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Numeracy skills interventions for adults – what works?

Research , Maths , GCSE , Functional Skills
Numeracy skills interventions for adults - what works?

This review of the evidence base for interventions intended to improve numeracy skills among adults with below Level 2 qualifications in mathematics aims to inform the development of policy in this area as part of the UK government’s Multiply programme.

The review of interventions looks at:

  • the lessons that can be learnt from adult skills policy in this area over the past 20 years
  • what is known about adults (19+) in the UK who have limited numeracy skills (below Level 2)
  • the interventions and approaches that seem to be the most and least successful in supporting different groups of adults to improve their numeracy skills, up to and including Level 2.

A few key points

  • Individuals least likely to participate in adult education are older adults, parents with children under schooling age, lone parents, people without qualifications and those with the lowest level of literacy competence.
  • Being paired with a fellow learner (buddy) has a greater effect on learner attendance than receiving an individual financial incentive. The most effective interventions involved a buddy system paired with a small financial incentive.
  • Retention is improved by covering learning costs and offering childcare and meals.
  • The physical space feeling welcoming and friendly and being in an accessible location can improve persistence and retention.
  • Tutors should seek to form an informal, trusting, and relaxed relationship with learners and allow time for one-to-one support.
  • Adult learners are most likely to remain engaged and enrolled in a course when the content links directly to personal goals for improvement or is in line with their interests.

The Multiply programme will offer adults who do not already have a GCSE grade C/4 or higher in Maths or equivalent, and who need to improve their numeracy, free flexible courses that fit into their lives. You can read more about Multiply here.

View the report

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