News story

Skills for life survey reveals English and maths levels of adults

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

In some areas of the country around a quarter of adults have the numeracy skills of a 7 to 9 year old, or below.

English and maths symbols on blackboard

Skills for Life examines the maths, English and Information and Communication Technology (ICT) levels of 16 to 65 year olds across England.

The latest findings found that in some areas, around a quarter of adults have the numeracy skills of a 7 to 9 year old or below. In Yorkshire and the Humber, the West Midlands and the South East, there was a boost in literacy skills.

Regional breakdown of the findings

Commenting on the survey, Skills Minister Matthew Hancock said that adults with poor English and maths skills should make the most of free government help. He said:

Good English and maths are vital for getting a job and playing a full part in society. We have doubled the funding for adult English and maths because they are so important.

I would urge anyone who is struggling to take advantage of the provision that is on offer which now includes maths and English GCSEs for adults who missed out the first time round.

These essential skills are the building blocks of a productive society and a thriving economy. I am determined that everyone - no matter where they live - should have the chance to achieve their very best.

Five ways we use maths everyday

  • understanding offers in shops eg buy 1 get 1 free, 2 for the price of 1, 20% off
  • understanding the pay and deductions on your payslip
  • planning a journey by train or bus and reading timetables
  • take/give the right amount of medicine/pills for you or a member of your family
  • work out the best mobile phone deal that you can afford

Help available

Government has introduced a number of measures to improve the nation’s basic skills:

  • free maths and English GCSEs for adults since August
  • continued funding of basic English and maths courses for adults
  • new study programmes for young people from September 2013 in which students will continue to work towards GCSE A*-C in English and maths if they do not have this by 16
  • a consultation on the introduction of new English Baccalaureate Certificates for young people in 6 core academic subjects including English and maths

Adults wanting to brush up on their maths, English and ICT skills can contact the National Careers Service for advice or call them on 0800 100 900 for information on courses available via the National Careers Service course directory.

Further information

Published 13 December 2012