Debate - Improving levels of adult literacy and numeracy

Following the results of the OECD’s Survey of Adult Skills, last week Caroline Dinenage, Gosport MP, held a debate in the Chamber of the House of Commons on ‘Improving levels of adult literacy and numeracy’.

Although the debate was quite low on numbers, MPs from both sides of the House made valuable contributions and there was cross-party consensus that education policies of the past have failed generations of young people.

During the debate National Numeracy was mentioned by both Caroline and Robin Walker, Worcester MP:

National Numeracy statistics reveal that adults with poor numeracy are twice as likely to be unemployed as those who are competent, and more than twice as likely to have children while still in their teens. Those with the lowest numeracy skills are twice as likely to miss their repayments and risk losing their home. Children who struggle with numeracy are twice as likely to be excluded from school.

According to the National Numeracy campaign, 17 million adults are at only “entry level” in numeracy…

Kelvin Hopkins, Luton MP, spoke about our Trustee, Lord Moser, and the ongoing problem of adult innumeracy:

It is clear from the statistics published yesterday, and from the Moser report some time ago, that we still have a problem. We are slipping down the league table and Lord Moser still has concerns. I hope that the Government, whoever is in office, address this problem...

Themes in the debate included; working with parents, peer-to-peer learning and working through community links, all of which are part of our plans with our National Numeracy Challenge and Parental Engagement project.

At the end of the debate it was good to hear the Minister for Skills and Enterprise, Matthew Hancock MP, highlighting why attitudes to maths are important:

He said that there is sometimes an impression that people are not mathematically minded and went on to say that they should still be able to learn maths. The concept of people who are not mathematically minded does not exist anywhere else in the world. It is a peculiarly British cultural concept and we must eradicate it, because everybody can do maths. It is just a matter of how they are taught. I absolutely hope we can turn that around, although changing cultural perceptions takes time.

Read the full transcript.

Watch the debate (from 01:56:00).