WEA and adult education - your reaction and responses

09 May 2008

 Following huge email response to my Guardian article on the WEA and adult education, here are just a few of the comments I have received:

What a good article!
Our local WEA group is thinking of closing for the very reasons you outline. We have a very consistent group of people who just want to learn about the history of the area we live in. Seems this is not allowed these days.
My view is that adult learning may not die, but the WEA could well do!
Thanks for the article,
Peter Jones

Really impressed with your blog this morning. Interestingly the Government talk about the 'safeguard' for non-vocational/non-accredited adult learning demonstrating their commitment. However results released last week seem to show that adults are disappearing from this type of learning too.  Many thanks
Ed Melia

Your article in Education Guardian is most welcome to those of us witnessing the terminal decline of adult education. The answer to your question, “Is the government slowly suffocating adult education?” is, “Yes it is – deliberately throttling it!” Unless we act quickly, we will be attending the funeral.
Your description of the paperwork procedures in the WEA is very interesting. I worked in adult education in FE for many years and this bureaucracy was an increasingly familiar story. 

I belong to a campaigning group called SAFE: Save Adult Further Education. We formed it when we realised what FE managers were doing to our provision in Liverpool Community College ( and across the city as a whole) – not because they wanted to, but because they could see there wasn’t any funding for it. My then boss told a meeting. “The LSC tell us we can run any course we like – but if they don’t want to buy it, they won’t fund it.” A flagship adult education course – Second Chance to Learn - praised as exemplary during an inspection in 2005 was rubbished and axed the following year. Suffocating or salami slicing – it amounts to the same thing. The government can protest all they like – they have set up a system whereby college managers themselves will preside over the death of adult education.

Celia Kelly

I write to you as a member of the committee of St Albans WEA, to say how uplifting it was to read your excellent article on the problems currently besetting adult learning.
I had returned, despondent, from a committe meeting the previous evening, where we had wrestled with composing a response to the Government's near incomprehensible questionnaire/paper/pamphlet. The general feeling was that provision of adult learning classes is doomed, and the days of the WEA are numbered, as we are forced year on year, to raise our fees to compensate for the lessening of our Learning Skills Council grant.
Please keep up the effort to publicise the gradual destruction of informal adult education. It is one of the cultural activities that our country should be really proud of. It should be cherised not destroyed.
Yours sinerely,

Pauline Anderson

Congratulations. I think that's the first time I've ever read anything specifically on adult education in all my years of teaching. I've taught numerous summer schools and evening classes while working as a middle school teacher. As I've just taken early retirement and started working for the WEA your article came at an appropriate time. 
I've just completed two Helping in Schools courses, run by the WEA in Reading and Slough, and I don't think I've ever enjoyed teaching so much despite the onerous paperwork. The organisation is professional and caring; the students are eager, interested and responsive. I've just been signed up to teach another of these courses starting in May and I'm really looking forward to it.

 Peter Leyland

Thanks for the article - it makes a lot of good points. I'd just make one other to add to your armoury and that concerns resources - which the tutor is expected to provide. I've been a music tutor for a long time, and have built up an extensive collection of CDs, DVDs and VHSs, which form the basis of examples on courses. Recently, a young art teacher contacted me to ask how to go about doing some adult ed, having given up the day job to be at home and bring up her babies. 'Where do I get the slides from?', she asked. Well, good question.
The answer is that you have to provide your own. You can't borrow them from a library and then show them - before giving a lecture, I was recently asked to provide evidence that the discs I would be playing were all my own, that I could produce the originals, and that none had been borrowed from a library.
 Using things for education purposes used to be thought of as something to be supported - but no longer.
 I hope your article stirs up some interesting debate.
 Pauline Buzzing


User Comments

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