Basic Skills Training in Adulthood

Funded by: DfEE


July 2013 to

PSI researchers:

Background, summary and aims


This project is a consultancy to advise the DfEE on the design of a large-scale longitudinal evaluation study to assess:

A The effectiveness of basic skills training in adulthood in raising literacy and numeracy,

B The impact of improvements in basic skills in adulthood on earnings, employment chances and employability.

It will investigate the design problems involved and present the DfEE with and recommendations, following which the DfEE will invite tenders for the different elements of the study.

Study Design

The work will involve:

  • interviews with relevant professional (the Basic Skills Agency, DfEE policy staff, DfEE research staff)
  • brief review of literature on improvements in basic skills in adulthood
  • examination of the ethical problems and practicalities involved in implementing a random allocation research design
  • a report discussing relevant issues and presenting design options and recommendations

Importance of Research

The work is important for three reasons:

1. Basic skills training for adults is an important element in the government's commitment to 'Lifelong Learning', implemented not only through its programmes for unemployed people (e.g. the New Deal and Work-Based Training for Adults), but through a range of other initiatives (e.g. family literacy and numeracy projects; the Union Learning Fund). However very little is known of its impact on subsequent life chances.

2. Consultancies like this are part of a very welcome move on the part of the DfEE to involve research professionals in the very early advance planning or research projects.

3. The DfEE is prepared to consider a random allocation design for this evaluation. Such designs have been permitted only very rarely in the UK, but have the potential to greatly enhance the quality of evaluation research conducted here.