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Third Sector Toolkit


This kit is designed to support voluntary and community organisations so that you can respond to the literacy (English), language (ESOL), communication and numeracy (maths) skills needs of your service users, staff and volunteers.

Why should third sector organisations get involved?

It might still be said that Literacy, Language and Numeracy (LLN) - despite the change of terminology to 'English' 'ESOL' and 'maths' -  lie at the heart of voluntary and community activity, playing a vital role in community cohesion, health and well-being, access to services, information and communication, understanding of each other and the world around us, enjoyment of life, organisational development and sustainability. The lack of these skills can impact heavily on individuals, on their confidence and self-esteem, their ability to find work, to manage money, to assert themselves and to achieve the best for their children and families.

Whatever the special expertise and focus of your organisation, and the interests and goals of your clients, inattention to skills needs can increase exclusion and marginalisation. You may well not be a specialist educational provider and you may not have high levels of knowledge about LLN at present: but you may also be the key organisation for your clients, the only one which can help them identify their own needs in this area, and support them to seek and sustain the training they need.

The government's skills strategy makes this point:

Skills have the potential to transform lives by transforming life chances and driving social mobility. Having higher skills also enables people to play a fuller part in society, making it more cohesive, more environmentally friendly, more tolerant and more engaged. It is through making sure everyone has the opportunity to gain skills that the benefits of renewed growth can extend throughout our society.

Skills for Sustainable Growth 2010

Remember, you do not have to do everything. The kit certainly is not aiming to turn all voluntary and community organisations into formal training providers. Working through this kit should help you ascertain what kind and amount of investment is appropriate for you and your clients.

Who is the kit for?

The kit is directed mainly to those voluntary and community organisations which are not currently mainstream providers of education and training, and whose specialisms are outside the formal education sector. The ideas in it are most likely to be of interest to small and medium-sized organisations. Larger organisations and established educational providers will also find ideas to use here, but they will want to supplement their reading by looking at the other starter kits in the series.

What do we mean by Language, Literacy and Numeracy?

We have found that people are staggered when one confronts them with the basic facts about literacy and numeracy, and rightly so. It is staggering that over the years millions of children have been leaving school hardly able to read and write, and that today millions of adults have the same problems. Of course, one can argue about definitions, but the stark facts are all too clear. Roughly 20% of adults - that is perhaps as many as 7 million people - have more or less severe problems with basic skills, in particular with what is generally called 'functional literacy' and 'functional numeracy':

the ability to read, write and speak in English, and to use mathematics at a level necessary to function at work and in society in general

Claus Moser, 1999, Improving literacy and numeracy - A fresh start

Literacy, language and numeracy give us access to opportunities, challenges and enjoyment. To find out more about what is involved, click on the one that interests you:

  • Being able to read and understand all kinds of texts and documents, whether for work, for information or for pleasure.
  • Putting your ideas down in writing so that others know what you mean and can engage with your thinking.
  • Being good at both speaking and listening so that you are confident and effective when having conversations in different contexts and with different people.
  • For speakers of other languages, being able to do all of the things listed above, in English.
  • Not being frightened of numbers, being able to keep account of your money and to understand other figures, as well as handling data and being able to deal with measurements, shape and space

Since 2010 language, literacy and numeracy have been grouped together with ICT (Information and Communication Technology) under the heading of Functional Skills. The functional approach looks at the practical needs of people in their everyday life - for example recognising good value deals when making purchases, using the internet for information or networking, writing application or other formal letters - as well as in the context of their work and any other learning they want to do. It is not just about having skills, but about choosing, using and adapting them as needed.

About this kit

Whether you are new to Literacy Language and Numeracy (LLN) or already offering some provision, this kit provides guidance and resources which will help you to:

  • explore how LLN can help the people in your organisation achieve their goals;
  • review your organisation’s starting points, including recognising what contribution you already make to this agenda;
  • create an action plan suited to your organisation;
  • use some of the tools and ideas available to develop your practice;
  • where relevant, to start formalising provision by providing accredited courses;
  • see how this work links with other policies and priorities relevant to you.

The kit has five sections. You may want to begin by using the checklists in section 2 for self assessment and action planning or go directly to any of the sections below to find information and resources.

You may also find that, once you have a better idea of the approach you want take, some of the other kits in this series (e.g. the Employability Starter Kit, or the Flexible Delivery Starter Kit) will help you further.