Two Haberdasher members become volunteer Reading Coaches for Adult Literacy Trust

The Haberdashers' Company is proud to work with Adult Literacy Trust (ALT) as one of our charity partners and small grant holders. As a Funder Plus partner, the Company recognises it's position as a modest grant giver and therefore works to bring additional benefits when and where we can, to the charities we support through our funding. This year two Haberdashers' will give their time and expertise as volunteers to the charity as Reading Coaches.  

Adult Literacy Trust was established in 2021 to give people with poor literacy skills access to the help they need to become successful readers, and to increase their life chances. They believe that literacy is a right, not a privilege, and want every adult to have the chance to gain this critical skill. Through a unique programme of targeted and personalised support, we aim to break the cycle of exclusion and poor literacy among disadvantaged adults. They do this through one-to-one reading sessions, and as a complement to teaching in formal settings. Utilising specially trained volunteer Reading Coaches, they work closely with formal learning providers to identify adults who could benefit from enhanced support outside of the classroom, to strengthen and accelerate outcomes from participation in adult community education.

Their Reading Coaches programme in 2023/24 took place in five London boroughs with high levels of disadvantage and ethnic diversity, supporting the 1 in 6 adults in England who are ‘functionally illiterate’ – lacking basic reading skills beyond primary school level, or below. The boroughs in which they operated include those that have higher than UK and London averages across several indicators for poverty, including out of work benefit claimants, adults living below the poverty line, employment inequity and those living in insecure housing. Two of these boroughs, Hackney and Southwark are geographical focus areas for The Haberdashers' Company. 

In 2024, ALT is delighted to welcome two Haberdasher members as volunteer Reading Coaches into their cohort. The time and care that these two individuals will give to the charity will help illiterate adults grow in their self-confidence, as well as their reading and writing skills. 

In addition to delivering volunteer Reading Coaches, this year saw ALT be very active on the advocacy front, encouraging sensible, effective policies and programmes designed to provide high-quality lifelong opportunities for all.

Most notably, they led a broad, sector-wide effort to identify barriers and potential solutions to the falling participation in adult literacy learning, and the failure of existing government support schemes to reverse that slide. As part of this, they engaged with a number of educational establishments, education charities and other relevant organisations to produce a vital Policy Paper, that identifies workable, easily implementable solutions to overcome many of the current barriers, including streamlining access to funding, incentivising providers to focus more on adult literacy, raising the national focus on basic skills, and developing new ways of recruiting and retaining both literacy teachers and learners.

In coordination with our partners, they met with the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Adult Education to review our policy proposals, promoted our findings widely in the media and on social media, and convened several dozen MPs at a drop-in session in Parliament, encouraging parliamentarians to pledge greater action on boosting adult literacy and creating systemic change for adults across the UK.