Thanks to all our members who responded to our 2022 membership survey.
One hundred and ten members responded on a range of questions about what they thought the National Adult Literacy Agency (NALA) should be focusing and working on. Here’s what they said.
Communications and raising awareness
Members acknowledge that NALA is very successful at promoting adult literacy and encouraging those with literacy needs to come forward to improve their skills. They also suggest that NALA provides an excellent service but that sometimes it can be very hard to access from ‘outside’. A point of view among some members is that NALA and its work needs to be more visible especially when it comes to attracting ‘hard to reach’ adults into adult literacy tuition.
When it comes to identifying the main issue that NALA should be solving or working on; a significant number of the members highlighted the fact that NALA needs be more ‘vocal’ and ‘visible’ when it comes to raising awareness and ‘normalising’ the issue of adult literacy needs. They suggest that while NALA works towards raising awareness about adult literacy issues and highlights that there are supports available to adults with literacy needs it needs to be more of an ‘all island’ visible presence.
Advocacy and policy
Feedback from our members suggest that NALA should:
- continue to fight inequality in society and continue supporting people with the least resources
- continue to highlight the literacy issue in Ireland and find ways to ‘counteract’ it
- get back to basics and advocacy should be its core function
NALA and learners
Our members suggest that it remains important that NALA continue to support learners and ensure that they ‘have a voice’ and continue to encourage new learners to seek support
- NALA’s focus should always be on advocating for and on behalf of literacy learners, particularly the most disadvantaged groups in society
- NALA needs to be a ‘leader’ particularly when it comes to reaching people who are hesitant and would not ‘normally come forward’ to take part in adult literacy tuition
- NALA provide explicit direction and information on where to find ‘help’ and ‘signposting’ ways for people to easily access adult literacy classes
- ‘well known’ barriers to participation still exist including a need for the provision of childcare and eldercare. NALA should campaign for childcare and eldercare for students. No crèche no class sounds so outdated but the idea behind it was to mitigate barriers to attendance at literacy classes and that idea still stands.
NALA and government policy
Members acknowledge NALA’s good work in ‘keeping literacy’ on the government’s agenda and continue to lobby government on this issue. NALA, they suggest, should continue to advocate to increase the scale, scope and quality of literacy provision in Ireland.
NALA and tutors
Some members propose that NALA ‘lobby’ for the resumption of full time or intensive small group literacy programmes that have ‘disappeared’ from some Education and Training Boards (ETBs). They suggest that NALA advocate for:
- ‘fit for purpose’ contracts for tutors and insist on an end to part time tutor contracts
- the role of the volunteer tutor and how to become a volunteer is more visible on the NALA website
Resources and supports
The Guidelines for Good Adult Literacy Work (2012) states then when it comes to resources this area refers to the funding, premises for teaching and learning, and support for learners and tutors. Access to high quality resources sends a clear message to students that they are entitled to high quality provision. In the questionnaire we asked members what can NALA do to further support learners and tutors and what additional resources are needed to do this
There is a general consensus among the membership that NALA should provide resources:
- For basic skills and QQI level 1 in particular. They suggest non online programmes and looking at certification for level 1
- More attractive basic materials, basic English, basic literacy, more lower level resources
- For particular disadvantaged groups including Travellers, migrants the socio-economically disadvantaged
- Simple guides with visual definition would be very useful
- Test the resources with student groups before publications
- Up to date more culturally diverse Irish readers would be good
- Easy to use and easy access to online resources
- More numeracy materials, taking anxiety out of maths and ESOL materials
- Run courses on literacy hosted by local libraries
Members say that the best way to support learners is to ensure easy access to adult literacy provision. There is still a need to support adults overcome the shame and stigma associated with learning difficulties. In order to do this NALA should – as suggested above – continue to highlight the literacy issue in Ireland. A specific support includes communicating the message that:
- Adult learners who have been failed in the past can connect in a positive way with education
- It is important that they are supported to participate in their local literacy service so that they can make connections with other adults who have similar difficulties
- It’s important for them to know that they are not alone
When it comes to supporting tutors the main support is in the form of advocating for better contracts and terms and conditions as outlined above.
Sharing information and practice
The members agree that the best way to share information and practice is through the NALA website, the ezine and on social media. They also highlight the importance of CPD for sharing practice and as an opportunity for tutors and learner to network and meet each other.
Below are some of the areas members identified as important to research:
- Barriers – how to reach people needing help in underprivileged, disadvantaged areas. How to remove the stigma for people who have problems with reading and writing. To find out why some people are reluctant to take advantage of learning opportunities. Literacy among older learners and rural populations
- Schools – The reasons why school leavers are presenting with low levels of literacy
- Disability – the uptake of the adult population with intellectual disabilities who are aware of NALA
- Profile – literacy levels among adults in Ireland today and the reason for them. How many people under 40 have literacy issues, how digital literacy for learners is being addressed at home and in other countries
- Technology – the best way to get people with literacy difficulties online and on the net. Research other apps and websites to find easier apps to use
- NALA – to really check if what NALA is doing us relevant, to find out the level of awareness about NALA
There was general agreement among the members that NALA should continue to work with education organisations such as AONTAS, community education centres, adult literacy centres and the ETBs
They also suggest NALA should work with organisations such as:
- Traveller organisations
- Community development organisations
- Providers of disability services
- Home school liaison officers
- Day support services
- Financial institutions, for example, banks
- App companies and IT services
- Sports and social clubs
- Organisations that work with the elderly
- Organisations that work with young people
- Organisations that work in rural locations
Areas for improvement
We asked the membership what is the most important thing that NALA needs to improve upon. Their answers fall under the same categories as outlined above
NALA needs to become more visible and make its voice heard. It as an organisation needs to make it presence more widely known in order to reach to more people and let them know what help and support is available to them.
Advocate on behalf of learners and keep the literacy issue on the national agenda. NALA should also advocate more for better contracts and terms and conditions of tutors. NALA should also advocate for the re-installment of voluntary tutors in all adult literacy centres.
Resources and support
More materials for beginner learners particularly in numeracy and ESOL. Promote plain English. Now that the worst of the pandemic is over reinstate ‘live’ CPD events in conjunction with online events.