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 tackle adult literacy issues 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 Education and Skills (DES), the ETBs, SOLAS and others.

New 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 which is planned to be launched later in 2021.

Read NALA's submission to government on the strategy

Education and training

Since it was established in 1980, NALA has consistently advocated for enhanced literacy education and training and better implementation.  NALA has identified five key priorities for the strategy to raise adult literacy levels and is working with SOLAS in the development of a Further Education and Training strategy, which will include a strategy for the development of adult literacy and numeracy.

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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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Current submissions

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