How the Adult Literacy Scheme can help you with reading

Your local Education and Training Board (ETB) can help you with reading, writing and maths
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Being an adult who has trouble reading and writing can be a huge challenge. If you want to make things easier (or you know somebody else who does) there are programmes that can help.

The Education and Training Board (ETB) runs an adult literacy service that helps people get better at reading, writing and maths. It’s free and open to anyone who needs it.

Who is the scheme for?

If you are over 18 and have any trouble with reading, writing or maths you can apply for help. People from all walks of life use adult literacy training.

Why would someone use the Adult Literacy Scheme?

There are many reasons why someone would want to use adult literacy services. These can include:

  • Self-improvement and personal development
  • Learning for work
  • Help with their children’s homework

Whatever your reasons, remember that the service is for everyone and you have a right to use it.

How to apply for an Adult Literacy Scheme

You can sign up for an adult literacy service at your nearest ETB and in some local community centres. The person in charge of adult literacy at each ETB is the Adult Literacy Officer (ALO). You can contact them and start a course at any time of the year. You can find your nearest ETB at this link.

How does it work?

You don’t need to have finished any level of education to start. You can keep using the service for as long as you want. You can also take breaks and come back as many times as you need.

After you contact the ETB, the person in charge will call you in for a meeting. They will ask you about your needs – there are no right or wrong answers here. After talking to you, they will arrange a tutor for you to meet.

What is involved in the scheme?

Depending on your needs, there are different areas covered by the Adult Literacy Scheme. These can include:

  • Reading and writing
  • Everyday maths and applying numbers
  • Communication
  • Problem solving

Literacy classes

ETB literacy classes are based around your needs as an individual. You and your tutor will decide together what you want to work on, and you will work together to improve your skills.

Classes are planned to suit you and are usually around two hours long per week. Your attendance is confidential – nobody needs to know about it except you and the ETB staff.


Tutors are trained to make sure they teach in a relaxing environment. If you aren’t happy with your tutor for any reason, talk to the person in charge of the service. This is usually the Adult Literacy Officer. They will keep what you say confidential and can arrange a new tutor if needed.

Other ways to improve your literacy

If you don’t want to take part in an ETB scheme for any reason, there are other ways you can improve your reading and writing. There are programmes with the National Adult Literacy Agency (NALA) which use radio, television, telephones and the internet to help people improve their literacy.

The website can also be used at any time from the comfort of your own home.

If you’re a member of a trade union, ask them if they provide adult literacy classes. Many of them offer free courses to their members.

Need more information?

Talk through your own situation or get another point of view. Our online chat service for 16 to 25 year olds is available Monday to Friday, 4pm to 8pm.

Need more information?

We are here to answer your questions and talk through your options. Our online chat service is for 16 to 25 year olds and is available Monday to Friday, 4pm to 8pm. Chat to us now about your situation.

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