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National Numeracy reacts to the Levelling Up White Paper

3 Feb 2022

The government’s ‘Levelling Up’ plan for spreading out opportunities more evenly across the UK has been published, including an aim to rid the nation of innumeracy by 2030. The 332-page Levelling Up the United Kingdom White Paper contains 12 ‘national missions’ that the government says will shift resources to ‘Britain’s forgotten communities’.

One of the key commitments is to ‘eliminate illiteracy and innumeracy by 2030’ with a two-pronged plan, targeting both adult and child numeracy.

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For adult numeracy, the focus is on the previously announced £560m Multiply scheme to target disparities in numeracy levels across the UK with local support and skills bootcamps. But the paper states: “Disparities in numeracy levels across the UK make this a key policy for levelling up.”

Meanwhile, children’s numeracy is the focus of Mission 5 that says that by 2030, 90% of all primary school children in England will achieve the expected standard in reading, writing and maths; and that the percentage of children meeting the expected standard in the worst performing areas improving by a third. The forthcoming Schools White Paper is flagged as containing more information on improving literacy and numeracy for those furthest behind.

Sam Sims, CEO of National Numeracy says: “We are pleased to see that improving numeracy is at the heart the government’s plans to support both adults and children with the number skills they need to progress in life and welcome the emphasis on local support.

“We know that low numeracy affects different parts of the country in different ways, so taking a local approach is critical. Our work helping individuals and communities improve their numeracy over the past decade shows time and again that it’s not just about maths skills – it’s about improving confidence, attitudes and mindsets too.

“Our research has shown that if we want a more equitable nation with more evenly spread opportunities for individuals and more vibrant, resilient, highly competitive regional economies, investing in basic numeracy skills at the local level is essential.”

The cost of low numeracy skills to the UK was pegged at as much as £25 billion per year by the Counting on the recovery: the role for numeracy skills in ‘levelling up’ the UK report published in April 2021 by charity Pro Bono Economics and commissioned by KPMG for National Numeracy.

According to the report, Covid pandemic job losses have hit those with low numeracy hardest - with 59% of people who had lost their jobs at that point in the pandemic were likely to have low numeracy skills. The North East, West Midlands and Yorkshire and the Humber have most to gain from numeracy improvement, according to the research which includes a full regional analysis.

Further research for National Numeracy last year
revealed that nearly a third of Brits (31%) said they struggled with everyday maths and more than a quarter (29%) avoid situations involving numbers. Furthermore, 39% of people say maths leaves them feeling anxious, with those in London (60%) and the North East (44%) and younger respondents (60% of 18-24’s; 61% of 25-34’s) feeling particularly uneasy.  The research was carried out by OnePoll, commissioned by KPMG for National Numeracy.

Recently National Numeracy launched the National Numeracy Leadership Council together with the government and a pioneering group of organisations to tackle the UK’s numeracy crisis. The Council is just one of a range of initiatives, tools, training and campaigns we run to improve adult and child numeracy.

National Numeracy is an independent charity dedicated to helping people feel confident with numbers and using everyday maths. Our mission is to empower children and adults in the UK to get on with numbers so they can fulfil their potential at work, home and school. Our work improves how people understand and work with numbers in everyday life, sparking better opportunities and brighter futures.

Media contact:
Julia Day, External Relations Director at National Numeracy
[email protected]  / 07974 209 148    

Photo credit: Mylo Kaye from Pexels