Strong literacy, numeracy and digital skills are essential to understand public health messaging, access services online and identify fake news.
The National Adult Literacy Agency (NALA) is launching ‘Take the First Step’, a national public information campaign to encourage those who have difficulties with literacy and numeracy to contact them or their local Education and Training Board to get the help they need to improve their skills.
The campaign is a joint initiative between the Education and Training Boards Ireland (ETBI), SOLAS (the Further Education and Training Authority) and NALA. The opportunity is free and open to all, with participants able to choose what, where and when they want to learn.
The OECD Survey of Adult Skills shows that about 18% of Irish adults (aged 16 to 65) are at or below level one on a five-level literacy scale. It also shows 25% of Irish adults scored at or below level one for numeracy. A recent Cedefop (European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training) report shows that 55% of the adult population in Ireland (25 to 64) has low digital skills.
Taking the first steps on any difficult journey requires courage and commitment – and for those who have difficulties with reading, writing, maths or technology, the stigma attached can prove daunting and discouraging. Often people who return to education say the hardest part was making the first call or taking the first step into an Adult Education Centre. The campaign includes radio and digital advertising and features people from different parts of the country talking about how returning to education has changed their lives and encourages others to give it a go.
The Freephone number is 1800 20 20 65 or website www.takethefirststep.ie
Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris TD said: “As we all continue to live with Covid-19, we need to ensure nobody is left behind. Covid-19 has forced many of us to work from home and work online. Strong literacy, numeracy and digital skills have been essential tools in helping us communicate public health messaging, in helping us accessing public services online, and tackling misinformation and fake news but we know many of us struggle with these skills.
“Literacy is a social need, it is a barometer for equality and as such I recently announced plans to develop a new 10-year adult literacy, numeracy and digital literacy strategy within six months, and which will ensure a policy approach that reflects the social value of literacy, numeracy and digital skills learning. I’m delighted to be part of this campaign today and would encourage anyone who is nervous about returning to education to take the first step by contacting NALA or their local ETB.”
Clare McNally, Communications Manager, National Adult Literacy Agency said: “The pandemic emerged very fast and Ireland had to respond quickly. This ranged from government decisions about new ways of delivering health and public services to the public adapting to new societal and working restrictions. Many people have felt overwhelmed by the volume of information, however for the one in six adults with literacy and numeracy needs in Ireland, it is an especially difficult time. We would encourage anyone who would like help to improve their skills, to contact us for information on free courses.”
NALA is also offering a distance learning service that provides tutoring options for people over the phone or electronically, as well as e-learning programmes such as http://www.learnwithnala.ie.
Andrew Brownlee, CEO of SOLAS, said: “Literacy, numeracy and digital skills are fundamental to personal fulfilment, active citizenship, social cohesion and employability. Evidence supports the positive impact of such skills for individuals, communities and the national economy. As highlighted in the new Future FET: Transforming Learning Strategy, we are committed to enhancing literacy, numeracy and digital skills in Ireland and offering everyone a pathway to take them as far as they want to go. The “Take the First Step” campaign, which has been funded by SOLAS for the past five years, raises awareness about Ireland’s skills needs and helps to ensure that our population are equipped to progress at a pace with our changing environment.
“Taking the ‘first step’ can be one of the most difficult parts of returning to education for adults” said Paddy Lavelle, General Secretary Education and Training Boards Ireland (ETBI) “and we are proud to partner with SOLAS and NALA on the National Awareness Campaign ‘Take the First Step’. The campaign encourages adults to return to education and improve their literacy, numeracy and digital skills. Adult Literacy and Adult Basic Education Services are tailored to the needs of learners, Paddy continued, and have the potential to change the lives of individuals, families, communities and society. ETBs responded quickly to the impact of COVID-19 on programme provision, and understanding the need to continue provision in ways that were suitable to learners. I would encourage anyone who would like to improve their literacy, numeracy and digital skills to contact their local ETB where staff will provide information and guidance on programmes”
The ‘Take the First Step’ campaign encourages adults who have difficulty with reading, writing, maths or technology to contact a Freephone support line 1800 20 20 65 or free text LEARN to 50050 to get the help they need. Once they make contact the National Adult Literacy Agency will put them in contact with their local ETB Adult Education Centre or tell them about other free services that will meet their needs.
For further information, please contact The Reputations Agency on: 01 661 8915
Fiona Keaveney, Fionak@thereputationsagency.ie, 086 7329489