Press release

Government sets up world leading adult literacy and numeracy research centre

Skills and Enterprise Minister Matthew Hancock today (8 April 2014) announced the creation of a world leading research centre.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government


Skills and Enterprise Minister Matthew Hancock today (8 April 2014) announced the creation of a world leading research centre focused on improving adult literacy and numeracy.

The new Behavioural Insights Research Centre for Maths and English will be provided with a 3 year start-up grant of £2.9 million from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) and will be run in partnership with the Behavioural Insights Team. The new Centre will deliver an ambitious programme of research, exploring how behavioural science can help improve adult literacy and numeracy and how this can be scaled up and applied by UK government policy makers.

Skills and Enterprise Minister Matthew Hancock said:

We know that people with good maths and English skills are better able to secure solid employment, gain the skills employers need and help sustain economic growth. English and maths are increasingly a foundation on which all further achievement in education depends and they are critical for work and everyday life.

This new Centre will team world leading academic researchers with our best and brightest policy makers to give scientific insights into how adults best gain skills in English and Maths and the ways in which government can apply these methods to benefit the highest possible number of people to help them reach their potential.

Chief Executive of the Behavioural Insights Team David Halpern said:

The Behavioural Insights Team is delighted to be working in partnership with BIS on improving skills and the motivations and platforms that underpin them. We will be working together over the coming months to mobilise the Centre and look forward to delivering results over the next few years that make a real difference to the lives of people across the UK.

The Centre will conduct comprehensive research, trials and analysis into adult literacy and numeracy. It will look at how best to motivate people to improve their English and maths and how to develop models of learning that have the flexibility to fit in with the lives of people and meet the needs of employers.

Notes to editors

  1. Half of young people start adult life without achieving level 2 English and maths. Adults who lack literacy and numeracy skills tend to be less productive at work, earn lower wages, are more likely to suffer from ill health and experience social exclusion.

  2. The Behavioural Insights Team (BIT) began at No.10 Downing Street and the Cabinet Office as the world’s first government institution dedicated to the application of behavioural sciences. BIT is a now a social purpose company, whose mission is to help organisations to apply behavioural insights in support of social purpose goals. BIT is partly owned by the UK Government, Nesta, and its staff.

  3. The government’s economic policy objective is to achieve ‘strong, sustainable and balanced growth that is more evenly shared across the country and between industries’. It set 4 ambitions in the ‘Plan for Growth’:

  • to create the most competitive tax system in the G20
  • to make the UK the best place in Europe to start, finance and grow a business
  • to encourage investment and exports as a route to a more balanced economy
  • to create a more educated workforce that is the most flexible in Europe

Work is underway across government to achieve these ambitions, including progress on more than 250 measures as part of the Growth Review. Developing an Industrial Strategy gives new impetus to this work by providing businesses, investors and the public with more clarity about the long-term direction in which the government wants the economy to travel.

Published 8 April 2014