National Adult Literacy Agency (NALA) Report

Minister Harris launches “Good Practice in Integrated and Standalone Numeracy Provision at Levels 1 – 3: Background report, guidelines and recommendations”.


On September 27th 2021Minister Simon Harris, on behalf of the Further Education and Training Authority (SOLAS) along with the National Adult Literacy Agency (NALA) and the Education and Training Board (ETB) launched a report entitled “Good Practice in Integrated and Standalone Numeracy Provision at Levels 1 – 3: Background report, guidelines and recommendations”. Prof. Merrilyn Goos (former Director of EPISTEM); Dr Niamh O’Meara (Co-director of EPISTEM) and Ms Kathy O’Sullivan (EPISTEM PhD student) along with their colleague Dr Mark Prendergast (UCC) were responsible for writing this report.


The purpose of the report was to capture and document standalone and integrated adult numeracy activity in the ETB context, in order to develop good practice guidelines and inform future development of adult numeracy policy and practice. From April to November 2019 the study mapped the provision of adult numeracy across the 16 ETBs that deliver adult further education and training (FET) in Ireland. As a result, the study provides Further Education and Training (FET) stakeholders (ETBI, SOLAS, Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, NALA) with a contemporary picture of adult numeracy activity in ETBs in Ireland against the backdrop of the FET strategy and wider related government policy.


The main findings to emerge from the study can be summarised as follows:

  • Two different conceptualisations of numeracy were evident. The first sees numeracy as foundational for trades/craft apprenticeship. The second is functional numeracy, taught in an integrated fashion to adults who are disadvantaged in everyday life by unmet numeracy needs.
  • All of the ETBs provided accredited numeracy courses (generally ranging from QQI Levels 1–4), with QQI Level 2 being the most common.
  • A wide range of groups are involved in adult numeracy courses. The median number of participants in such courses was 310, with more women than men generally attending. On average, 71% of learners complete the course and 70% progress to other adult learning.
  • Adult numeracy is predominantly dependent on part-time numeracy tutors. Only three ETBs had full-time staff members involved in adult numeracy. By and large, there was training available for adult numeracy tutors in each ETB, with 47% of those working in adult numeracy having received training in the past year.
  • Adult learners reported an array of benefits associated with attending numeracy courses provided by the ETB. The main benefit of participating in courses was the life-changing increase in confidence experienced by adult learners. Coupled with this confidence boost was the recognition by adult learners that they had developed new knowledge and understanding.
  • Additional benefits included development of financial awareness and problem solving skills, and the ability to support family members in numeracy tasks, such as helping children with homework. Some participants also referred to mental health and social benefits.


These findings led to the authors making nine recommendations to further strengthen current practice and extend the many benefits experienced by adult numeracy learners. Some of the recommendations include (R1) identify and work with a definition of numeracy underpinned by contemporary research; (R2) Promote the distinctness and importance of numeracy; and (R8) Ensure adult numeracy tutors are appropriately qualified. In addition to these recommendations, the report set out broad guiding principles for good practice in adult numeracy that invite reflection, discussion, and interpretation in light of local needs, contexts, and resourcing of ETBs.


For those that wish to read the report in more detail it can be found at the following link: