Government offering free GCSEs to raise English and maths abilities and job prospects in skills blackspot areas

Free maths and English GCSEs are among the help the Government is offering for people living in what it has determined as the UK's skills black-spots.

A Skills for Life survey revealed that in some areas of the country as many as 25% of people aged between 16 and 65 have abilities in maths and English similar to those expected of primary school children.

The key skills of literacy and numeracy are vital to people's chances of securing jobs or finding better employment and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills is supporting the Government's mission to raise the levels of basic skills right across the country.

The number of adults who have maths skills similar to seven to nine year-olds in the UK increased from 21% in 2003 to 24% in 2011, with 31% of people living in the North East currently at that level, along with around a quarter of residents in the London, East Midlands and North West regions.

Those with English abilities akin to children aged five to seven rose from 1.1 million (3.4%) in 2003 to 1.7 million (5%) last year.

London and the North East are the weakest areas in English skills, with 17% in each having abilities equivalent to those of the average nine to 11 year-old.

These findings have spurred the Government to double its funding for English and maths functional skills qualifications and adults have been able to take free GCSEs in both key subjects since the summer, along with several other qualifications for the low-skilled.

"Good English and maths skills are vital for getting a job and playing a full part in society," said Skills Minister Matthew Hancock.

He urged adults who need to improve their skills to take up the offer of free GCSEs and spoke of his determination to give everyone the chance to "achieve their very best," regardless of where they live in the country and learn the skills he described as "the building blocks of a productive society and a thriving economy".

Copyright Press Association 2012