Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Ceisteanna (78, 94, 95, 96)

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

78. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on the fact that over 500,000 people do not have above level four reading ability; his further views on the fact that half of these persons are in employment; if he has met Solas to discuss the matter; if he has considered increasing the resources to the National Adult Literacy Agency, NALA, in order to assist adults with their literacy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40694/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

94. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Education and Skills the involvement of his Department in tackling adult literacy; if a financial allocation is provided for same; if so, the way in which it is utilised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40680/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

95. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on the level of adult literacy above level four; his further views on whether 2030 targets will be met; the improvements required in order to meet these targets; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40691/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

96. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of adults that sign up to National Adult Literacy Agency, NALA, reading courses; the average number of hours of tuition they receive; the length of time it takes to be able to read proficiently; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40692/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 78 and 94 to 96, inclusive, together.

The delivery and enhancement of adult literacy and numeracy provision is being driven through the implementation of the Further Education and Training (FET) Literacy and Numeracy Strategy which is contained in the FET Strategy 2014-19. My Department, along with SOLAS, the Education and Training Boards (ETBs) and partner agencies, are collaborating on the ongoing development and enhancement of the structures required to progress its implementation. The strategy sets out 12 inter- related elements which aim to promote, develop and encourage literacy and numeracy skills in the adult population. Progress to date includes the development and launch of the national awareness campaign, Take the First Step, development of national guidelines for the initial and on-going screening and assessment of participants and the publication of a number of research projects including the examination of integrating literacy and numeracy in FET programmes and an examination of barriers to participation in FET programmes. This year SOLAS has commissioned NALA to progress the evidence base to inform best practice in relation to family learning. It is envisaged that Family Learning Best Practice Guidelines will be available in early 2019.

The SOLAS allocation to Education and Training Boards (ETBs) for 2018 for adult literacy and basic skills provision is over €35m. Funding for further education and training (FET) is allocated to SOLAS, who then allocate to the ETBs through a strategic planning process. There is some discretion for SOLAS and the ETBs in relation to how funding is allocated across all of the FET programmes, including adult literacy.

The ETB Adult Literacy Service provides programmes with accreditation at levels NQF levels 1-4. Provision for adult literacy is delivered through a number of programmes;

- Adult Literacy groups (small groups)

- Intensive Tuition in Adult Basic Education (ITABE)

- English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL)

- Skills for Work - workplace literacy courses

- Voluntary Literacy provision (one-to-one tuition)

- Family Learning Programmes

- Distance learning service

Details of the allocation of funding across programmes and the numbers of beneficiaries of those programmes is set out in the following table.

The adult literacy programme is informed by a set of operational guidelines that include guidance on initial assessment and engagement and the importance of more intensive provision to support literacy acquisition. Less intensive provision can be useful in welcoming and engaging new learners back into education but the guidelines recognise that more intensive approaches are required to enable progression.

I also recently launched a new policy framework for employee development, 'Supporting Working Lives and Enterprise Growth in Ireland', which was developed by SOLAS in consultation with key partners. This new approach will enable targeted support for vulnerable groups in the Irish workforce as it has a particular focus on employees those who have lower skills levels and who need more opportunities to advance in their working lives and careers, to sustain their employment and to avoid displacement or to avail of emerging job opportunities. The policy sets a target of having over 40,000 workers, whose skills level is below Level 5 on the National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ), engaged in state supported skills development by 2021. It should be noted that while the NFQ is not a literacy scale but a qualifications framework, I am committed to addressing literacy issues amongst those whose highest level of qualification is below Level 5, including through achieving certification for their learning. This will supplement the numbers already being supported through our adult literacy programmes. Participation by employees in relevant courses will be provided free of charge.

The substantial investment already being made in adult literacy, supplemented by this new initiative to support those in employment, will also ensure that Ireland is well positioned to achieve the 2030 literacy targets in the in the Agenda for Sustainable Development.

This new initiative is also a significant part of our national efforts to implement the European Commission's Upskilling Pathways Recommendation: New Opportunities for Adults, as almost half of those with less than an upper secondary qualification are in employment. My Department has been working with partners on the implementation of the recommendation – which aims to help adults with less than upper second level education acquire a minimum level of literacy, numeracy and digital skills. My Department has established a multi–agency steering group to identify the priority cohorts and appropriate measures to implement the recommendation. This informed my Department's recent response to a request from the Commission for information regarding arrangements in Ireland on upskilling pathways interventions. The response presented the overall context for Upskilling Pathways in Ireland, including key background information that the Commission would find useful, as well as information on existing and planned provision. The Commission are conducting an audit of interventions across Member States and hope to report back on their findings by the end of the year.

Adult Literacy Programmes in ETBs

Programme

Funding Allocation for 2018

Projected Beneficiaries  2018

Adult Literacy (incl. Family Literacy)

€26,312,079

37,876

ESOL

€2,341,231

14,749

ITABE

€1,569,483

2,778

Libraries Training

€11,500

N/A[1]

Refugee Resettlement (ESOL)

€2,991,243

1,341

Skills for Work

€2,532,281

4,064

Totals

€35,757,817

60,8088

1. Information not available at this time.