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Mapping the UK’s numeracy skills: Experian and National Numeracy

2 Oct 2023

By Paul Foss, Head of Data and Insights and Siân Devine, Partnerships Manager

Last week National Numeracy and Experian were honoured to be finalists in the DataIQ Awards, having been nominated in both the Data for Society and Best Use of Data for Not-For-Profit or Non-commercial Purposes categories for creating the UK Numeracy Index. As the powerful partnership between National Numeracy and Experian moves into a new year, Siân Devine and Paul Foss take a look at the history and success of the Numeracy Index so far.

Image of the UK map for the Numeracy Index

National Numeracy and Experian have enjoyed a highly impactful partnership over the last few years, supporting individuals on their journey to improve numeracy for financial health.

In recent months, combining knowledge, expertise and datasets, Experian and National Numeracy built the UK’s first ever Numeracy Index (UKNI), which models and ranks areas of the UK by numeracy confidence and skills.

Since its launch, the UKNI has revealed powerful insights into numeracy issues across ward, local authority and regional levels, and garnered broader stakeholder support and understanding of both National Numeracy’s mission and the nation’s numeracy need.

Experian’s investment and collaboration with the charity on this tool enables policymakers, organisations and local communities to focus numeracy improvement efforts – and is already making a big difference. By identifying the specific areas of need for intervention work, this partnership project is supercharging social mobility in disadvantaged communities, building number confidence and opening up opportunities for adults and children alike.

Read on for examples of the Index in use with local authorities, the Children’s Commissioner, the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation, business leaders and policymakers.

How local authorities have used the UK Numeracy Index

By early June 2023, the UKNI ward level data had been used by 14 local authority organisations, comprising approximately 70 local authorities’ districts, to support understanding of the numeracy landscape in their area. This has enabled them to target interventions as part of the Government's £560m Multiply Adult Numeracy initiative.

Feedback has been very positive, and most said that it confirmed the areas they should be working in, as indicated by deprivation data. This extra validation helps build the case for who and where needs support, as well as providing a baseline to measure progress. That said, there have been a few occasions where deprivation data didn’t quite align with the UK Numeracy Index, which helped the organisation to focus on areas they otherwise may have neglected.

Parminder Singh Garcha, Multiply Lead at Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority comments: 

“CPCA used the UKNI to underpin our approach to supporting numeracy skills and confidence. It highlighted the needs of wards across Cambridge and Peterborough as a whole and then by each local authority. It has helped us shape our methods and processes in our Multiply project, enabling us to target our resources in specific areas where there is most need, and we will use our Multiply learning data to map this to the UKNI to help measure impact.

"I’ve fed back to the Department of Education how we actively use the index and how the support we’ve received has been invaluable. Using the UKNI, alongside other data, we were able to create Community Learning Data which has since been shared in networking groups and at skill providers forums to encourage other Learning Authorities to use this to shape their approach in addressing numeracy needs."

Find out more about how National Numeracy works with local authorities

Children's Commissioner research: linking maths attainment and adult numeracy

With the Office of the Children's Commissioner for England (CCO), we explored the relationship between maths attainment data of young people and adult numeracy levels. In a light-touch piece of analysis we have been able to demonstrate a correlation between the UKNI and maths attainment at both KS2 and KS4. Initially, we investigated this relationship at a Local Authority District level using publicly available data. We were then able to look into the relationship at a ward level, and found an even stronger connection between adult numeracy and maths attainment. In other words, the analysis suggests that higher adult numeracy levels are related to higher maths attainment and pass rates.

The COO have since developed the “Local Numeracy Data Dashboard”, allowing parents, carers and other members of the community to discover valuable information about numeracy in their local area, including adult numeracy averages and local schools’ GCSE pass rates.

Explore the Children's Commissioner Numeracy Dashboard here

The Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation: new insight

With the guidance of Education Scotland, the UK Numeracy Index has also been used to run a light-touch analysis to compare and contrast against the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD). Similarly to the maths attainment analysis, this analysis was first carried out at a Local Authority District level which indicated several correlations, and then latterly at a ward level to dig a little deeper. Because the SIMD is split into seven individual pillars, the findings can be most easily split into two categories.

A positive correlation:

  • Overall
  • Education
  • Employment
  • Health
  • Income

Little or no correlation:

  • Access
  • Crime
  • Housing

This work gives us an initial indication that there is a relationship between numeracy and deprivation, but a complex one, with some factors more connected than others. Through using the Index and the SIMD as a starting point, our organisations have effectively highlighted a range of factors related to low numeracy, as well as the need for further research and exploration into these connections and the outliers, all of which ultimately helps us to address the numeracy issue at scale.

Raising awareness with business leaders and policymakers

The UKNI has been presented, discussed and utilised amongst the members of the National Numeracy Leadership Council and at several high-profile conferences, raising awareness of the numeracy need across the UK at a senior level and rallying the support and engagement of further organisations, business leaders and policymakers.

In the build-up to our flagship national campaign National Numeracy Day, the Numeracy Index was effectively used to rally the support of local MPs by highlighting the numeracy need in their individual constituencies. As a result the Prime Minister, Ministers, Shadow Ministers and government departments all got involved with the day, and the first ever National Numeracy Day Parliamentary debate was held.

Explore the remarkable impact of National Numeracy Day 2023 here

Looking ahead

To date, the National Numeracy-Experian partnership has demonstrated tremendous, transformational impact by identifying and helping individuals become more financially literate and confident with numbers.

The UKNI remains a key insight tool to support National Numeracy’s strategy in targeting areas of numeracy need across the UK, enabling targeted, powerful impact in addressing the UK numeracy crisis.

Experian continues to provide key support and investment for the ongoing provision and development of this extraordinary vulnerability mapping tool, and we look forward to where our partnership, and this unique and valuable data for good, goes next.

Sam Sims, CEO at National Numeracy, said:

“At National Numeracy, we are delighted with the results of our highly impactful partnership with Experian and the United for Financial Health programme. Experian have been providing comprehensive, transformative support to the charity, particularly with regards to the development of the UK Numeracy Index.

"Our partnership is enabling deeper, more targeted impact to beneficiaries in need, and we are empowering people with low numeracy in communities across the UK to take important steps to improve their financial health and spark brighter futures. We are very proud and grateful for the Experian team's insight, passion, drive and contributions towards tackling the UK's numeracy crisis.”

Mark Lindsay, Director – Marketing Services at Experian and member of the National Numeracy Leadership Council, said:

“We are really excited to have worked with National Numeracy to create the first national view of UK numeracy vulnerability. This exciting project will help National Numeracy and many other organisations target numeracy support and interventions where it is needed the most. I can speak on behalf of everyone involved with National Numeracy at Experian that it is an absolute pleasure to work with the team, who are so passionate, hardworking and truly making a difference.”