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Cork Independent


NLNs are tackling functional illiteracy

Wednesday, 29th January, 2020 4:07pm

A network of adult learning centres is offering additional assistance to help improve the lives of students living with functional illiteracy.

According to Citizens Information, 16 per cent of Irish adults have difficulty with literacy, and 25 per cent struggle with numeracy. Approximately 800,000 people in Ireland are at the lowest literacy level.

Many people are considered functionally illiterate, whereby they have managed to adjust their lives to cater for their low level of literacy. This can often inhibit people from learning new skills, and confidently participating in day-to-day life.

National Learning Network (NLN) centres in Cork offer additional support for adult learners who struggle with reading, writing or maths. The programme is part of a national effort to improve literacy in Ireland.

Resource Teachers (RTs) are available in all NLN centres with the specific role of assisting people with unmet literacy and numeracy needs.

Hollyhill resource teacher Laura Jordan said: “Students that come here may not have had a good experience in mainstream education. The idea here is that we offer them additional support. Skills like this will help them learn to understand an ESB bill or a bus timetable. We are using maths all the time in everyday life, and we take it for granted.”

Resource teachers are funded by the Department of Education and offer support focused on the core areas of literacy and numeracy. RTs assist learners to help them become more confident in their abilities and to bring them up to speed on modern literacy including basic computer skills.

Many adult learners had struggled for most of their lives with functional illiteracy. They hide their difficulties as they are embarrassed or uncomfortable speaking about it - including things as simple as being able to count change. RTs work as part of a multi-disciplinary team to help students participate in and complete their programme by focusing on an individual student’s specific academic needs.

“Our students come to the National Learning Network, not specifically for literacy or numeracy. They come for one of our many courses, like our Skills 4 Life course, or our IT courses. As part of their initial assessment, if it emerges that they need support for reading, writing, or maths, it’s an add-on support which is unique to the National Learning Network,” said Laura.

Teaching students these basic life skills can be a hugely rewarding experience for RTs like Laura.“When they realise that they can do it themselves, that’s the most rewarding thing. When they come in to us, they are scared and overwhelmed. And then after time, they come in and they’re clearly more self-assured. They can do it. That’s huge,” said Laura.

The National Learning Network have three locations in Cork; Bantry, Model Farm Road and Hollyhill. For more see or email

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