Thursday, 7 March 2013
WEA AWAY DAY
I was lucky enough to be selected as one of eight tutors to attend a meeting with WEA Trustees and it's education committee heads in London yesterday.
We shared ideas and good practice, success stories and visions of the future, how to recruit and how to make the WEA well known as a brand.
It's true that despite it's long history the WEA isn't instantly recognisable when mentioned and always leads to the response "what is it?"
In a nutshell, it is an educational charity that provides and encourages lifelong learning in communities for people who may not want to study formal education at college or university, or may not be able to afford the fees, or maybe just want to learn a new hobby or a more academic subject as a means of bettering their intellect, employment opportunities, or feeding their interests.
At its heart is teaching, learning and assessment and as an institution it is probably one of the biggest in the UK. After all, who else can claim to have a "school" in every town, village and hamlet in Britain?
Courses are varied and diverse and can include anything from learning basic IT skills to reading and studying literature, to learning the skills of photography, investigating cultural studies, or drama, music, and craft, and lifelong skills for those with learning difficulties.
One tutor at the meeting holds classes on Asian fabrics and sewing. She said she used to have two groups - one Asian women and one white women - and then both groups began to talk to each other and now instead of two they are one big group sharing and helping each other on the course. Many lifelong friends as well as lifelong skills are made at WEA classes.
One of the main items on the agenda was the need to move paperwork online into the 21st century and to create a cyber space for tutors to access resources, share ideas, good practice, and teaching methods.
As I travelled back on the train after my day out I realised just how much things have changed. Apart from a handful of people reading books or newspapers, as I walked through the carriage to the buffet car, most were on laptops, reading, watching TV, or working, or scrolling through mobile phones doing much the same thing.
The WEA must stay true to its roots in giving less privileged people the chance to learn but to survive in the new age, where most modern workers either get standard education for free or are able to pay for further education themselves, it must be able to reach those adults who dropped out after school into unemployment or dead end jobs that fail to stimulate those with intellect but no money to improve and feed it.
As humans we need to learn all of our lives and no one else offers quite the same opportunities as the WEA but it must be able to communicate and organise more effectively. Technology is one imperative way of doing that and as a part time tutor, I look forward to getting actively involved when it's new tutor portal and intranet project, currently in development, come online.