Functional Skills

Topics: Literacy, Dyslexia, Cohort study Pages: 76 (11066 words) Published: February 27, 2013
New light on literacy
and numeracy
John Bynner and Samantha Parsons

Published by the National Research and

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the Institute of Education, University of

Literacy and Numeracy, Bynner, J and

London (see back cover for a list of

Parsons, S (2006), which will be published in

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November 2006.

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New light on
literacy and
John Bynner and Samantha Parsons




Why don’t more adults go
on courses?


Who has poor skills?


What happens to adults
whose skills change over


How does dyslexia relate to
problems with literacy and


From generation to


What does this mean for
policy and research?


Tables: literacy and
numeracy levels

Background to the report
Previous research has shown that poor
basic skills are a major obstacle to
achievement in many areas of adult life.
It follows that enhancing literacy and
numeracy skills will produce both social
and economic benefits. The research
reported here has taken place against
the background of a major government
initiative in Britain, Skills for Life, that is
tackling the problem of poor basic skills
in a substantial minority of the
population. An important goal of this
programme is to investigate in much
greater depth than previously the ways in
which poor basic skills impede social
and economic life in modern Britain.


This work was followed, first at age 21 in
BCS70 (1991), and later, at age 37 in

1 Bynner, J. and
Parsons, S. (1997) It
Doesn't Get Any
Better: the impact
of poor basic skills on
the lives of 37 year
olds, London: Basic
Skills Agency.

Photo: Tom Pilston

This report is the latest in a series
drawing on data from the 1958 and 1970
British birth cohort studies, which have
followed up individuals throughout their
lives, with new data about the cohort

members collected at regular intervals1.
The National Child Development Study
(NCDS) has followed up all 17,000
individuals born in a single week in 1958.
The 1970 British Cohort Study (BCS70),
which is the subject of this report, has
followed up all 16,500 individuals born in
a single week in 1970. In 1981, when the
NCDS cohort members were aged 23,
they were asked to appraise their own
basic skills difficulties. This identified a
small but significant minority who
acknowledged serious problems with
written communications and number
work. It was then possible to show the
extent to which self-assessed basic
skills difficulties were correlated with a
range of indicators of disadvantage in
adult life.


NCDS (1995), by objective assessments
of the literacy and numeracy skills of a
representative 10 per cent...
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