The Language and Literacy Unit (LLU) was founded in 1974 by the Inner London Education Authority (ILEA) as an advisory centre to the inspectorate in response to the Right to Read Campaign. The Unit led the development of literacy provision for adults across London throughout the 1970s. During this period an ESL (English as a Second Language) co-ordinator was appointed to develop ESL provision in London.
During the 1980s the LLU expanded its work to include specific learning difficulties, adult numeracy and Afro-Caribbean language and literacy. The specific learning difficulties service later became known as adult dyslexia support. The Unit's co-ordinator post was the first in the country to address these problems in adults. The Unit also worked on specific projects, including the Afro-Caribbean Language & Literacy Project (ACLLP), begun in 1984. Funding for the project was made available through Section 11 of the Local Government Act 1966 and the project was shaped around classroom-based staff development. It developed approaches to Creole and Caribbean Languages, encouraging people to value their linguistic heritage and in many cases see their languages written down for the first time. The Language and Maths Project, also run with Section 11 funding, was set up in 1986 to specialise in numeracy and the project developed the first adult numeracy training course in London.
Due to the abolition of ILEA in 1990 the LLU was statutorily transferred to the London Borough of Southwark on condition that 50% of the income be generated by staff, the remaining 50% being covered by Section 11 funding. The launch of the Unit in its new premises, a portakabin in the grounds of Southwark College, took place in June 1989.
During the 1990s the LLU furthered its work in the local community, working particularly with family learning, originally known as PACT work, subsequently developing training for family learning staff. In 1991 the LLU organised the first national numeracy conference and led the first nationwide project: Developing Learning Support for Students with Learning Difficulties and Disabilities. This pioneered the first accredited teacher training course in diagnosing and teaching dyslexic adults.
The 1990s were a period of change. In 1991, after it was announced that the LLU was to lose its Section 11 funding, the Unit began to compete for and win large contracts through competitive tendering. Funding for research and development was also gained from charitable trusts such as the Paul Hamlyn Foundation. In 1992 the LLU became an income generating unit of Southwark College and the following year moved to new premises on Queen's Road where it stayed until a moved to the Southampton Way branch of Southwark College in 1997. In order emphasis the work done outside Southwark in the rest of London and nationally, the Unit changed its name to the London Language and Literacy Unit (LLLU) in 1996. In September 1998 the Unit transferred to South Bank University into offices in Caxton House. The LLLU sat outside the University's faculty structure and was an income generating unit expected to cover its own costs. It provided roughly sixty days consultancy and training to the University in lieu of overheads.
From 2000 the Unit had an increasingly national role as a result of the Moser Report into basic skills in the implementation of a number of government strategies. These included Skills for Life, the government's adult literacy and adult numeracy strategy and Access for All, guidance for students with learning difficulties and disabilities. The Unit was the lead partner in the National ESOL Training and Development project and initiated government funded projects in using learning styles to improve language and learning in further education, work-based and family learning. The Unit also had a growing international reputation, leading to an increasing number of high-level delegations visiting from abroad.
The Unit launched the National Numeracy Centre in 2003 with funding from the Central London Learning & Skills Council and that same year changed its name to LLU+. The plus sign indicated the Unit's many areas of specialism such as numeracy, family learning, community development and adult dyslexia support. 2003 also saw the creation of the Central London Professional Development Centre in the Keyworth Centre at London South Bank University, which included the numeracy centre and a new multi-sensory learning centre. The Centre was re-launched when LLU+ moved to Pocock House in 2005. A final move, this time to Eileen House at London South Bank University occurred in 2010. In 2011 London South Bank University decided to close LLU+, a decision which was endorsed by the Board of Governors and which took effect on 31 July 2011.
In order to carry on the work of LLU+ some former staff members have since set up Learning Unlimited (LU) at the Institute of Education.