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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Adult Literacy Trust Welcomes Prof Jason Arday as New Patron

Prof Jason Arday, a distinguished University of Cambridge professor, has joined the Adult Literacy Trust as a patron, enhancing the charity’s commitment to improving adult literacy. Prof Arday, celebrated as one of the youngest individuals to secure a professorship at Cambridge, aligns with other notable patrons such as Julian Fellowes, Nigel Higgins, and Farmida Bi CBE in supporting the Trust’s mission from its London base.

Having personally faced hurdles in learning to read and write until the age of 18 due to his autism, Prof Arday is intimately aware of the challenges in adult education. He expressed, “I know from my own experience how hard it can be to learn how to read and write as an adult, for various reasons – for example, if your education has been disrupted, your learning differences were not properly identified, or because you didn’t have the necessary support available.” He emphasises the crucial need for accessible literacy support: “It’s vital that everyone gets support to become a capable reader, to unlock their personal potential and enable them to improve their life chances.”

Prof. Arday is calling on the government to increase support for adult education, which is significantly underfunded by international standards. Funding for adult education fell by some 45% between 2009 and 2019, a period when levels of literacy and numeracy in the adult population failed to improve. As a result, formal educational providers are struggling to deliver the services required to transform the lives of their adult students. Against the background of stark reductions in funding and falling participation in adult literacy learning, a number of other challenges of key concern are holding back practitioners and providers from delivering the kinds of effective adult literacy provision they would ideally like to offer, including: a lack of focus on adult literacy as part of the wider adult policy skills landscape; a shortage of trained, skilled adult literacy specialist teachers; and a persistent focus on qualifications delivery and achievement at the expense of non-accredited learning opportunities which can help engage adults and overcome attitudinal barriers to learning.

The Adult Literacy Trust (www.alt.org.uk), founded in 2021, believes that literacy is a right, not a privilege, and wants every adult to have the chance to gain this critical skill. The charity provides one-to-one support for disadvantaged adults to improve their reading skills and confidence, as a complement to overstretched formal adult education provision. Utilising specially trained volunteer Reading Coaches, the Trust works closely with formal learning providers to identify adults who could benefit from enhanced support outside of the classroom, to strengthen outcomes from participation in adult community education.

“Jason’s life story is truly inspiring. With the help of a supportive family, particularly his mother Gifty and his mentor Sandro, he overcame considerable learning challenges to become a brilliant academic and a leading campaigner on race and education,” said Robert Glick OBE, Chair of the Adult Literacy Trust. “The Adult Literacy Trust recognises the invaluable one-to-one help Jason received, and wants to offer this kind support to many more adult learners so that they too can start a new chapter.”

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