Select Committee on Education and Employment Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Correspondence between the Chairman of the Employment Sub-committee and the Rt Hon Tessa Jowell MP, Minister for Employment, Welfare to Work and Equal Opportunities

  We have now had a chance to review the evidence you gave to the Committee on 17 May. During the session you told us that 40 per cent of people in the New Deal Gateway were functionally illiterate. I do not think that it is an exaggeration to say that we were a little shocked by that revelation. We would welcome any further information that you could provide to the Committee on this matter. In particular, it would be helpful if you could let us know the source of the figure and on what basis it was calculated. It would also be very useful if you could provide us with a working definition of the term "functionally illiterate".

Rt Hon Derek Foster MP

Chairman of the Employment Sub-committee

July 2000

  Thank you for your letter of 4 July about the number of people in the New Deal Gateway who have literacy problems.

  As the official records show, I did not say in my evidence to the Committee that 40 per cent of people on the Gateway were functionally illiterate. Instead I said that an estimated 40 per cent have a lack of literacy skills which affects their employability[2]. Around 40 per cent of entrants to the New Deal Gateway have qualifications below NVQ level 1. This is an estimate as literacy skills are determined by a range of indicators, such as a lack of basic qualifications or an inability to manage simple paperwork, like application forms.

  I want the New Deal to play its full part in supporting young people with basic skills difficulties. It is our ambition that young people should leave the New Deal literate. That is why we have set in place a comprehensive screening process which means that every young person is now given a basic skills needs assessment when they join the Gateway. New Deal Personal Advisers (NDPAs) have been given help to handle the process of identification in a sensitive manner and a thousand NDPAs are being trained by the Basic Skills Agency in the identification of basic skills and support for learners. Courses to improve basic skill levels are built into the design of New Deal at both Gateway and Options stages.

  I hope that this clarifies the position.

Rt Hon Tessa Jowell MP

Minister for Employment, Welfare to Work and Equal Opportunities.

August 2000

2   Eighth Report from the Education and Employment Committee, Session 1999-00, New Deal for Young People: Two Years On. HC 510. Back

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