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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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