One in six Irish adults has unmet literacy needs while one in four has unmet numeracy needs. This means that everyday tasks like filling in forms, helping children with their homework, reading the instructions on a medicine bottle or using technology to communicate and handle information, are difficult for a large number of people. There are many learning options to improve your literacy, numeracy and digital skills at any age.
Education and Training Boards
Free literacy and numeracy classes are provided nationwide by the ETB (Education and Training Board) adult literacy service. The ETB adult literacy service involves literacy tutors providing tuition to adult students and focuses on the needs of the individual learner. Classes are open to all.
The adult literacy organiser (ALO) of the ETB is responsible for managing the delivery of the adult literacy service.
In 2013, Education and Training Boards (ETBs) replaced Vocational Educational Committees (VECs). FÁS training centres transferred to ETBs in 2014.
How to improve your reading, writing, maths or digital skills
Learners and tutors interact on an equal basis in the ETB adult literacy service and classes focus on the needs of the learner as an individual.
People return to learning to improve their skills and confidence in reading, writing, maths and digital skills. You may want to:
- Catch up on skills you missed at school
- Help your children with their homework
- Apply for a promotion but don’t have the confidence to sit an exam
- Write a letter or send an email
- Make a complaint in writing
People of every age and from every background can have low levels of literacy. All tutors are specially trained to help you feel at ease and get the most out of your classes.
You do not need to have reached a certain standard of education (for example, the Junior or Leaving Certificate) to join. You can use the service for as long as you wish and it is also possible to take a break and rejoin it at a later stage.
It is important to remember that there are people of every age and from every background can have low levels of literacy. All tutors are specially trained to help you feel at ease and get the most out of your classes. You do not need to have reached a certain standard of education (for example, the Junior or Leaving Certificate) to join. You can use the service for as long as you wish and it is also possible to take a break and rejoin it at a later stage.
How adult literacy training works in practice
Every learner has their own trained literacy tutor. Before you start your first class, you will decide together what you would like to cover. Your tutor will then plan each class to suit you. There is no set course and classes are usually around two hours long per week.
When you contact the adult literacy service in your local ETB, the person in charge or the adult literacy organiser (ALO) will invite you to call in to discuss the service and your needs. There is no test or right or wrong answers to questions. After this meeting, the ALO will arrange for a tutor to work with you.
Students and tutors work closely together so it is important that you get on well together. If you are not happy with your tutor, you can talk in confidence to the person in charge of your local service, usually the adult literacy organiser.
The ETB adult literacy service is open to all adults who have literacy difficulties.
There is no charge for joining an ETB adult literacy service or for participating in the tutor training course.
How to apply
The ETB adult literacy service is available through your nearest ETB and in some local community/resource centres.
Information posters on the ETB adult literacy service are often displayed in community and resource centres, local libraries, churches, doctor's surgeries, post offices and Citizens Information Centres. These posters will tell you where to go and who to contact.
Many trade unions also offer free literacy schemes for their members. If you are a member of a trade union, you should contact your union directly for information.
If you want to get classes from the ETB adult literacy service, you should contact the Adult Literacy Organiser in your local ETB. You can join at any stage during the year.
National Adult Literacy Agency (NALA)
NALA is a charity that supports people with unmet literacy and numeracy needs and provides access to learning opportunities. You can use NALA’s services to improve your skills.
- Distance Learning Service is a free service where you work with a tutor over the phone to help improve your reading writing, maths or digital skills. You can also get help over the phone to use online tools such as Zoom to stay in touch.
- Helpmykidlearn.ie helps parents support their children’s learning at home. It provides fun learning activities for primary school children.
National adult literacy events
NALA organises two main national literacy events. The first of these takes place every September to celebrate International Literacy Day. The second is National Adult Literacy Awareness Week. This awareness campaign runs every September to support people who have difficulty with reading, writing, maths or technology to get the help they need.
Where to applyTo find out more about NALA’s distance learning service, or their literacy events, you can Freephone NALA on 1800 20 20 65 or Freetext LEARN to 50050 and a NALA tutor will return your call.
You can also contact NALA by post at: