In some cases uncertainty of future funding or future LSC models etc
   has been used as a reason for not reshaping staffing patterns – whilst
   other organisations have assumed some continuity and gone ahead
   with substantial appointments. Messages about availability of funding
   for basic skills are not clear to providers. Nor are all providers seeing
   their basic skills work as a plan beyond the one year strategic plan for
   the LSC. Planning decisions are easier to make where there are
   indications of e.g. 3 year stability of contracts.

   There is variability in the extent to which the managers of provider
   organisations are engaging with the new basic skills issues; the extent
   to which managers themselves need updating re basic skills shifts in
   expectations; and the extent to which senior managers take
   responsibility for monitoring basic skills developments. Key
   notifications from the local LSC re basic skills developments are not
   always passed to the relevant basic skills manager in the organisation.
   Without going round the LSC Learning Programmes wish to
   communicate with one named point of contact, it may be possible for
   some notification to go out directly from the LSC Basic Skills Co-
   ordinator to named Basic Skills contacts.

(b) Teacher qualifications
    While, overall, provider managers are committed to staff development
    many struggled with an early low awareness of the FENTO framework
    and the national expectations re staff qualifications. National
    information on these are now clearer. Staff newly recruited from
    September 2002 are required to work towards both a recognised
    teaching qualification and a subject qualification at Level 4 (the
    Certificate for Adult Literacy or Numeracy Subject Specialists) if they
    are involved in direct teaching. The situation with existing staff is still to
    be determined.

   Work is underway to establish how Birmingham and Solihull LSC and
   Advantage West Midlands can best ensure a growth in the skills and
   qualifications of the workforce of several hundred basic skills workers
   in the area.
   Organisations provided data on the qualifications of 600 existing staff.
   This was cross referenced to the background information teachers
   gave when attending the intensive curriculum training courses. These
   show the following profiles:
         ♦ literacy teachers accounted for 50% of the whole cohort;
             followed by esol for 25%; and numeracy for 25% of the
             workforce.
         ♦ 61% of literacy teachers are qualified to, or on their way
             towards, an equivalent of Level 4 teaching qualification,
             compared with 54% of numeracy teachers; and 59% of
             ESOL teachers.
         ♦ 9% of literacy teachers; 23% of numeracy teachers; and 14%
             of esol teachers are completely unqualified. This is worrying
             and needs to be addressed as a matter of priority. Almost
             half of these unqualified teachers were working within 1 or 2
             voluntary sector organisations. Historically, there had been a
             widespread belief that 928/1 training was sufficient.

The upgrading of the existing teaching force will be a large task (because
of the numbers and the proportion of these that are at the ‘beginning’ end
of the qualifying spectrum), but will not be difficult (because of the
experienced nature of the staff; and because of the proportion who are
partly qualified).

Teacher training for new recruits
It is still unclear providers whether current capacity is sufficient to cope
with the expected growth in basic skills/ESOL provision. Training of new
recruits to the profession or the retraining of staff from other curriculum
areas may be vital. The following observations can be made if there is an
overall need to recruit and train more people to teach basic skills, in
particular for numeracy, for some esol, and to work in specific contexts:
     ♦ Colleges are in a position to retrain their own staff, e.g. key skills
          staff or ICT staff, to take on basic sills teaching; on the whole
          training providers are not.
     ♦ Some providers are resistant to being trained outside the
          vocational/long-term unemployed context.
     ♦ So far organisations have not applied a screening process to
          assess skills and aptitudes of potential teachers. Being short on
          teacher supply can mean taking people who do not have teaching
          qualities. One college recognised the need to assess trainee
          teachers’ skills before recruitment and to counsel people out if
          necessary.

Potential developments
Because the teacher supply and quality is crucial to the success of the
Skills for Life strategy the Core Skills Partnership, LSC and JCP could take
the following action:
        • Set up a teacher training group with representation across
            Birmingham and Solihull, with a medium term focus on teacher
           training, and providing a steer for continuing professional
           development activity beyond the level where this can be met
           within the separate organisations. This group should be heavily
           influenced by LSC Quality Team indications of need.
       •   Establish a pool of Birmingham & Solihull trainers, and
           consultants who can be drawn on flexibly
       •   Recruit and train more people to teach basic skills, in particular
           numeracy in proportion to indications from providers about
           likelihood of employment opportunities. This may included
           targeted publicity campaign supported by staged pre-service
           training courses for successful candidates
       •   Promote the mentoring of new teachers, and alternative
           ‘apprenticeship’ models.
       •   Link with CertEd provider developments to make sure that basic
           skills/ESOL opportunities are known and taken up.

(c) Continuing professional development
    There are many staff who were trained over the last 15 years and
    whose training has left them with gaps in relation to the new
    expectations of basic skills delivery. This has produced a set of
    training needs which the core curriculum training does not address.
    The introduction of more basic skills provision beyond Entry level has
    created a need for staff training in dealing with basic skills delivery at
    levels 1 and 2. The staffing questionnaire indicated training needs
    covering topics such as:
           the use of ICT to support basic skills learning
           the detailed use of the core curriculum
           the new materials and diagnostic assessment
           the theory of teaching and teaching techniques.
           effective individual learning plans
           teaching of specific skills (grammar; percentages etc etc)
           skills in managing the teaching of groups
           relationship of Individual Learning Plans; teaching session
             plans; schemes of work; skills requirements etc

   From September 2002, literacy and numeracy curriculum training is
   part of the continuing professional development programme via the
   LSC. Four day training on new assessment tools and new materials is
   being delivered nationally. The 2 day curriculum training for ESOL
   teachers will be completed. Additional training, via the Basic Skills
   Agency, will be available for vocational tutors; to link basic skills
   providers with Neighbourhood Nurseries; to produce volunteers,
   mentors and community activists; to support family basic skills
   provision; etc.

   Much of this training is being aligned to FENTO standards. Whilst all of
   this training is desirable (and inmost cases, necessary) and the
   structured approach is to be welcomed, there are dangers of:
          training overload at the same time that staff are needed for
             additional delivery
      all training being designed as 35 hour boxes, which are then
       filled with content (to meet Awarding Body requirements)
      local mismatches between existing support activities and
       centrally-specified packages (sets of ‘scripts’; OHTs; set
       exercises etc) expected to be delivered in specific ways. What
       providers are wanting is a strong centrally-produced
       framework that can be substantially customised to meet local
       conditions, with deliverers being aware of the need to meet
       Awarding Body requirements where these are appropriate.
       Too much specification is felt to be deskilling local experienced
       managers/trainers, whilst giving a welcome degree of support
       to new managers/trainers.
      issues of ‘ownership’ of areas of training becoming more
       important than finding the best way to get to the intended
       outcomes
      nationally-managed models leaving local planners with no
       knowledge/learning re what is happening locally/regionally.

The sequencing and managing of access by staff to this complexity of
training remains the responsibility of each provider organisation. A
new round of national professional development programmes is being
tendered for nationally by the Learning and Skills Council. The Quality
Team of Birmingham and Solihull Learning and Skills Council are also
rightly concerned to bring coherence to any supplementary, local offers
of continuing professional development support (arising, for example,
from provider reviews and inspections – and as a result of wider
reviews such as this one). The volume and diversity of training
opportunities is thus unlikely to reduce in the near future. More can be
done to assist teachers/providers in getting reliable, in-time information
about the appropriate opportunities.

Potential developments
   • Advantage West Midlands are keen to support a coherent
      approach to capacity building of current providers (and potential
      providers), with a strong focus on professional development
      centres/networks and assisting staff to raise their levels of skills
      and qualifications re basic skills delivery and management.
      Birmingham and Solihull LSC is playing an active role in these
      developments.
   • Without wishing to remove provider organisations’
      responsibilities for the continuing professional development of
      their staff, more can be done to establish an increased pool of
      trainers, organisational mentors, quality advisers etc to be drawn
      on locally.
   • There are many examples of excellence within organisations. It
      is less the case that any particular organisation is fully excellent
      in all aspects of basic skills work across the full Skills for Life
      agenda. It is more the case that organisations themselves have
      ‘spiky profiles’ of quality. Almost every organisation has
      succeeded in ‘cracking’ some puzzle that others can learn from.
               The model of shared expertise/demonstration sessions
               developed within Birmingham schools around the LEA primary
               literacy/numeracy strategy is worth customising for use amongst
               adult providers.
           •   There are lessons to be pulled from the school sector’s
               implementation e.g. of language across the curriculum in the
               Key Stage 3 strategy, that can be shared cross phases.
           •   Whilst opportunities such as the Teachers Pay Initiative exist
               they should be used appropriately as vehicles for meeting basic
               skills objectives.
           •   Because of its size, and its commitment to basic skills
               developments over the last six years, there is much that is
               already known in Birmingham re ‘what works’. This doesn’t
               imply having all the answers (far from it) but does indicate a
               need to take stock; to write up the lessons learnt; and for these
               insights not to be discounted because they come from another
               part of the sector.
           •   LSC Quality Team to promote more joint development rather
               than organisations separately duplicating activity. Options could
               be outlined for short-term, cross system, development activities,
               leaving provider organisations to put any additional resources
               into delivery rather than internal co-ordination.

    (d) Application of the new standards and curricula
        Mapping basic skills content to the national standards and curricula is
        now an expectation in all provision that receives public funding.

       The responses to the quality questionnaire showed that generic literacy
       and numeracy classes were most commonly mapped against the new
       curricula1 but other areas were also mentioned e.g. construction NVQs,
       childcare, family learning, administration and food preparation.

       Providers report a number of problems with the mapping of basic skills
       materials against the national standards and curricula. It is very time-
       consuming and many basic skills tutors are not sure whether they are
       doing this right. Secondly, it appears that some providers are mapping
       the main skill, e.g. maths division, without also considering the reading
       activity that may accompany it. But most importantly, providers tend to
       map the individual worksheets which they have traditionally used;
       rather than develop new activities which relate to vocational activity.

       An electronic, interactive version of the skills curricula is being
       produced nationally. This should enable mapping to be undertaken
       with much more ease.



       Potential developments
1
         The ESOL curriculum had only recently been published when this questionnaire was
distributed and was not covered in the questionnaire.
          •   Tutor network meetings, where providers can get together to
              exchange information/get further training on the mapping
              against the curricula, should be available to basic skills tutors
              from the range of providers.
          •   Provider staff, at teacher level, need to have easy access to the
              interactive curriculum, and be familiarised with its use.

7.5 Use of volunteers, learning assistants and mentors
    There is a tradition of using volunteers in adult basic skills work. Originally
    this was as a managed service of 1:1 support in learners’ homes (with the
    dangers that his sometimes brought); 1:1 support in community venues; or
    1:1 additional support in taught groups.

   Increasingly volunteer tutors took on small group support work, within
   groups taught by a paid teacher. There are currently more than 300
   volunteers working to support adults with their literacy/numeracy/ESOL
   development, across the area. The geographical spread of these
   volunteers is uneven as is the spread of backgrounds from which the
   volunteers are drawn.

   The current City & Guilds 9281 ‘volunteer’ qualification ended on 31/8/02.
   New accreditation materials are being developed as part of ‘Link Up’ – the
   strategy’s national volunteer development programme. Birmingham is
   contributing to this development, and the training is being piloted at the
   moment ready for national availability later in the year.

   The expectation is that a wider set of roles will be developed for volunteers
   in addition to the currently predominate ones – including community
   activist for basic skills; community learning support tutor; learning mentor
   etc. The intention is also to broaden the characteristics of the volunteer
   base and to focus activity more clearly onto specific basic skills outcomes
   (i.e. particular target groups; specific areas).

   Amongst the new roles to be supported is the training of more basic skills
   providers to act as ‘champions’ for the new ways of working. More
   established basic skills providers can be supported in taking on new, or
   potential, learning assistants in structured ways.

   There has been an assumption, in some cases, that volunteer
   qualifications are sufficient for the employment of someone as a basic
   skills tutor. Clearly the professionalisation of the workforce requires
   providers to move beyond this. Providers are still unclear about the
   boundary (in terms of job function) between Level 2 and Level 3; and
   about the level of personal subject competence that is required e.g. at
   Level 3.

   Potential developments
      • More use made of organisational mentoring
      • Promotion of the range of basic skills support roles
      • Further clarity around Level 2/Level 3 roles and qualifications
7.6 Links between referral, assessment and learning plans
    Materials used, by providers, to screen and assess adult basic skills
    include:
        ♦ Basic Skills Agency initial assessment test (about half of the
           providers reporting to the quality questionnaire are using this or
           have adapted these to create their own version)
        ♦ WordPower/NumberPower materials
        ♦ old ALBSU materials (!)
        ♦ Calderdale College literacy & numeracy assessments
        ♦ Keyskills & Basic skills Builder
        ♦ in-house designed materials
        ♦ Skillbuilder
        ♦ Gradient
        ♦ Fastrack
        ♦ Target skills
        ♦ Esol toolkit

   Most training providers are using the outdated version of the BSA
   screening test as this is prescribed within their current contracts. They will
   need to be ready to implement the new screening and diagnostic tools as
   they are released. In the short term there is work to be done to raise
   awareness of the use of diagnostic assessment to create individual
   training plans.

   The organisations which completed the quality questionnaire showed
   some consistency in patterns of screening and assessment. Most
   organisations screened and assessed for literacy and numeracy, but fewer
   did so for esol. This applies in particular to the training providers and
   reinforces the need to assist JobCentre Plus providers to develop their
   ability to deal with this client group.

   Provider visits, meetings with JobCentre Plus staff and statistical analysis
   show that JobCentre Plus and its providers (and to a lesser extent LSC
   providers) face specific difficulties in the identification, screening and
   assessment of basic skills as well as issues in the volume, nature and
   quality of their basic skills delivery. One main reason for this is a low
   awareness of the nature of literacy, numeracy and esol; and a low level of
   skills to tackle the assessment and teaching of basic skills. On the other
   hand, there is great interest in this topic and a desire to improve delivery.

   Referral to, and take up of, assessment at Independent Assessment
   Centres is very low. There seem to be few incentives for a training
   provider to identify a learner with basic skills needs and refer that person
   to a centre for a more detailed assessment if, when this does happen, the
   provider gets little useful feedback from the assessment and may lose that
   client altogether to a provider more closely linked to the centre.

   It is clear from the number of referrals to the Individual Assessment
   Centres that a far lower percentage of people are identified as potentially
    needing basic skills support than might be expected. Screening, being a
    national requirement, is now more securely in place, but doesn’t
    necessarily lead to more detailed assessment of skills needs, nor to
    provision to meet those needs. Statistics collected for Birmingham &
    Solihull JobCentre Plus activity indicate that only about 12 % of the people
    screened are identified as having a basic skills need2. While this in itself is
    not much different from the statistics collected for other JobCentre Plus
    district areas, it is very much lower than might be expected of this target
    group (previous experience shows that 50-70% of the adult unemployed
    can be expected to have some basic skills needs).

    Possible factors which contribute to the lack of under-reporting of basic
    skills needs include: the screening instruments may be faulty (e.g.
    because the reliability of self-assessment is questionable); staff may not
    have sufficient experience to administer the tests (For example, reports
    from staff that Fast Track is not a universal success, is perhaps because
    staff are not sure how to use it); non-New Deal advisers felt that time
    constraints made it impossible for them to carry out basic skills screening.

    Even for the 12% who are identified as having basic skills needs, there is a
    reduction in successful referrals and a further reduction in the number of
    successful basic skills outcomes.

    Potential developments
       • Review the effectiveness of the screening tools used and staff skills
          available. Ensure rapid and coherent introduction of approved,
          updated screening tools into all appropriate areas of work.
       • Review assessment, screening and referral procedures in major
          structural programmes, e.g. for work based learning/New Deal.
       • Early work to be done to spread the expertise, re individual learning
          plans, to cover all organisations.
       • Better understanding across types of provider

7.7 Achievement, progression, and tracking issues
    The national tests were trialled locally in July 2001 and have been
    promoted within providers over the past year. In themselves the tests are
    not seen as negative and there is evidence that many learners like them.
    There is a concern about the limited scope of the tests with the danger that
    some providers may be tempted to teach to the reading part of the
    curriculum without addressing writing so that they can more easily achieve
    outcomes. Whilst the limitations of the current tests are recognised, it is
    increasingly seen as one element of the overall teaching and learning
    process.

    The test will play an increasingly prominent role as it becomes available on
    a weekly basis, as learndirect centres become assessment centres for the
    new certificates; as the test is used as a way of strengthening a CV etc.


2
       Breakdown of screening data by region August-October 2001.
As providers become more knowledgeable about the new range of
approved qualifications available, the scope of skills covered by each, and
the assessments required in each case – they will be able to appropriately
guide learners towards the most appropriate outcome in curriculum terms
rather than ones determined by contractual or funding requirements.

There is growing recognition of the powerful effect that formative
assessment has on learning outcomes, but most of the assessment focus
has recently been on initial diagnostic ‘placing’ of learning or on
summative ‘testing’ of learning. Any moves towards shorter units, learning
pathways etc can easily be linked to formative assessment and learner
choice. Similarly on-course activities and assignments can be a way of
highlighting next steps of learning rather than grading.

To date more than 700 adults in Birmingham and Solihull have taken the
new adult basic skills tests (with an overall pass rate of 60%). The aim
needs to be to have in excess of 5000 entries to these tests each year.

Promotion of access to the tests is needed for this step change to take
place. It will take more than 1,500 entries per year for 2-3 years before
there are sufficient numbers of role models of successful adults for test-
taking to be seen as a normal part of the learning processes.

Some of the initial assumptions being made by managers and tutors have
been dispelled during the past year. Learners have been enthusiastic
about the test and about short, focused activity based on skills acquisition
and entry to the test.

Potential developments
   • A single Individual Learning/Training Plan ‘framework’ being
      suggested nationally developed as a framework which can be used
      across the range of Birmingham & Solihull LSC and JobCentre Plus
      provision. The document should allow for the recording of
      individual progress, including short-term goals and achievement of
      milestones. The prime objective should be to show achievement in
      a way which makes sense to the learner. Once developed, the
      form should reviewed and revised on a regular basis. This work
      may flow from, or feed into, the national development activity
      currently underway re planning individual progress.
   • Opportunities to take national certification, at appropriate levels, is
      built into all activities developed by the Learning and Skills Council,
      JobCentre Plus, Probation etc.
   • A ‘common message’ is identified, across teaching staff, that the
      purpose of their work is to assist learners to maximise their skills
      (and thereby help to contribute to organisational/LSC/National
      targets) and not to let the targets/tests inappropriately skew the
      skills attainment.
   • LSC can help organisations to benchmark without recourse to
      ‘league tabling’.
      •   Some early work on Individual Learning Planning needs to be done
          with specific providers.
      •   Wider promotion of access to the national tests.

7.8 Implications for planners, funders and providers
    Managers in provider organisations commented that new models of off-site
    delivery would bring different costs but that the current funding mechanism
    was based on classroom delivery only. They predicted that additional cost
    would be incurred for delivery in the community e.g. room hire, cost of
    laptops; staff travel to venue and risk assessment of premises and
    childcare.

   It is not sufficient for JobCentre Plus and other funding bodies to simply
   invite providers to tender for new contracts. Providers do not always have
   sufficient knowledge of the field to be able to produce suitable proposals
   and deliver appropriate training. A degree of provider development will be
   needed, especially in times of rapid change as at the moment.

   Funders need to guard against providers unintentional skewing towards
   particular outcomes in order to maximise income.

   A number of training providers (one MA, three New Deal ftet and a job
   placement provider) expressed concern that the time-span of their courses
   was not sufficient to cover the curriculum and to prepare the trainees for
   the test. This is particularly so in cases where large proportions of recruits
   have been identified as having basic skills needs.
8: Implementing the ‘Skills for Life’ adult basic skills strategy

As soon as the ‘Skills for Life’ strategy was launched its main development
aspects were listed as a checklist so that Birmingham and Solihull’s progress
in implementing the strategy could be audited and tracked over time.

8.1 Progress in implementing the strategy locally
   Substantial progress has already been made in the 15 months since the
   launch of the strategy. Birmingham and Solihull was a literacy and
   numeracy pathfinder area for the West Midlands. This worked well in
   ensuring a rapid improvement in the infrastructure for delivering basic
   skills:
          all current teaching staff trained in use of new curricula
          curriculum/standards being referred to when planning learning
          widespread use of initial assessment and of diagnostic
           assessment
          increased use of individual learning plans that relate to specific
           curriculum skills
          use of national tests with learners
          consistency of approach across wide range of providers
          consistency of approaches across range of client groups (young
           people, workplace etc)
          expansion of more diverse forms of learning
          more intensive provision
          more provision focused on particular skills
          more residential work on basic skills
          increased working through other agencies to ‘move on’ basic skills
           learners into provision

   Birmingham and Solihull organisations have also been involved in various
   ways in other aspects of the strategy:
         training staff in neighbourhood nurseries to be aware of basic
           skills issues (part completed – via Birmingham LEA)
         developing and training people into a range of volunteer and
           mentor roles (just starting – via Birmingham Voluntary Service
           Council)
         hosting a ‘springboard’ event to bring together the broad sets of
           thinking/developments around ICT support for basic skills – as a
           way of suggesting ways forward in this still developing area.
         trialling basic skills training for vocational tutors, to introduce non-
           basic skills experts to the new requirements
         keeping all of these developments moving forward in the context
           of a mainstream ‘whole area’ approach to basic skills
         capturing the area’s coherent approach to work re basic skills and
           young people (via the local LSC)
         capturing the area’s coherent approach to work re basic skills via
           voluntary/community organisations
         working with national strategy developments re basic skills and
           employee development (via the local LSC)
      building basic skills into the wide range of regeneration and
       development activities (e.g. EQUAL proposals; LSC, Local
       Authority, and more recently JCP, ESF cofinancing proposals;
       Entry to Employment etc)
      improving the skills of staff and quality of resources in the
       voluntary sector, in housing organisations and in libraries
      offering the local ESOL toolkit for updating as part of the wider
       national development of assessment materials
      briefings of others at local, regional and national levels
      providing national researchers with access to learners for
       interviews about how basic skills is affecting their lives
      providing access to provision, for filming etc as part of
       BBC’s/Basic Skills Agency developments
      access to managers views on the way developments should go
      access to teachers (and others) for feedback on BBC Skillswise
       website; feedback on developments of materials; feedback on
       developing assessment materials etc

In recognition of all of this, Estelle Morris (at the time as Secretary of State
for Education and Skills) has written, via the Partnership, to all those who
have done so much in Birmingham over the past year. She says:

‘The Government has made clear its determination to tackle the problem
of the number of adults in this country who, for whatever reason, do not
possess literacy, language and numeracy skills at a level that enables
them to participate fully in their community and in society in general. The
Skills for life strategy offers an opportunity to make a real impact and the
work of the Pathfinders has been a key element of that strategy. So, with
the first Skills for life Pathfinder projects coming to an end, I wanted to take
the opportunity to thank you for the significant contribution that the
Birmingham Pathfinder partnership has made.

The work you have undertaken in developing and delivering provision
based on the new literacy and numeracy standards and curricula has been
invaluable in demonstrating the very real benefits that could be gained by
using them. The Adult Basic Skills Strategy Unit also very much
appreciated your support in piloting the new National tests in the face of
considerable reservations on the part of many practitioners. The
Pathfinder pilots clearly showed that, when properly prepared for the Test,
the vast majority of learners found them both and enjoyable and rewarding
experience. This has done much to allay the fears of those who felt that
testing was not appropriate for adult learners.

In addition, the work you have more recently undertaken to test out a
range of innovative approaches to delivering literacy and numeracy
provision has already provided us with a significant amount of very useful
information and will undoubtedly provide more when the evaluation is fully
complete.
Once again I would like to express my gratitude and would be grateful if
you could pass on these thanks to all of the partners and the management
team in Birmingham whose hard work and creativity have done so much to
ensure the success of the project – thanks, not just on behalf of the
Government, but also on behalf of all the learners who will benefit from
your commitment, enthusiasm and expertise.’

A review of implementation of national ‘Skills for Life’ strategy in
Birmingham (and Solihull), in August 2002, highlighted that 53 of the 72
identified strategic pushes were already being put well in place. Those still
requiring further momentum are listed below:

Potential developments:
   Re Promotion
      • Decisions to be made on how best to use local media to push
           strategy/recruit new learners.
      • ‘Seamless connection’ to be guaranteed between national
           promotions, learndirect referrals, Learning Shop, local provision.
      • Identify existing ’non basic skills’ programmes in localities/ with
           client groups likely to have basic skills needs and draw up
           intervention proposals.
      • Develop material, sample activities to be available in all
           neighbourhood offices, libraries etc.
      • Explore options for system-wide basic skills assessment/referral
           workers

   Re Participation
      • Review main agencies who may not yet have adequate basic
         skills plans for their service.
      • Clarify mechanisms for ensuring basic skills within Connexions.
      • Outline current/planned provision re refugees/asylum seekers.
      • Review work via Trade Unions/Community intermediary
         organisations (and strengthen basic skills components of these).
      • Establish ways forward re use of employer champions;
         community champions etc – beyond what is already planned.
      • Define options for self study packs
      • Refine area-based data to produce area-focused definitions of
         need.
      • Review list of key voluntary organisations and their capacity to
         recognise/refer/assess/deliver/accredit.
      • Establish reality of using voluntary organisations linking with
         claimants on estates, leading to diagnostic assessment?
      • Clarify strength of systems re learndirect targets and processes.

   Re Learner Support
      • Link into any national plan to produce accessible materials to be
         distributed to parents via schools etc.
      Re Achievement
         • Further push for consistency of formative assessment, linking to
           national development.
         • Push entry to tests – encouraging more organisations (e.g.
           Probation) to register as assessment centres; exploring open-
           access assessment centres.
         • Establish mechanisms for tracking learners across
           organisations/programmes and across curriculum assessment
           levels.

   A proposal has been accepted by the DfES enabling Birmingham and
   Solihull organisations to support a similar set of ESOL development
   activities between November 2002 and June 2003.

8.2 Attaining short and medium term targets
   (a) Local LSC targets
       Department for Education and Skills Public Service Targets have been
       agreed as 750,000 individuals (aged 16+) improving their basic skills
       by moving up a level to attain:
           Entry level certificate in adult literacy or in adult numeracy
           or Level 1 certificate in adult literacy or in adult numeracy,
              GCSE (D-G) or Level 1 Key Skills (Communication/Number)
           or Level 2 certificate in adult literacy or in adult numeracy,
              GSCE (A-C), or Level 2 Key Skills (Communication/Number)

      These targets were extended in the recent comprehensive spending
      review to cover a further 750,000 making similar progress between
      levels between 2004 and 2007.

      The local Learning and Skills contribution to the national 2001-2004
      targets are 20,877 spread across three years.

      Year              2001-2002     2002-2003     2003-2004      Total
      Target            6,959         6,959         6,959          20,877

      Whilst there are indications that nationally and locally the system is on
      track to deliver these target levels of success, Birmingham and Solihull
      LSC will not be able to confirm its progress against the targets to 2004
      until February 2003, which leaves little time to adjust the delivery
      mechanisms.

   (b) Indications from providers
       Many of the providers interviewed were, at the time, unaware of the
       basic skills targets which the Birmingham & Solihull area is to achieve
       by 2004; or, where targets were known, little had been done to
       establish direct implications for their own service.

      A number of providers also reported that their core provision was
      relatively static and that they had recently only expanded because they
      had been offered additional contracts or been part of short-life
        initiatives. Stated growth targets for this contract year are, for the most
        part, relatively modest and range from 5% to 15%. Where a training
        provider already assesses and provides basic skills to all its learners
        expansion is only possible if the total contract value is increased.
        These, of course, are growth targets and substantial work needs to be
        done with providers to assist in declaring targets of individuals moving
        up a level.

        Birmingham and Solihull Learning and Skills Council is seen as the
        ‘holder’ of the targets (with the targets now being seen as a whole-
        organisation issue, rather than as belonging to one section/one person
        with the LSC). The LSC locally cannot deliver the targets alone, but
        only through its delivery organisations. It is clear to providers, and to
        staff at Birmingham and Solihull Learning and Skills Council, that
        organic growth within providers is not, on its own, sufficient in order to
        reach the basic skills targets. Growth in achievements will need to be
        managed, in partnership with provider organisations, with challenge
        and support from LSC staff. This include clear and reliable information
        flows between national LSC; local LSCs and provider organisations.

  (c) Other services targets
      Although targets are being introduced with JobCentre Plus and with the
      Probation Service, these will only marginally affect the total moving up
      a level over the next 18months. They will make much more of a
      contribution to the 2004-2007 targets.

  (d) Longer term ambitions
      There is a general belief that current LSC targets are realistically
      attainable. The more challenging ambition is to reduce the levels of
      basic skills needs by 50% by 2010. This aspiration was originally (in
      2000) stated as shown in the table below:

Year             Numbers       % achieving   Numbers     Increase in   Net reduction       Level of
                 working on                  achieving   level (from   in basic skills   basic skills
                 their basic                             school etc)       need             need
                   skills                                                                remaining

 2000 baseline    9,874            30                      3,000                          141,440

(targets)

2000 - 2001       12,000           40         4,800        2,000          2,800           138,640

2001 - 2002       15,000           50         7,500        2,000          5,500           133,340

2002 - 2003       15,000           50         7,500        1,500          6,000           127,340

2003 - 2004       16,000           50         8,000        1,500          6,500           120,840

2004 - 2005       18,000           50         9,000        1,300          7,700           113,140

2005 - 2006       18,000           50         9,000        1,200          7,800           105,340

2006 - 2007       18,000           50         9,000        1,000          8,000           97,340

2007 - 2008       18,000           50         9,000         500           8,500           88,840

2008 - 2009       18,000           50         9,000         500           8,500           80,340

2009 - 2010       18,000           60         10,800        500           10,300          70,040
On the basis of the survey of need, these aspirations can be
disaggregated to show the separate ambitions for literacy and for
numeracy at Levels 1 and 2.

The 2000 levels for these are shown below together with the figures
indicated for 2002 by the review survey of need. The 2010 goal is to
have reduced the numbers not at Level 2 by 50%, with a corresponding
shift in the numbers able (by 2010) to demonstrate literacy and
numeracy skills at level 1 but not yet at level 2.

Aspirational Levels of Ability (Birmingham and Solihull)
         Language/literacy            Numeracy
          Entry     L1         L2     Entry    L1        L2
2000      85%      82%        79%      81%    63%       50%
2002      88%      85%        82%      81%    63%       50%
2005      90%      87%        84%      85%    72%       62%
2010      94%      92%        90%      90%    82%       75%

To make the scale of progress in the table above will require
approximately three times the number of adults to move up a level
each year in literacy and in numeracy as are currently achieving.

There is no separate column for Esol/Language since above E3/L1
successes in language can show through as successes in Level
1/Level 2 accreditations. Excluding refugees/asylum seekers, the
numbers needing to achieve at E1/E2 are incorporated in the
language/literacy figures above.

Given the improvements in quality and the changes in culture and
infrastructure indicated by this review as being necessary, it is
reasonable to assume that increased numbers of people in all
programmes will be entering national accreditations and that the
current pass rates will be maintained or improved upon i.e. there will be
increasingly rapid progress towards targets. The challenging nature of
the targets means that they are unlikely to simply be met without
organisations engaging with disaggregated data – on levels of needs in
areas, by client groups etc.

As a beginning, the 2002 data for the total numbers of adults needing
to improve their basic skills are shown below:

                Birmingham & Solihull
                 Literacy                        Numeracy
L1  L2          20568                           92223
E3  L1          21812                           135463
E2  E3          39892                           68975
E1  E2          51946                           70026
Total            134218 (= 18.5% of adult        366687 (= 50% of adult
                 population)                     population)
These figures disaggregate further:

e.g. Birmingham:
                         Literacy                   Numeracy
L1  L2                  18080                      72322
E3  L1                  19324                      120537
E2  E3                  36161                      60268
E1  E2                  48215                      66295
Total                    121780 (= 20.2% of         319422 (= 53% of
                         Birmingham adult           Birmingham adult
                         population)                population)

and Solihull:
                         Literacy                      Numeracy
L1  L2                  2488                          19901
E3  L1                  2488                          14926
E2  E3                  3731                          8707
E1  E2                  3731                          3731
Total                    12438 (= 10% of               38573 (= 31% of
                         Solihull population)          Solihull population)

To achieve the aspirational 50% reduction in these overall levels of
need, progress (over the next 8 years) will need to be made as follows:

                2002          2005              2010           ‘succeeding’
                                                               per year
                             Birmingham
Literacy
L1  L2         18080         14690             9040            1130
E3  L1         19324         15701             (9662)          1208
E2  E3         36161         29380             (18080)         2260
E1  E2         48215         39174             24107           3013
Numeracy
L1  L2         72322         58762             36161           4520
E3  L1         120537        97936             (60268)         7533
E2  E3         60268         48968             (30134)         3767
E1  E2         66295         53866             33148           4144
                                Solihull
Literacy
L1  L2         2488          2024              1244            156
E3  L1         2488          2044              (1244)          156
E2  E3         3731          3032              (1866)          233
E1  E2         3731          3031              1865            233
Numeracy
L1  L2         19901         16169             9950           1244
E3  L1         14926         12127             (7463)         933
E2  E3         8707          7075              (4354)         544
E1  E2         3731          3029              1864           233
Achieving this aspirational level of impact will require (across
Birmingham and Solihull):

(a) 1286 people, each year, to succeed at Level 2 literacy
    1364 people, each year, to succeed at Level 1 literacy
    2493 people, each year, to succeed at Entry Level literacy

   i.e. 5143 to move up a level in literacy (and a further 3246 people to
   make progress, each year, within Entry Level literacy).

(b) 5764 people, each year, to succeed at Level 2 numeracy
    8466 people, each year, to succeed at Level 1 numeracy
    4311 people, each year, to succeed at Entry Level numeracy

   i.e. 18561 to move up a level in numeracy (and a further 4377
   people to make progress, each year, within Entry Level numeracy).

Birmingham and Solihull Learning and Skills Council has an average
annual target of 6,959 individuals moving up a level (in either literacy,
numeracy, or both). Solving the skills gap issues in literacy appears
therefore, to be quite achievable. Closing the numeracy skills gap
even to Level 1 – is a much more difficult task.

Making these substantial reductions in the overall numbers of people
with low levels of literacy, numeracy and language will be more difficult
over the next 6-10 years. There are some actions that will help:
    Clarification of the various targets with key intermediary
       organisations (e.g. main providers)
    Increasing the development of provider plans to contribute to
       local targets. This requires closer links between organisational
       plans and area/regional/national strategies.
    Speeding up the extension of the basic skills offer into
       community and voluntary organisations, and to ‘non-participants’
       in focused ways
    Planners and funders taking an active part in building the
       capacity of organisations’ staff to directly deliver basic skills up
       to test levels.
    Strengthening professional focus onto the outcomes for learners
       - recognising basic skills as a product as well as a process;
       getting the questions ‘What do you want from this?’ ‘How
       quickly do you want to get there?’ built into initial assessment.
    Promoting the national accreditations within all supported
       programmes; and creating clearer links between motivation,
       identification of specific skills needs, construction of
       programmes, and expected accreditation outcomes.
    Support and challenge to provider organisations to set realistic
       but demanding organisational targets (across the range
       ‘minimum’ to ‘ambitious’?) with commissioning of work to close
       identified gaps to reaching the targets.
       Creating access to national accreditations in wider range of
        courses; in other programmes; and as public ‘off the street’
        access.
       Ensuring that starting points and achievements are recorded for
        all basic skills learners, against the standard levels.

Making progress towards these targets will involve work that relates to
assessment, participation, retention, achievement and progression as well
as to quality of both provision and capacity:
    ~ Assessment: ensuring systematic assessment and recording of
       starting level; Increased initial assessment in terms of ‘level’ for
       learners in all programmes
    ~ Participation: ensuring the accurate monitoring of client participation
       where this information is currently available and working to develop
       methods of monitoring provision incorporated within other courses
       and within non-traditional learning
    ~ Retention and achievement: working to monitor against appropriate
       benchmarks, which take into account client needs/focus; positive
       promotion of, and support for entry to national accreditation
    ~ Quality: progress in the development of basic skills tutors, support
       staff, managers and advisers to engage them all more fully with the
       new agenda
    ~ Linking self-assessment against inspection guidelines with attaining
       planned outcomes for learners

There is still a degree of unreliability of data (of all kinds) across the
system. Without wanting to collect unnecessary data, or to measure
things because they exist, key data sets need to be agreed and adhered to
with some reliability. Data collection and management systems will need
to:
    ~ ensure that the most accurate methods are used to collect data with
       regard to achievement towards targets (and where these measures
       are not available put resources in to develop them)
    ~ collect data about levels from generic basic skills courses
    ~ collect basic skills data from the content embedded in vocational
       and other courses
    ~ take account of the work of a number of agencies, and recognise
       any contributions to targets by non-traditional activity

Potential developments
   • All major programmes identify potential for contributing towards
      local and national targets
   • Data collection is made more reliable in terms of position re
      levels/targets
   • Organisations set their own realistic but challenging targets (maybe
      across a range from ‘guaranteed minimum’ to ‘aspirational
      maximum’) with identified support and challenge assisting them in
      attaining these targets
   • Work is commissioned to bridge any gaps re target attainment
•   Annual reports are made of progress towards various sets of
    targets
•   LSC should:
        (a) Seek growth in the three areas of literacy, numeracy and
            ESOL and be prepared for the management of growth
            across providers.
        (b) prioritise the types and volumes of provision expected re:
                - Existing young and adult learners who are on
                     mainstream vocational/education courses
                - Family literacy & numeracy programmes
                - Workplace training
                - Innovative ways of delivering outside the classroom
                     and give longer 3-5 year indications concerning these
        (c) Work with JobCentre Plus, the Probation Service and any
            other partners to set up systems that share data on
            achievement on their programmes
        (d) Direct provision, in the light of new data and information on
            need, by tendering for specific provision to meet gaps in
            specific localities, with particular client groups, or to shift gear
            towards achievements of targets.
        (e) Monitor in year, current activity and achievement of targets
            against the projected targets for 2004 and 2007, with the
            ability to influence provision as necessary.
        (f) Ensure that there is sufficient teaching capacity to deliver
            high volumes of Level 1 and Level 2 work.
Section 9: Potential for further Developments

9.1 Next steps in implementing the Skills for Life strategy in Birmingham
   and Solihull
   The checklist already being used to track the implementation of the
   national strategy, across aspects of activity in Birmingham and Solihull, is
   proving a useful tool for staying on track. Over 18 months the area has
   rapidly moved from a consideration of ‘this is everything that has to be
   done’ to ‘this is the distance still to be travelled’ i.e. the checklist has
   helped to maintain focus on a clear set of goals, and has directed energies
   towards particular outcomes.

   The Core Skills Development Partnership has assisted the Adult Basic
   Skills Strategy Unit, the DfES Policy Implementation Unit, and the Prime
   Minister’s Delivery Unit to undertake research as part of their priority
   reviewing of key strategy implementations.

   This involved talking to adults who had basic skills needs but who were not
   likely to have these met by existing mechanisms. The range of agencies
   that these people regularly used (doctor; post office; community centre;
   neighbourhood advice centre; playcare organisation; market/shops; park;
   jobcentre; library; neighbourhood office etc) were visited to explore what
   roles (if any) such organisations could play within the next set of drives to
   implement the Skills for Life strategy.

   The outcome from this exercise was a confirmation that the strategy had
   already been embedded in main ‘structural’ provision and was,
   additionally, being pushed well through voluntary sector agencies that had
   links into learning.

   At the next ring out (i.e. voluntary/community organisations whose prime
   business was other than learning) there was:
           some recognition of issues associated with adult basic skills
           understandably, a patchier understanding of what was available
             as ‘solutions’
           appreciation that many of the people they saw, for other
             reasons, had low levels of basic skills
           some suggestions re ways their own organisation could engage
             more with the national drive to raise basic skills levels
           largely a feeling that basic skills meant ‘illiterate’; that the topic
             could not be raised as a neutral discussion of skills (i.e. was
             associated with ‘shame’) i.e. basic skills as a term has strong
             negative connotations
           more to be done (at national ‘promotion’ level) to link basic skills
             improvement and the core business of these agencies, in terms
             of aiding more efficient ‘transactions’
           an opportunity via those places of public gathering of large
             numbers of people which offered the potential for getting
             generalised messages across
           still a sense in which many of the intermediaries had a
            misplaced sensitivity around raising/responding to the issue of
            adult basic skills gaps. Their attitudes were often dominant in
            whether someone succeeded or not
           agencies might be working with a further education provider on
            one topic but still remain relatively unaware of the larger basic
            skills strategy
           potential for a wider exploration of community mentors/activists
            to take the strategy up a step further
           some surprising gaps e.g. the ‘one-stop’ neighbourhood advice
            offices not having been geared up to engage with basic skills
           some excellent examples where an agency apparently far from
            this strategy (e.g. parks/nature conservation) could immediately
            see ways for them to engage
           stronger links possible to public safety (reading instructions etc);
            to accidents at home; to participation in public reviews/client
            consultation
           potential to build basic skills into a wide range of other activities
            in community organisations
           a recognition of the often difficult lives lived by some of the
            adults met. Other preoccupations might well get in the way of
            regular, fixed attendance models of support.
           more scope for adult basic skills awareness/responsiveness to
            be built into agendas of a far wider range of organisations (re
            customer care policies; Equal opportunities policies; frontline
            staff training; modules within professional training; use of
            Investors in People etc; organisational development plans etc)
           a wider range of regional/national funding sources could require
            bidders to demonstrate links to Skills for Life agenda
           stronger emphasis that ‘basic skills’ ranges up to Level 2 (GCSE
            equivalent)
           more scope for basic skills services to be delivered in peripatetic
            ways, reaching out into wider community organisations
           exploration of how ‘non-accredited’ intermediary organisations
            are able to deliver some elements of the basic skills agenda.

9.2 Winning hearts and minds on the level and nature of basic skills
   needs
   There is more to be done to make providers and JobCentre Plus/Learning
   and Skills Council staff aware of basic skills in general as well as the fact
   that basic skills means not just very low levels of achievement i.e. pre-
   entry and entry level. Many providers do not deliver basic skills at a higher
   level for this reason. There is also more to be done in some
   intermediaries, to move general social attitudes:
             away from the 1970s view that ‘these poor people are a bit
             deficient and need to be got into provision that will protect them
             and slowly educate them’
             towards a 2002 view that ‘many people have gaps in specific skills
             that they need to learn about and practice – so they need to be
           clear about how to gain the skills; be supported in getting those
           skills boosted; and helped to get on with their life’.

9.3 Adult Basic Skills and Neighbourhood Renewal
   The aims of neighbourhood renewal are:
       to close gaps between localities
       to ensure outcome levels are above floor targets
       to increase local decision-making
       to improve mainstream services

   All of these align with:
        using the national ‘Skills for Life’ strategy to reduce basic skills gaps
           between localities
        the intention to work towards underpinning levels of
           achievement/activity in all areas
        increasing the diversity of provision, ensuring that adults have a
           choice of appropriate support: local management decisions within a
           stronger city framework
        improving the quality, volume and diversity of adult basic skills
           provision

   Improving levels of adult basic skills is a key element of the overall drive
   for neighbourhood renewal. This has been recognised in Birmingham by
   including adult basic skills improvements as a specific objective within the
   city’s Community Plan.

   Basic skills levels have strong links across to the wider social outcomes to
   be delivered through neighbourhood renewal processes e.g. making
   changes to levels of unemployment; homelessness; offending; life
   expectancy; social engagement. Making these linkages more explicit
   would strengthen the understanding that whilst the larger proportion of
   basic skills achievements are ultimately going to be delivered through
   education and training organisations, the benefits affect the agendas of
   many other types of organisation. It is appropriate therefore that Local
   Strategic Partnerships include the adult basic skills dimension within their
   considerations.

   The Skills for Life strategy also aims to support the community
   engagement processes within the renewal of neighbourhoods. Adequate
   basic skills are a prerequisite for citizenship and wider forms of
   governance. Strengthening communication skills is part of the wider
   capacity-building package that better enables the local involvement of
   residents in decision making around neighbourhood renewal. Part of the
   Community Engagement Fund could be dedicated to some ‘front-end’
   work of the kind that strengthens the democratic process through targeted,
   relevant basic skills work through the Adult Education Service, Colleges or
   voluntary organisations.

   There are, currently, an increasing number of activities aiming to support
   the renewal of neighbourhoods. The national Learning and Skills Council
   has recently released a Neighbourhood Learning in Deprived Communities
   initiative. This initiative provides the resource stream that will enable
   progress to be made on:
         outreach delivered in partnership
         first step innovative provision
         developing local learning champions
         creating links between dispersed activity and mainstream
            progression routes

   Whilst this is wider than adult basic skills, there is the expectation that
   projects supported by this fund should address literacy and numeracy.

   There are thus a range of capacity-building/development initiatives each
   making separate references to adult basic skills developments. At the
   moment these can lead to a proliferation of disconnected activity, agreed
   by different people, with little cross referencing to other developments.
   The Core Skills Development Partnership can play a role, where invited by
   separate partners, in ensuring appropriate double-checks are made as
   part of the agreement processes. Where agreement processes remain
   wholly within one organisation, more can be done to reference proposals
   across to a basic skills contact person in the organisation before final
   approvals are made.

9.4 Potential for Floor Targets
   Using the levels of skills in each ward at the moment, and the overall
   planned levels of skill for the whole area for 2005 and 2010, it is possible
   to set aspirational minimum levels for 2005 (levels below which no ward
   will remain by that time).

   These floor/minimum levels can be set for literacy (at e2, E3, L1, L2) and
   numeracy (at E2, E3, L1, L2). The aspirational levels can be differentially
   set for sub-areas e.g. for Solihull and for Birmingham; or for Solihull and
   for various different areas within Birmingham (e.g. the 6 ‘joined up delivery’
   areas being proposed by Birmingham and Solihull Learning and Skills
   Council).

   This process allows for planned progress within identified wards; with
   percentages of the population translating into real numbers expected to
   make progress (i.e. linking across to LSC targets); and with supporting
   activity able to draw, for example, on neighbourhood renewal funding
   locally in each ward.

   The argument against ward-based floor targets are twofold. Firstly,
   monitoring progress against the targets requires, ideally, a remeasuring of
   overall skills levels for the ward’s population each year. Secondly, those
   wards with furthest distance to travel to reach the floor target are often
   wards characterised by high levels of population turnover. This mobility of
   population is, however, usually an exchange between similar wards and,
   whilst made up of different individuals, the ward population characteristics
   have a degree of stability.
   Rather than constant monitoring of skills levels, a better approach could be
   to convert the distances to be travelled (within each ward, in order to
   reach/surpass the floor target) into numbers of adults needing to move up
   a level over the period to 2005 and to annually monitor the numbers
   ‘succeeding’ in this way within the target wards.

   Potential floor targets for literacy (at 4 levels) and numeracy (at 4 levels)
   are shown, for Birmingham wards and for Solihull wards separately, in
   Appendix 1.

9.5 Area based activity
   There is an obvious need to shift the planning of delivery of specific
   provision away from disconnected institutional planning onto the basis of
   linked area planning, and there have been a number of attempts at this
   over the past 15 years, with some examples of where this has worked
   well. At the same time there is an equally strong recognition that the
   model of simply devolving allocations to areas has not been successful.
   There are useful lessons emerging from the government’s review of area-
   based initiatives. In the past the experiments with locality-based focusing
   on learning has led to:

       too much energy going into structures rather than purposes
       a focus on territory and organisations, rather than learners
       loss of cross-system coherence; reduction in cost effectiveness
        because of duplication of processes
       lack of ability to effectively intervene for change, because the
        locality acts as gatekeeper
       too much emphasis on branding, and ‘ownership’ by areas, rather
        than focusing on area contributions to broader strategies
       localities focusing on bidding of additional resources rather than
        delivery of outcomes within existing resources
       areas reinventing their own version of what is already happening,
        leading to ‘deadweight’ activity
       area-based models reinforcing unhelpful thinking in terms of
        artificial ‘boundaries’.

   Area models can be operated in ways that avoid these difficulties.

   Different models exist:
        ‘Areas’ = clusters of organisations in same geographical location
          (whoever their clients)
        ‘Areas’ = clusters of resident learners (whose needs can be met by
          a variety of ways); allowing local demands to feed into local
          provision
        ‘Areas’ = management device (e.g. where a whole-city service is
          operated through area ‘divisions’ within a whole-service approach –
          with issues of semi autonomy of areas/centre)
    ‘Areas’ = mechanisms to unify opportunities and to rationalise
     provision across organisations without creating additional layers of
     bureaucracy.

A number of models presume that ‘Areas’ necessarily need to be equal in
size/population/resourcing. The Individual Learner Record has a field to
record the postcode of learners. It is thus possible to report participation,
retention and achievement by locality not only by provider but also by
learning location and more particularly by home location of learner. Once
data is analysed by postcodes, or enumeration districts, then any number
of configurations can be built up, with ‘areas’ simply being whatever
configuration is most appropriate for the task (and able to be reconfigured
at short notice if the situation changes). The current proposal is to use the
broad areas that are the basis of Excellence in Cities and Connexions
services, and although other areas could be used there is no difficulty to
overall basic skills development work in using these configurations at the
moment.

Whatever model is used there is likely to be a need to consider the best
mix of:
    Discrete adult basic skills opportunities – in literacy, numeracy,
        language – focused on clear skills achievement, at specific levels –
        emphasis on moving on (moving up a level where appropriate).
    Embedded basic skills/key skills in a wide range of provision
    Basic skills support to enable progress in other courses
    Outreach, motivational and preparatory work to stimulate a
        recognition of the need to improve one’s basic skills

All types of adult basic skills work permeate programmes that are part the
Learning and Skills Council activity, part of Probation Service activity, part
of learndirect activity, part of LEA work with schools, part of JobCentre
Plus activity etc. For this reason it is unlikely that any single agency can
be thought of as ‘leading’ all of the basic skills delivery (in terms of direct
management responsibility for it). Basic skills work will continue to be the
responsibility of an increasing number of organisations, but this is not a
reason for disconnected (or competing) delivery.

There are clearly strong benefits in a number of organisations coming
together to:
    produce area wide thematic information based on specific skills to
      be achieved
    ensure that a wide range of organisations (providers, libraries,
      community organisations, JobCentre Plus offices, Neighbourhood
      offices etc) can act as frontages that open up entry to a range of
      learning opportunities in the locality.
    determine the overall balance of opportunities in an area, in relation
      to any targets to be achieved and any wider strategic framework
    monitor area level progress of learners and reductions of levels of
      need in the area
    share continuing professional development opportunities
        create exchange mechanisms for resources, staff expertise etc
        provide information and opportunities re ways forward for learners

   Across the whole of Birmingham and Solihull one would expect to see:
      (a) a higher volume of adult basic skills provision
      (b) a better match between a diversity of accessible provision and the
          distribution of levels of skills gaps (across literacy, numeracy and
          ESOL; and across the three standard levels of skills)
      (c) better access to national accreditation
      (d) clearer routes from community activities to skills accreditations

9.6 Clarity of roles
   Adult basic skills is a high priority on the agendas of an increased number
   of organisations. This is to be welcomed. At the same time there is an
   increased need for active work to ensure coherence and reduce wasted
   energies. There are national, regional, local and institutional levels at
   which basic skills developments are taking place, with a need for clarity
   about appropriate activity at each level:
       • at national level: strategy formulation; widescale ‘universal’
          developments
       • at LSC level: local plan for implementing the strategy in a relevant
          and coherent way; drive for progress/change
       • at locality level: aligning of learning opportunities; clear information;
          rearrangements of delivery based on robust data
       • at regional level: additional activity that cannot be carried forward at
          LSC/national level, linked to clear regional agenda; regionalisation
          of national activity where this brings better effectiveness or value for
          money
       • at institutional level: responsibility for quality of own delivery; quality
          of linkages/alignment with other providers; clear statement of own
          contribution to wider changes

   A specific possible example is where an organisation trials a national
   development with the aim of rolling it out across LSCs in a region; a
   regional development gains funding to do a similar activity (also to be
   rolled out across LSCs in the region); the local LSC has its own
   development activity on the same topic; an institution within the LSC area
   gains separate funding to undertake the same set of developments.

   The potential turbulence that can come from such multi-layered activity on
   the same topic has been minimised by:
      • national developments working at LSC level through existing local
         staff and mechanisms, rather than introducing their own ‘project’
         staff and processes at LSC/regional level
      • the LSC having clearly articulated its development intentions
      • good ‘intelligence’ through the networking between a wide variety of
         organisations (concerned with basic skills) across the LSC area
      • recognition of the key roles/expertise of certain organisations and
         individuals
       •   the ‘partnership’ culture that has been developed and is being
           promoted
       •   having one known ‘basic skills’ reference group that cross
           references between different developments and activities
       •   having known basic skills reference people who are used as a
           double-check for any wider development proposals (e.g. via
           cofinancing) that includes a basic skills aspect.

9.7 Funding Issues
   Patterns of funding are changing, and may change again as part of
   planned National Skills Strategy discussions. Despite the affirmation by
   national LSC that every adult basic skills learner will be funded from
   September 2002, there is not always clarity around funding at provider
   level.

   During the course of the Review there have been occasions when basic
   skills managers have suggested that current funding possibilities:
       • do not pay the test entry fees of learners who are not enrolled (even
           to a 3 g/h learning opportunity) and have not filled in the full
           Individual Learner Record
       • do not allow organisations to work flexibly, with small numbers of
           learners at a time
       • do not allow staff in training providers to have time ‘out of contract
           delivery’ to focus on quality developments
       • do not encourage community based learning via voluntary
           organisations
       • are, in the time of rapid change, still perceived as disconnected;
           ‘bidding’; programming of funds
       • are still tending to shape the provision towards what maximises
           funding, rather than what maximises learning
       • are assumed to not allow embedded basic skills work to be done
           until the basic skills is more than 50% of the overall course content
       • do not allow rapid responses to changing situations

   Some of these perceived gaps in funding capacities are real, and some
   can be resolved easily. There could be value in a focused workshop
   session on ‘funding issues’ for basic skills managers together with
   data/finance managers from the same organisations.

9.8 Adult Basic Skills Strategy Group
   Most of the developments covered by this review, such as information
   requirements, shifts in provision to align with broad indicators of need, the
   need to focus teacher supply and training etc apply to most if not all
   providers and will apply across areas.

   The Birmingham and Solihull LSC area currently does not have an overall
   adult basic skills strategy group. It benefits from the existence of a
   regional Skills for Life group which has the capacity to align the regional
   activities of various national bodies (notably the Basic Skills Agency, the
   Learning and Skills Development Agency, learndirect, the National
   Institute for Adult and Continuing Education) with the basic skills
   dimensions of Advantage West Midland’s regional skills strategy, and with
   the adult basic skills plans of six local Learning and Skills Councils within
   the region.

   Within Birmingham and Solihull Learning and Skills Council itself there is a
   cross team thematic group for adult basic skills. Implementation of the
   broad basic skills agenda challenges LSCs to work in a joined up way
   more than has been needed for other single activity developments. Whilst
   Birmingham and Solihull LSC has a basic skills co-ordinator basic skills is
   increasingly being addressed as a whole LSC issue.

   For the past two years, to assist with the rapid implementation of changes
   associated with the new national strategy, the Birmingham Core Skills
   Development Partnership has hosted the facility for senior managers with
   basic skills responsibilities, from a wide range of organisations, to come
   together around specific topics. This has been supplemented by an email
   updating facility to ensure that all organisations have stayed up to date on
   the implementation of the strategy. This has been welcomed by the vast
   majority of organisations but was only seen as being necessary for the
   two-year period now coming to an end, and had the function of staying ‘in
   front of the waves’ as the strategy was rapidly rolled out.

   None of these groups has sought to operate as an adult basic skills
   strategy group in relation to:
           decision making about the overall pattern of provision expected
             through LSC-funded provision; JCP provision etc
           decision making about best use of the variety of
             quality/development resources available
           decision making about interventions needed to ensure progress
             towards targets
           decision making re areas where additional activity need to be
             commissioned

   There is a need for key funders and planners to have the capacity to set
   overall strategic frameworks that release resources at the ‘front line’ of
   delivery (i.e. reduce resources spent on unnecessary bureaucracy) but
   retains overall control. A group that brings together key partners at LSC
   level will enable a focus to be kept on:
           patterns of provision
           progress towards targets
           deployment of development funding
           overall issues re quality and capacity

Potential developments
   • Underpinning support, to enable further delivery of the strategy in
      Birmingham and Solihull, can be strengthened by more work on:
           ~ increasing management capacity, particularly in work-based
             providers
        ~ enhancing the role of the ‘learning advisor’/’basic skills adviser’
            both as organisational mentors and as community motivators for
            basic skills activity
        ~ clarifying the suitable training & qualifications for ‘intermediaries’
        ~ development of successful flexible learning opportunities models
            in more diverse settings
        ~ establishing ‘blended learning’ models, enabling learners to
            access different models of delivery, and/or move between them
        ~ making stronger links between providers and ‘intermediaries’ in
            specific sectors (e.g. youth justice, unions)
        ~ developing open-access test centres to increase access to and
            take-up of national tests
        ~ developing new costed models in terms of different
            segments/target groups
•   Ensure that all ‘expected’ organisations are connected in to appropriate
    delivery of the basic skills strategy
•   Wider exploration of community mentors/activists to take basic skills
    work further into target groups
•   Ensure that, where voluntary organisations are linked to further
    education providers, this relationship has a basic skills dimension
•   Stronger emphasis on basic skills being up to Level 2
•   Promote the basic skills benefits to wider range of organisations (via
    local strategic partnership members)
•   Every opportunity taken to shift perspectives towards a more ‘modern’
    view of basic skills
•   Clearer specification of links to local strategic partnerships; community
    plans; neighbourhood renewal strategies and potential for aspirational
    floor targets
•   ‘Front end’ work to be done to support community engagement with
    renewal and regeneration processes
•   range of development/capacity building initiatives that have (or could
    have) a basic skills dimension constantly reviewed, and ‘double check’
    system introduced for each
•   area-based thematic information to be produced
•   moves towards area-based delivery planning to be taken advantage of
    re moves towards shared continuing professional development; area-
    level monitoring of learner outcomes; interchangeability of staff
    expertise/resources etc
•   increased overall volume of basic skills learning
•   better match between levels of provision and levels of need
•   better access routes from community activities to accreditation
    opportunities
•   A Birmingham and Solihull Basic Skills Strategy Group be formed, with
    an initial 3 year life span, to assist organisations in meeting local and
    national targets, and advising LSC/JCP etc re best investments.
•   The existing Basic Skills Forum to focus on (a) ESOL issues and (b)
    continuing professional development issues until July 2003.
Section 10: Conclusions, recommendations and actions taken
as a result of the review

Although there are many potential development points raised within this
Review report, overall the picture of basic skills/esol provision in Birmingham
& Solihull is very positive. There is much good practice, but the most
noticeable development is a sense of active engagement across providers
and funding bodies to a highly structured drive to raise basic skills levels
across the area. The most constructive factors which will help improve
delivery and reach the targets are the clear willingness of managers, teachers
and planners to review provision, search for new ways to improve delivery;
and the continued development role that has been a strong feature over the
last few years.

The system is well connected into national and regional developments in a
number of interconnecting ways, and has good intelligence about short and
medium term positioning of its capacity.

Providers have a relatively good set of relationships with each other, and with
Agencies such as Birmingham and Solihull JobCentre Plus, Birmingham and
Solihull Learning and Skills Council, and Birmingham and Solihull
Connexions. The voluntary sector is taking an active role in delivering the
basic skills agenda. Birmingham, in particular, has benefited from a
development edge focused on basic skills managed independently of any one
major body, but contributed to by all of them.

Some of the proposals emerging during the review have already been dealt
with by the appropriate organisation. Some are still being addressed. None
are awaiting decisions before action can be taken. The various development
proposals emerging in their different ways throughout the review have been
related back to a few key strategic changes. These are:
       • Stimulate more adults to address real skills gaps
              - shift attitudes to basic skills
              - better information and promotion
       • More appropriate range of learner choices
              - more diverse range of delivery
              - engage more organisations in activities leading to basic skills
                 outcomes
              - customisation to needs of particular groups of adults
       • Improve quality of teaching and learning; and increase access to
          assessment
              - better screening, assessment, individual learning plans and
                 access to accreditation
              - match teacher availability, skills and qualifications to new
                 planned expectations
              - improve basic skills services across the provider base
       • Secure planned, substantial improvements in basic skills levels
              - better planning of local delivery offer, based on reliable data
              - appropriate use of targets to close attainment gaps
              - robust strategic framework and direction
The table below shows the steps being taken in relation to each strategic
objective:

1. Stimulate more adults to address real skills gaps
(a) shift attitudes to basic skills
    • Create access to booster provision, focusing on rehearsing specific skills, linked
       to national accreditations.
    • Strengthen emphasis on basic skills being up to Level 2. All key documents,
       programmes and promotions to reinforce this message.
    • Take every opportunity to shift perspectives towards a more ‘modern’ view of
       basic skills e.g. build more appropriate attitudes to, and understanding of, ‘basic
       skills’, by key intermediaries; and a shift onto neutral, specific skills acquisition,
       and away from a focus on inadequacies of individuals – a deficit model, but one
       phrased in terms of skills deficits not personal deficits
    • Test a series of key messages that could be used to encourage and motivate
       potential learners.


(b) better information and promotion
     Ensure (via Information, Advice and Guidance network) that all basic skills
       contact details are appropriately registered with national referral processes.
       ‘Seamless connection’ to be guaranteed between national promotions,
       learndirect referrals, Learning Shop, local provision.
     Explore including basic skills in the use of community learning champions
    • Promote a clearer understanding of the levels of numeracy skills needed to
       operate functionally, in a range of contexts
    • Produce clearer definition of courses by purpose, level etc.
    • Increase clarity of approaches to English for Speakers of Other Languages,
       particularly the need to boost participation at higher levels leading to national
       accreditations
    • Make better use of ‘Voice’, and local media to push strategy/recruit new
       learners.
    • Update and insert list of basic skills contacts into existing ‘non basic skills’
       programmes.
    • Produce area-based thematic information
     Undertake a multi-agency promotional campaign, making use of wide range of
       mechanisms to use differentiated promotional messages, often via intermediary
       organisations or structures.
     Use existing networks’ capacity to promote key and basic skills strategic
       messages.
     Ensure that all learners, already in contact with programmes, are aware of the
       possibilities for improving their basic skills
    • Undertake area wide promotion of the new national certificates at Entry Level,
       Level 1 and Level 2.
    • Ensure more specific targeting of unemployed people, in ways that ensure
       access to achievement as well as screening and referral.
    • Explore use of community mentors/activists to take basic skills work further into
       target groups and actively motivate specific groups
2. More appropriate range of learner choices
(a) more diverse range of delivery
    • Continued highlighting to employers of the need to address basic skills and the
      support available, in the structured way being promoted by Birmingham and
      Solihull LSC.
    • Increase amount of provision to deliver intensive progress towards planned
      skills outcomes
    • Increase (and diversify) provision at Entry 3 and above, to meet the higher level
      skills focus (especially in ESOL)
    • Increase focus on numeracy at all levels
    • Ensure an appropriate offer and ‘customisation’ for the range of learners with
      disabilities, that matches the broadening offer for other learners.
    • Give specific attention to meeting the needs of adults with deafness or hearing
      loss; and the needs of adults who are blind or partially sighted.
    • Create a more adequate range of full-time/ short/ modular courses
    • Create an increased focus on the ESOL component of basic skills strategy. In
      relation to ESOL, including:
          - more intensive provision which teaches English not just for survival but
              also in the work context.
          - programmes to give sufficient English learning before progress onto
              specific programmes with language support
          - meeting differentiated needs e.g. of adults who have low written skills
              and high spoken skills
          - training providers to offer an appropriate range of ESOL opportunities to
              meet the language needs of new arrivals who have no English language
              skills at all, as well as to those who were born here but whose English is
              influenced by the mother-tongue of their community (e.g. Creole).
          - ensuring that ESOL is not simply being equated with entry level
          - increasing the volume of ESOL provision via JobCentrePlus, within an
              overall expansion of the numbers being referred to basic skills support
     Create booster provision to support entry to national tests (literacy/numeracy
      certificate at Levels 1 and 2; public service entrance tests etc)
     Explore the possibilities for new ‘managed services’ that are able to extend the
      reach of high quality basic skills work beyond courses/groups. Possibility of
      developing a range of new programmes for home and community learning.
     Target work to meet the specific skills needs of officers/members of community
      organisations; adults/young people wanting to participate more in community
      involvement processes
     Target work to meet the numeracy and communication skills needs of managers
      across a range of public services
    • Create further expansion of ICT-based, basic skills learning opportunities
    • Integrate basic skills work into ICT courses and other ICT-based opportunities
    • Increase basic skills support in ICT learning centres e.g. UKOnline/learndirect
      centres
    • Increase opportunities for ICT based assessment
    • Produce additional sector-specific CD-ROMs, with a coherent plan for their
      distribution and use in the workplace.
       distribution and use in the workplace.
   •   Clarify further delivery models, linked to basic and key skills outcomes, including
       embedding basic skills/key skills in vocational/ non-vocational programmes


(b) engage more organisations in activities leading to basic skills outcomes
    • Jobcentre Plus to have more coherent local development plan
    • Range of voluntary organisations to be more structurally tied into range of basic
      skills local developments
    • Agree coherent development activity with a range of organisations that are not
      direct providers of basic skills, but who are active with large numbers of
      disadvantaged young people and whose core business links easily across to
      basic skills issues
    • Identify existing ’non basic skills’ programmes in localities/ with client groups
      likely to have basic skills needs and draw up intervention proposals.
    • Develop materials to be available in all neighbourhood offices, libraries etc.
    • Review main agencies who may not yet have adequate basic skills plans for
      their service.
    • Clarify mechanisms for ensuring basic skills within Connexions.
    • Outline current/planned provision re refugees/asylum seekers.
    • Review work via Trade Unions/Community intermediary organisations (and
      strengthen basic skills components of these).
    • Review list of key voluntary organisations and their capacity to
      recognise/refer/assess/deliver/accredit.
    • Forge stronger links between existing LSC providers and organisations such as
      Foyers, Youth Offending Service, Drugs Action Team etc
    • Increase the basic skills outcomes from youth contact activities
    • Establish ‘Front end’ work to support community engagement with renewal and
      regeneration processes


(c) customisation to needs of particular groups of adults
    • Create a strong focus on sector-specific work-related basic skills.
    • Substantially increase work with public sector workers


3. Improve quality of teaching and learning; and increase access to assessment
(a) better screening, assessment, individual learning plans and access to
    accreditation
     Audit basic skills awareness, screening and assessment training needs of
       network members, leading to planned costed programme of updating (linking,
       where appropriate, to new assessment tools to be available nationally)
     Revisit front-line worker training with new content, against a revised estimate of
       continuing need
    • Promote stronger linkages between screening processes, outreach processes,
       bridging processes and main programme activities.
    • Explore the potential for single Individual Learning/Training Plan framework
       which can be used across Birmingham & Solihull LSC and JobCentrePlus
       provision.
   •   Promote a ‘common message’ across teaching staff, that the purpose of their
       work is to assist learners to maximise their skills (and thereby help to contribute
       to organisational/LSC/National targets) whilst not letting targets/tests
       inappropriately skew the skills attainment.
   •   Explore options for system-wide basic skills assessment/referral workers
   •   Encourage more organisations to register as assessment centres.
   •   Develop open-access test centres to increase access to and take-up of national
       tests
   •   Provide better routes from community activities to accreditation opportunities
   •   Actively promote access to national basic skills accreditations via employer
       training pilot; EQUAL programme; Entry to Employment etc


(b) match teacher availability, skills and qualifications to new planned
    expectations
    • Set up a training group with representation across Birmingham and Solihull, with
       a medium term focus on teacher training, and providing a steer for continuing
       professional development activity beyond the level where this can be met within
       the separate organisations
    • Recruit and train many more people to teach basic skills, in particular numeracy.
       This may be achieved by a general publicity campaign supported by pre service
       training courses for successful candidates
    • Promote the mentoring of new teachers.
    • Link with CertEd provider developments to make sure that basic skills/ESOL
       opportunities are taken up.
    • Work with Advantage West Midlands to support a coherent approach to capacity
       building of current providers (and potential providers), with a strong focus on
       professional development centres/networks and on assisting staff to raise their
       levels of skills and qualifications re basic skills delivery and management.
    • Increase management capacity, particularly in work-based providers
    • Enhance the role of the ‘learning advisor’/’basic skills adviser’ both as
       organisational mentors and as community motivators for basic skills activity
    • Make more use of organisational mentoring
    • Promote range of basic skills roles; with more clarity re Level 2/Level 3 functions
       and requirements


(c) improve basic skills services across the provider base
    • Secure better performance on progression, for example from family
       programmes into substantial basic skills provision; or from outreach work into
       effective basic skills provision; or from ‘guidance’/’contact’ on to basic skills
       assessment with young people
    • Establish an increased pool of trainers, organisational mentors, quality advisers
       etc to be drawn on flexibly (without removing provider organisations’
       responsibilities for the continuing professional development of their staff).
    • Encourage those organisations, whose inspection reports highlighted excellent
       practise, to share their expertise with other organisations in the area
    • Customise the model of shared expertise/demonstration sessions for use
       amongst adult providers.
   •   Reshape the basic skills guidance accompanying the Common Inspection
       Framework into guidance sheets to be issued to those organisations that need
       support on specific aspects; pre-inspection work to be encouraged in
       organisations
   •   Link Learning and Skills Council/JobCentrePlus quality development resources
       more closely to gaps identified through rigorous self-assessment.
   •   Facilitate sharing of expertise between providers – recognising that almost
       every organisation has succeeded in ‘cracking’ some puzzle that others can
       learn from.
   •   Pull lessons from the school sector’s implementation e.g. of language across
       the curriculum in the Key Stage 3 strategy, so that these can be shared cross
       phases.
   •   Create tutor network meetings, where providers can get together to exchange
       information/get further training.
   •   Promote the dual purpose of the strong schools-led model of family
       literacy/numeracy, with maximum support to schools by moving to 3 year
       indications of scale of activity brokered, via the LEA schools section, to include
       the most appropriate area-based adult basic skills provider
   •   Support the best use of Internet, electronic whiteboards etc, in group and other
       provision
   •   Support wider sharing of information on suitable software and ICT approaches
   •   Encourage providers to have a broader overview of ICT provision including
       Learndirect provision
   •   Use area regeneration funds to ensure maximum number of centres are
       appropriately equipped.
   •   Produce exemplar activities which integrate basic skills in meaningful Individual
       Learning Plans, session plans and overall schemes of work
   •   Identify which providers deliver successful, systematic embedded basic skills
       and disseminate good practice through staff training sessions and exchange
       visits
   •   Set targets for the number of vocational/educational specialists who are trained
       and active in basic skills delivery.


4. Secure planned, substantial improvements in basic skills levels
(a) better planning of local delivery offer, based on reliable data
    • Refine area-based data to produce area-focused definitions of need; ensure
       better match between levels of provision and levels of need
    • Promote survey findings to local area planning groups – securing agreement to
       aspirational ‘floor targets’ re minimum levels of basic skills abilities.
    • Encourage clearer links between local providers producing coherent plan of
       future provision (taking account of Regeneration Zones and other area based
       initiatives)


(b) appropriate use of targets to close attainment gaps
    • Encourage providers to set disaggregated targets. (Almost no progress has
      been made in improving overall levels of numeracy skills. Literacy skills have,
      over a 3 year period, been improved). Base forward plans not simply on ‘basic
      skills’ but separately on numeracy, literacy and language development.
       skills’ but separately on numeracy, literacy and language development.
   •   Disaggregate ‘Headline’ survey of need figures by priority areas, by population
       group etc in order to get a more sophisticated map of levels in literacy and
       numeracy need across the sub region. Align this with an analysis of current
       provision and participation data to offer the opportunity for providers, the local
       Learning and Skills Council and other agencies to determine changes that need
       to be made in the pattern of basic skills learning opportunities over the next few
       years.
   •   Identify each major programme’s potential for contributing towards local and
       national targets
   •   Ensure that data collection is made more reliable in terms of position re
       levels/targets
   •   Organisations set their own realistic but challenging targets (maybe across a
       range from ‘guaranteed minimum’ to ‘aspirational maximum’) with identified
       support and challenge assisting them in attaining these targets
   •   Commission work to bridge any gaps re target attainment
   •   Produce annual reports of progress towards various sets of targets


(c) robust strategic framework and direction
    • Promote the basic skills benefits to wider range of organisations (via local
       strategic partnership members)
    • Ensure clearer specification of links between local strategic partnerships;
       community plans; neighbourhood renewal strategies and potential for
       aspirational floor targets
    • List range of development/capacity building initiatives that have (or could have)
       a basic skills dimension, and institute ‘double check’ system
    • Move towards area-based delivery planning (taking advantage of re moves
       towards shared continuing professional development; area-level monitoring of
       learner outcomes; interchangeability of staff expertise/resources etc)
    • Form a Birmingham and Solihull Basic Skills Strategy Group, with an initial 3
       year life span, to assist organisations in meeting local and national targets, and
       advising Learning and Skills Council/Jobcentre Plus etc re best investments.
    • Focus the existing Basic Skills Forum on (a) ESOL issues and (b) continuing
       professional development issues until November 2003.
    • Draw up 3-7 year proposals for long term change across the sub region –
       recognising that, clearly within certain areas and demographic groups, there are
       significant proportions of adults in Birmingham and Solihull with basic skills
       needs still to be met. Basic skills work is thus likely to need to remain a priority
       area for some time to come. It is realistic, therefore, to continue to.
    • The Partnership should take forward the thinking on establishing aspirational
       ‘floor targets’ below which no area, or group, should remain.

								
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