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The Growth Of Awareness Of Adult Illiteracy In Britain

Mr. Philip Glascoe left Blackfriars Literacy Scheme and set up a scheme of their own – the Rathbone Reading Clubs, to continue their work with the educationally handicapped.  They were supported by a number of other Blackfriars volunteers including Mrs Judith Rose and Mr. Stephen Portlock.

Subsequently Diane Hux joined Blackfriars as their Literacy worker and sought Trade Union support in recognising the needs of their illiterate members.  This has now become a special project of the Scheme.  Ms. Hux has sought to convince first the Unions, then through them the employers, of the need for workers to receive tuition for literacy during the daytime, in the same way that other workers are allowed day-release for craft training.

The need is for sensitive understanding and help from employers for their employees who suffer from functional illiteracy.  The embarrassment and potential risk of dismissal prevents many workers seeking help or admitting their handicap to their work-mates or employers.  Yet, after a long day at work, the difficulty of turning out to evening classes and having to concentrate on the skills required to master reading and writing (after previous years of failure) makes the effort almost too much.  Acceptance by Unions and employers that literacy is another tool in training workers for promotion and more skilled work is of utmost importance, it is this idea that Diane Hux and her ALRA-funded worker Allison Tomlin have been working on for over the last three years.  The T.U.C. has been supporting the need for adult literacy teaching for workers as a right since 1974 and have frequently reiterated their commitment to this right.15  Following a general approach to employers in the area, supported by some of the Unions, co-operation by a number of the employers has been gained and now some workers are released from their work for two hours.

Apart from the ability of the student to study during the day, when they are less tired, this day-release indicates some degree of commitment and understanding on the part of the employer, and lessens the need for concealment, which releases the worker from some of the tensions and stresses involved in hiding their disability.

As well as activity on the local level, the trades unions have been seeking to become involved on a national level, and much discussion has taken place between literacy workers and the unions at Blackfriars as to future approaches to employers and extending the day-release scheme.

At present, the Blackfriars literacy Scheme has funding from I.L.E.A, for one full-time worker and part-time secretarial help, with £11,500 per annum.  A.L.R.A. has funded a full-time worker for the Unions project for the past three years and added £500 per year to that for other expenses.  However, A.L.R.A. is to be wound up in March 1978 and replaced by the Adult Literacy Unit which can only fund new projects.  Miss Hux and Miss Tomlin are urgently seeking other sources for funds to continue and expand their work.16

The scheme currently has 45 students and operates two day and two evening classes a week.  Most students are still taught on the one-to-one basis so that they may proceed at their own pace towards their own self-perceived goal.  However, there are also group classes with 10 students, three volunteers and one professional staff present.  Three students are being taught in their own homes for individual reasons.

15 Trade Union Speech, 1975 (see Appendix).

16 Conversation with Miss Tomlin in February 1978.

© Amity Reading Clubs and Betty Cooper 1978 to 2002 Page 12 of 51

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