Part of our work here in the Digital Skills and Inclusion team is to work closely with the Department for Education (DfE) on policies that are particularly relevant to digital skills. We want to strengthen our collaboration, so we’ll be inviting our colleagues at DfE to write guest posts. Today we hear from Jay Hunt who leads DfE work on basic digital skills for adults.
An entitlement to basic digital skills training
The government announced in the UK Digital Strategy that we would introduce an entitlement to full funding for basic digital skills courses for adults, similar to our approach to Maths and English. Since then, a lot of thought has gone into how best to deliver that commitment and we have spoken at length to a diverse range of organisations and people.
Happily, I can now say a bit more about what we’re going to do as, at the annual Bett show on 24 January, Anne Milton, Minister for Skills and Apprenticeships, said:
I am delighted to confirm that we will introduce full funding for basic digital training for adults from 2020.
Adults will have the opportunity to undertake improved digital courses based on new national standards. This will set out the skills and capabilities people need to get on in life and work. We will consult on these new standards in the autumn.
This policy is about ensuring that those adults who are digitally excluded can study for a fully funded qualification through the Adult Education Budget. But it will also go further, by creating a set of national standards for basic digital skills, we hope to bring some much needed consistency to the sector, as well as recognising the fast pace of digital change.
We know that there is already a lot of great work going on in the sector, and that is why we will be using the Tech Partnership’s Basic Digital Skills Framework as the foundation of our national digital skills standards, building on its success in forging wide consensus around what basic digital skills look like. As set out in this blog post from 23 January, the Tech Partnership and Lloyds Banking Group have been consulting on proposed updates to the Framework.
Once the Framework is updated, we’ll create national standards covering the basic digital skills that adults need. In England, these new standards will replace National Occupational Standards for IT user skills and Skills for Life Standards, which date back to 2005. We plan to publicly consult on these new standards in the autumn to make sure they are widely supported.
The national standards will also ensure the qualifications we fund provide a quality offer. Full funding for basic digital training for adults under the entitlement will then be introduced from 2020 after consultation around the right level to set it at.
In the run up to the introduction of the entitlement, it is essential that we continue to provide support for adults needing help with their basic digital skills. Our adult education budget provides funding to colleges and adult and community learning providers to support the provision of basic digital skills training for adults. Depending on an adult’s circumstances, the training may be provided free of charge or at reduced rates.
We also recognise the importance and benefits of informal and non-formal learning, and that is why we fund the Good Things Foundation to deliver basic digital skills training through the Future Digital Inclusion programme which is on track to helping 1 million adults improve their basic digital skills by 2019. Key to the success of the programme is the Learn My Way platform, which provides free courses on using a computer, browsing the web, sending an email and much more and the Online Centres Network based across the country, providing friendly, expert guidance for those who need help with all things digital.