Margaret Greenwood MP has called on the government to treat the crisis in adult literacy with urgency.
The Wirral West MP was speaking as the House of Commons gave a Second Reading to the Skills and Post-16 Education Bill.
The Literacy Trust estimates that more than 7 million adults in England – 16.4% of the adult population – have very poor literacy skills.
In the recent Budget, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced funding for a new UK-wide numeracy programme to improve basic maths skills. However, Margaret Greenwood MP, a former adult education tutor, asked where the money is to address the crisis in adult literacy.
She also spoke in support of an amendment to the bill which was tabled by the Bishop of Durham in the House of Lords. It would require the Secretary of State to review Universal Credit conditionality to ensure that adult learners who are unemployed and on Universal Credit remain entitled to Universal Credit if they enrol on an approved course.
Ms Greenwood described this as an ‘incredibly important’ amendment and said that ‘nobody should be barred from education because of their employment status.’
The Wirral West MP also used the debate to hit out at the government for its plans to defund the majority of BTEC qualifications in spite of the high value placed on BTECs by students, employers and universities.
She highlighted that the Department for Education’s own impact assessment concluded that pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds will lose out the most from the move to scrap most BTEC funding.
The government has now announced that it will delay this move for a year, but Labour has warned this doesn’t go far enough.
Speaking after the debate, Margaret Greenwood MP said, “The government must treat the crisis in adult literacy with the urgency it needs.
“Being able to read and write is essential to full engagement in society. It is vital that the government provides education for people who need support.
“People who struggle to read and write can face disadvantage at every turn, whether that is securing housing or health and care services, or simply staying in touch with friends and family. It also leaves people vulnerable to exploitation by scammers.
“I would encourage anyone who has a friend or family member who could do with some help in improving their reading and writing skills to get in touch with Wirral Council’s Lifelong Learning team via firstname.lastname@example.org or on 0151 666 3330.
“Since 2010, Conservative-led governments have cut adult education budgets by half, damaging the life chances of people right across the country.
“Adult education has the power to transform lives and to embed in communities a culture of learning that we should all be able to enjoy.
“It is important that the government ensures that opportunities are available to people regardless of where they live and their employment status, and that financial barriers are removed.”
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