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National Basic Skills Strategy for Wales (Saesneg yn unig)
Jane Davidson, Minister for Education & Lifelong Learning
- I wish to report progress on our basic skills strategy that we endorsed on 27 February last year.
- Our cradle to grave strategy aims to ensure that all our children, young people and adults gain literacy and numeracy skills for everyday life and work, to break the cycle of low achievement, and allow our people to take a full part in society. We have pledged over £27 million for this during 2001-04.
- We have made a good start, focusing on the key areas, laying foundations, and increasing awareness. We aim to ensure that:
- all children start school prepared for learning, and leave primary school with the right level of literacy and numeracy skills to cope well at secondary school;
- all young people leave school with the basic skills for adult life and work; and
- all adults have the necessary skills to make their contribution to society.
- Although English and maths results are improving yearly, there are still youngsters who leave school with inadequate skills for the adult world. Many start school already disadvantaged by their lack of pre-literacy skills, and although they have the potential to succeed, never quite catch-up. Our strategy is delivering the support needed to help teachers help those children. In this way we shall halt the supply of young people swelling the numbers of those with poor basic skills in adulthood. And adults are also provided with a second chance to gain the skills that most people take for granted.
- Work in the early years sector is the bedrock of the strategy, making an impact on children’s potential to gain the most from education before they begin school. We have extended the Books for Babies programme to every local authority in Wales and distributed more than 36,000 book bags to families at their baby’s 8 month health check. We have developed early years training programmes for staff and parents which will be rolled out across every local authority so that ‘Language through Play’ programmes are available throughout Wales. In the autumn a CD and book of Welsh and English songs and rhymes will be available free to parents with children under 3, aiming to restore the culture, once firmly established in Wales, where traditional songs and rhymes were passed between generations and direct communication between babies and adults was the norm. There is no substitute for interaction between a caring adult and a child. The natural partner of the ‘read with me' campaign theme for children, must be ‘talk with me, sing with me, play with me’.
- Our programme of strategic intervention grants for LEAs is helping strengthen schools' approaches to basic skills. Based on analyses of local data, LEAs and the Basic Skills Agency will extend this work to include:
- catch-up programmes for children in all key stages;
- initiatives with disengaged youngsters in KS4;
- out-of-school programmes to encourage new ways of working and enliven the curriculum; and
- sharing good practice across schools.
Following evaluation we will establish a dissemination programme to make sure that we make the most of good practice.
- In partnership with LEAs, progress is being made to ensure that all schools will achieve the Basic Skills Quality Mark by 2004. To date, 642 primary and 40 secondary schools have received awards. Many more are in the pipeline.
- Another important development is the expansion of the family programmes, bridging the adult and school sectors, and providing basic skills for parents and children. Courses in literacy and numeracy are available in all LEAs, and workshops have improved accessibility for parents unable to attend full-length courses. Family programmes have been successful in helping young children and motivating parents to return to learning, with more than 12,000 children and parents involved last year. We will continue our support and encourage better progression routes for parents from family programmes to more substantial learning.
- For adults, the challenges are probably greater. Those who need help most are often reluctant to join programmes, and there is insufficient support for those who want to study outside classes. Generally, adult teachers have only the minimum level of training in this, so we have invested in intensive teacher training. To date 1,000 teachers have been trained to deliver the new adult basic skills curriculum which will be in place by September. And the programme of training will continue in 2002/03.
- The majority of adults with poor basic skills are employed, but trapped in low skill, low wage jobs with few opportunities for training and promotion. These are the most vulnerable, as their lack of skills prevents them taking on new challenges and greater responsibility. We need the support of employers and trades unions to tackle this problem. Considerable work has been done with TUC Wales to raise awareness of basic skills among union representatives; and our workplace initiative - the Employer’s Basic Skills Commitment - will be launched in Autumn 2002, to support employers in a drive to improve their employees’ basic skills.
- Our recent bilingual campaign promoting the importance of good basic skills was aimed at all age groups. Parents and carers were targeted through a direct "if you read with me" appeal by young children; older children and teenagers with a "basic skills can be fun" message; and adults, with a light-hearted, inspirational "when I was young" theme to encourage a return to learning.
- The campaign’s effectiveness is being evaluated and results are expected in June. Preliminary feedback is extremely positive. Teachers report enthusiastic reactions from children and parents, and adult providers report an increase in recruitment. Basic skills are now on everyone’s agenda.
- We have made a strong start which we must sustain if Wales is to become a country where no one lacks basic skills. All our targets for 2001-02 were met or surpassed. Let me finish with the campaign’s slogan - 'Together we can build an even better Wales'.