The field of adult literacy in England has a long history, but has particularly developed during the last three decades. Along with the rest of post-school education and training, it has been substantially reshaped by national policy initiatives since the 1970s. During this period it has struggled to assert itself as a legitimate area of policy and practice through changing political, economic and cultural times. This article draws upon a research project funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) that tracked the development of adult literacy, numeracy and ESOL from the 1970s to 2000 using life history interviews and documentary policy analysis to compare policy, practitioner and learner perspectives. The article discusses the key influences that have shaped this new field. It describes the deliberative policy analysis framework used to analyse the data and to identify tensions and gaps that have existed between practice, policy and research. It illustrates the analysis by applying it to one key thematic area that emerged from the study, that of assessment.
This co-authored article draws on ESRC funded research on the evolution of adult literacy, language and numeracy as a field of educational practice. Whereas the book based on the project offers a more general historical overview (see Output 1 above), this article contributes to academic policy analysis. It outlines an original 'deliberative policy analysis' framework which is consistent with a social practice approach to literacy, takes account of the new conditions of policy-making and governance in the UK and offers an evaluative dimension. This framework is applied to the key theme of assessment that emerged from the data. The analysis tracks the progressive formalisation of assessment processes in ALN, driven by wider policy concerns such as the harmonisation of national vocational qualifications. The analysis reveals the contradictory discourse strands and tensions between the various actors who have influenced ALN. Education Policy is a key internationally known refereed journal. RAE_import_type : Journal article RAE_uoa_type : Education