Professionalising the dogooders: the deployment of volunteers in adult basic skills from 1970

Document type
Hillier, Yvonne
Date of publication
1 January 2006
Voluntary Action: the journal of the Institute for Volunteering Research. Vol. 7; Number 3
Social welfare
Material type

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The field of adult literacy in England has a long history, but has developed particularly during the last three decades. Throughout this history, voluntary organisations and volunteers have played an important role in the field. This article examines how volunteers have been deployed and professionally developed during this period, and identifies some of the tensions which exist between volunteers and professionals in the field. It draws upon a research project funded by the ESRC entitled Changing faces: a history of adult literacy, numeracy and ESOL 1970 2000, conducted between 2001 and 2004. A total of 200 interviews were undertaken with practitioners and adult learners, from four case-study regions in England. Documentary evidence and an archive of materials were collated and from this, a series of timelines were created which chart the development of Adult Literacy, Numeracy and ESOL (ALNE), during the thirty-year period. The interview responses were analysed using Atlas-Ti, a software programme, and a number of themes have emerged from the data. The article discusses how these continue to be challenges for the field in the current Skills for Life strategy.

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