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NALA’s policy work

Since the 1980s we have worked in partnership with government departments, organisations, tutors and learners to advance adult literacy policy.  This work is supported by evidence-based research which examines international best practice, reviews Irish policy and produces recommendations to meet the needs of people with unmet literacy, numeracy and digital literacy needs.

How we work

To effectively address unmet adult literacy, numeracy and digital literacy needs in Ireland we need to work at many different levels. We do this by:

  • Learning from research;
  • Listening to learners;
  • Writing evidenced based policy papers and submissions;
  • Building relationships; and
  • Working in partnership with Government and their agencies, the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, the Department of Education, Education and Training Boards (ETBs), SOLAS and others.

NALA Policy submissions

In 2023, NALA made written submissions or responded to online consultations on:

  • Census 2027
  • Literacy, Numeracy and Digital Literacy Strategy
  • Department of Social Protection’s Statement of Strategy
  • QQI Standards
  • Strategic Framework for Lifelong Guidance
  • Voluntary National Review on the Sustainable Development Goals
  • Future of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) in Irish Education
  • Policy for Patient Voice Partners in the Irish Health and Social Care Sector
  • Review of the Education of Persons with Special Educational Needs (EPSEN) Act 2004
  • Review of the Consumer Protection Code 2012
  • Mid-term Review of Pathways to Work 2021-2025
  • Open Government National Action Plan 2023-2025
  • Digital for Good: Ireland’s Digital Inclusion Roadmap
  • Department of Further and Higher Education, Innovation and Skills’ Statement of Strategy
  • Quality Assurance Guidelines for Providers of Programmes Supported by Digital Education
  • Financial Literacy Strategy
  • Mid-term Review of BH Associates Further Education and Training Strategy
  • European Year of Skills Case Study
  • Redevelopment of Education and Skills Online
  • Traveller and Roma Education Strategy
  • EU General Pharmaceuticals Legislation
  • Migrant Integration Strategy

Read our recent Policy submissions
Adult Literacy for Life strategy

10-year adult literacy, numeracy and digital skills strategy

In 2020, NALA called for, and secured, a commitment in the Programme for Government to develop and implement a new 10-year strategy for adult literacy, numeracy, and digital literacy skills.

Following this, Simon Harris TD, Minister for Further and Higher Education tasked SOLAS, the further education and training authority, with the development of the strategy. The new strategy, Adult Literacy for Life, was launched in September 2021.

Read more about the Adult Literacy for Life Strategy

Education and training

Since it was established in 1980, NALA has consistently advocated for enhanced literacy education and training and better implementation. NALA is committed to supporting the implementation of Further Education and Training (FET) and Adult Literacy for Life (ALL) Strategies through continued advocacy; the development and delivery of resources and services to address gaps; and collaboration with policy makers, partners, practitioners and learners.

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Access to public services

NALA believes that all citizens should have fair and equal access to all public services, that are delivered in a literacy friendly way. It involves the organisation including and respecting its staff and customers. It encourages commitment to delivering services in a literacy friendly way by removing literacy-related barriers to access, participation and achievement.

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Literacy, employment and the workplace

Literacy and numeracy have a direct impact on employment, career opportunities and progression.

Recent data from the Central Statistics Office (CSO Education Attainment Thematic Report 2019) shows us there are currently 415,700 people (aged 25 to 64) who have less than a Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI) Level 4 qualification (equivalent to a Leaving Certificate). Of this figure, 217,440 people are employed (52%).

Over the years NALA has been working with employers, trade unions, state agencies and government departments to raise awareness of the issue and develop appropriate solutions.

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Family literacy

NALA policy work advocates that family literacy is developed within the contexts of all adult education and community services as well as the national literacy strategy for children.   This would enable schools, community and adult education providers work with parents to combat educational disadvantage for children and adults.

A recent report on Family Literacy Practices in ETBs (2020) recommends:

  • An interdepartmental government group on family literacy should be set up to steer the development of national family literacy policy. The group should be representative of practitioners, community stakeholders and family literacy experts. There should be family literacy champions and the strategy should encourage the equality outcomes that intergenerational learning can deliver.
  • Collaborative family literacy partnerships should be developed in order to facilitate a more systematic approach to family literacy. These would allow FET, DEIS (Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools), public libraries and CYPSCs (Children and Young People’s Services Committees) to develop provision that harnesses all their skills, resources and contacts with parents who will most benefit from family literacy initiatives. These core groups should meet with other stakeholders and develop a local, needs-based family literacy strategy. Other stakeholders will need to participate less frequently and as local circumstances dictate. The partnership building process should be financially resourced and supported.
  • Additional staff should be employed in outreach, brokerage and development of family literacy provision in each ETB area.

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Health literacy and numeracy is the best medicine

Four out of 10 adults (40%) have limited health literacy which means they may struggle with understanding their health issue and treatment options and may take their medication incorrectly.

There are two angles to health literacy development:

  1. Delivering literacy-friendly health services
  2. Supporting adults with health literacy, numeracy and digital literacy needs

Supported by compelling research, our efforts to get health literacy on the policy map were successful and health literacy is now situated in the population health framework, Healthy Ireland, and Sláintecare. This creates opportunity for greater commitment to building health literacy and numeracy skills to build a healthier Ireland.


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