Finding a course

This article describes where to find a range of literacy and numeracy courses.

A range of courses
It can be a difficult task to describe how to find courses that will work across the whole of the UK. Policy decisions have meant that different parts of the nation have made different choices about how to organise and target courses. Also, in the last ten years or so, literacy and numeracy have been high on the agenda with a range of projects being tried out across the country. This has added to the number and type of courses that are available. Also some courses use the word literacy while others use English and some use numeracy while others use mathematics.

Having said this, there are some common types of provision that can be described. These are outlined below.

Adult Education
Most councils / local authorities run adult education provision, some of which will include literacy/English and numeracy/mathematics courses. These courses might be called Basic English and Basic Maths or you might find the words Essential Skills being used. There are other courses with names like Return to Learning or Return to Study that would also deal with adult skills. You may also find Family English and Family Maths courses being run for parents.
Take a look at your local council or authority website to find out what courses they run, or ask at a local library or council drop-in centre.    

Vocational courses and Functional Skills
You may find it more useful to study English and mathematics along with another course which can prepare you for employment. These are in a wide range of subjects. There are courses for catering, there are courses for the building trade, there are courses in hair and beauty, there are courses for travel and tourism, there are mechanics courses. There are courses for almost all trades and occupations.

If you are already in work, you could talk to your trade union about the educational options open to you. You will also find information at a local FE college.

Family Learning programmes
There has been an expansion in courses designed to support adults in assisting their own children with schoolwork. These programmes are known as Family Learning. The idea is that parents help themselves while also helping their children. It can be helpful for parents to understand what the school is teaching their children and the techniques that are used. By attending such courses you will learn about new approaches to school education. This helps you develop your own thinking and helps you with your children’s homework.  

Ask at your school or children’s centre about what courses are available.

Training providers and preparation for work
Those who are seeking work and claiming a number of benefits will usually be referred to some form of job-seeking training. These courses will involve helping those who need it, to complete application forms and get ready for interviews. The courses may also involve some English and mathematics support as well. These are often run by small training providers.

You will be directed to these courses by job centres. You could also find out about the these courses through information at your local library.

You can also sign up to online courses for English and mathematics. These courses are run by learndirect, a government sponsored organisation that specialises in learning through computers. learndirect also have centres with support staff that can also help you with your learning. They are also trying out new ways of supporting learning using new technology with support staff available on the internet.

Find out about these courses online at  

Other provisions
There have been many other projects and specialist courses that have tried different approaches.

There are catering projects that have been developed to support those with learning difficulties to increase their confidence and skills. This happens through cooking and selling various food items. There are gardening projects that have also supported skills development while learning another practice.

There are also community organisations that run education courses to support local groups.   

You can find out about such courses and projects through all of the places we have mentioned before. Go to your library, talk to your council / local authority, or see your local college.

There are many types of courses that can support the development of English/literacy and mathematics/numeracy.

You will find information on most of these courses in your local library and by searching on the internet. In addition, you could ask at your local school, children’s centre or college. The job centre will also have information on courses.  


Direct Gov website through which you can find details of your council / local authority and libraries

The Association of Colleges has details of contacts of FE colleges

Jobseekers' training can be found through Next Steps

learndirect provide online learning and one-to-one support

The Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted) contains contacts and inspection reports on many institutions

BBC WebWise – a beginner's guide to computers and the internet

There are reports on various different sorts of adult provision on the National Institute for Adult and Continuing Education (NIACE) and the National Research and Development Centre for adult literacy and numeracy (NRDC) websites.

Also see for other resources.