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This is an archived section of the Scottish Government website. External links, forms and search may not work on archived pages and content/contact details are likely to be out of date.

This page relates to the 2007 version of the National Performance Framework. Information about the current version of the NPF is available on the Scotland Performs Home Page.

SP Two columns

Current Status

Since 2001 the proxy indicator has shown a steady decrease in the percentage of adults with SCQF Level 4 qualifications or below, to 14.7% in 2010.

More on literacy and numeracy

National Indicator


Reduce number of working age people with severe literacy and numeracy problems

Reduce number of working age people with severe literacy and numeracy problems

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Why is this National Indicator important?

Literacy and numeracy are basic skills without which an individual's capacity to undertake other learning and training is severely limited. They are also critical to developing people's qualities of resilience and adaptability, along with the ability to go on learning and developing throughout their lives. Equipped in this way, people are more likely to maintain and enhance the health and wellbeing of themselves and their family. They are also more likely to adapt and improve skills, get a job and stay in productive employment.

If an individual has a weakness in these skills, they are less likely to make an effective contribution to Scotland's economy. The Scottish Survey of Adult Literacies 2009 is the official source for information on adult literacies skills. Findings show:

  • Around three-quarters of the Scottish population aged 16-64 (73.3%) have a level of skills that has been recognised internationally as appropriate for a contemporary society.
  • Around one quarter of the Scottish population aged 16-64 (26.7%) may face occasional challenges and constrained opportunities due to their skills but will generally cope with their day-to-day lives;
  • Within this quarter of the Scottish population aged 16-64, we find that 3.6% faces serious challenges in their literacies practices;

This is potentially a drag on Scotland's economic capacity. It is also a social issue, because parents who are unable to read are less able to support their children's learning, putting at risk the next generation's capacity to engage in lifelong learning.

What will influence this National Indicator?

Adult literacy and numeracy builds on what children learn at school. While there is evidence that people can forget how to read, write and use numbers if they no longer do so regularly, early intervention and increased emphasis at school on developing the literacy and numeracy skills of all students is of crucial importance. The curriculum review, a Curriculum for Excellence, places both literacy and numeracy as central skills within learning and teaching, recognising that all areas of the curriculum can contribute to and benefit from the development of literacy skills.

For adults, the National Research and Development Centre study New Light in Literacy and Numeracy shows that adults with the poorest grasp of literacy or numeracy, particularly literacy, had a relatively disadvantaged home life during childhood, both economically and in terms of education levels and educational support offered by parents. It also shows a strong relationship between the educational achievement of parents and their children's aspirations.

The availability of and access to effective learning opportunities is critical for adults. For many, there can be significant barriers of stigma or embarrassment to be overcome before any such learning can take place. That requires well-publicised, high quality provision in a wide range of accessible settings, for example in the community, in colleges or in the workplace.

What is the Government's role?

Through its Skills Strategy and the Curriculum for Excellence, the Government and Skills Development Scotland supports local authorities, employers, colleges, adult learning and training providers and schools in providing a framework for learning and teaching. The Curriculum for Excellence encourages the development of literacy and numeracy skills for all pupils at school and establishes expectations that all school leavers have these basic skills.

Provision for supporting adult literacy and numeracy is shared between Scotland's colleges and local authorities who, in turn, work with a range of partners including the voluntary sector. The Government's Adult Literacy and Numeracy Strategy provides the framework within which this activity takes place.

How are we performing?

As the Scottish Adult Literacies Survey cannot provide annual data, a proxy indicator is used to monitor progress. The proxy measure, of the proportion of proportion of adults aged 16-64 with low or no qualifications, Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF) Level 4 or below, shows an overall reduction since 2001. The latest figures show a reduction in the proportion of working age adults with low or no qualifications from 15.7% in 2009 to 14.7% in 2010.

Percentage of the population aged 16-64 with SCQF Level 4 qualifications or below

Please note that from June 2011 on the figures for employment rate cover the population aged 16 to 64 for both men and women. This new definition has been applied to the back series to ensure consistent comparisons.

View data on adult literacy and numeracy

Source: Annual Population Survey, Office for National Statistics


This evaluation is based on: any difference within +/- 0.7 percentage points of last year's figure suggests that the position is more likely to be maintaining than showing any change. A decrease of 0.7 percentage points or more suggests the position is improving; whereas an increase of 0.7 percentage points or more suggests the position is worsening. The threshold of 0.7 percentage points chosen is based on an assessment of the data available at this time, and may need to be reviewed as more information becomes available in the future.

For information on general methodological approach, please click here.

Further Information

Scotland Performs Technical Note

Statistics Topic Page

Who are our partners?



Local Authorities


Scottish Funding Council

Scottish Prison Service (SPS)

Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA)

Skills Development Scotland

Trade Unions

Voluntary sector organisations

Related Strategic Objectives



Wealthier and Fairer

View National Indicator data

Downloadable document:

Data for NI12 re-labelled chartsData for NI12 re-labelled charts [XLS, 31.0 kb: 06 Jul 2011]
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Performance Improving


Performance Maintaining


Performance Worsening

no info

Performance data currently being collected