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WEA in 2014


The WEA is the largest voluntary sector provider of adult education in the UK. In 2012/13, we taught over 9,700 courses for more than 70,000 adult students from across England and Scotland. Our 2,000 tutors and 3,000 volunteers ensure that the WEA provides high-quality education that gives every adult an opportunity to return to learning. This year, we have been assessed as ‘Good’ by Ofsted, and their comment that the WEA helps “improve the life chances of disadvantaged communities and individuals” was a welcome confirmation of what I’ve witnessed over the last two years.

Our vision, mission and values and our course themes of employability, health & wellbeing, community engagement and cultural studies remain central to our planning. I’m convinced these make an enormous difference in communities across England and Scotland. More people and organisations are connecting with the WEA, recognising the power of our approach – rooted in the practice of teaching and learning in countless neighbourhoods but combined with an historic vision and stronger public voice. If you are new to the WEA, I hope you will join us in our work. If you are already involved, I look forward to working with you on our exciting plans.

As well as our provision for students, the WEA is a democratic membership organisation, working as a charity to improve lives. This year we have launched three campaigns: Women Overcoming Disadvantage; Parents & Families and Deciding Locally. We have also published our Manifesto which sets out practical ways government and other stakeholders can improve education for adults. The WEA is as important as ever. We must continue to argue the case for the role of adult education in reducing inequality and helping people understand the world and deal with change throughout their lives. To do this we need to ensure the WEA’s own resilience through a continuing drive for educational excellence; building the organisation’s financial sustainability and extending the WEA’s profile to attract others to work with us and support our work. This year’s WEA Appeal asks for donations to support our work around mental health – a growing issue that touches every family and workplace in the country.


Ruth Spellman Chief Executive & General Secretary Workers’ Educational Association


Vision, Mission and Values

Approach We deliver our mission by developing partnerships to meet individual and collective needs, using active learning and a student centred approach in which teachers and students work as equals. We constantly strive to adapt our services to meet people’s needs, making full use of technology.



A better world – equal, democratic and just; through adult education the WEA challenges and inspires individuals, communities and society.

n Democratic n Equal n Inclusive n Accessible

Mission nR  aising educational aspirations nB  ringing great teaching and learning to local communities

n E nsuring there is always an opportunity for adults to return to learning

nD  eveloping educational opportunities for the most disadvantaged

n Involving students and supporters as members to build an education movement for social purpose

n Inspiring students, teachers and members to become active citizens


n Open

Who we reach

120,767 Adult enrolments in England and Scotland

9,748 Courses 290,491 Hours of learning

75% Female

Thanks to the WEA and my fantastic tutor, today I was offered a teaching assistant post, my first job in 10 years after being a full time mum raising my children. Can’t thank you enough.

25% Male 20% From black or minority

ethnic backgrounds


2,300 venues

Our students

WEA England

English Average

Declared disability



Living in deprived postcodes



In receipt of income related benefits



Previous qualifications below level 2 (GCSE grade C or above)



WEA students compared with national population (England only)



The WEA’s employability courses develop confidence, understanding and skills to help adults, at all stages of their lives, participate more fully in the world of work. We believe that decent employment is the best way to combat poverty and inequality, while encouraging social mobility. Our role is to help the most disadvantaged adults, particularly those who are unemployed, are in low-paid positions, or have precarious employment, to develop the skills and knowledge to improve their job prospects.


Case study: Skills for life

More interested in cars than learning, Sam left school with no qualifications and found it difficult to get a job. After realising the difference an education can make, Sam was determined to improve his English and maths and is now well on his way to becoming a car mechanic. Sam enrolled on the English and maths course available at the WEA and has worked tirelessly to improve his skills. Being able to read has made a huge difference to Sam as he can now read to his son and is confident that he will be able to help him with his school work as he gets older. Sam used his new reading skills to train for and achieve his CS Construction Skills Card. Together with his passion for cars, ever improving skills, expanding knowledge and increasing confidence, Sam applied for and is now studying motor vehicle maintenance at his local further education college.


Learning to read has changed my life, as it has opened so many doors for me. The skills I have learnt and developed have greatly improved my job prospects and my confidence.



Health & wellbeing

WEA health education combats inequalities and promotes a social and preventative model of health and wellbeing. Health courses can often enable students to become more socially connected while physical activity programmes can significantly improve the fitness and life chances of adults vulnerable to conditions such as diabetes, stroke and coronary heart disease. As a result, the WEA helps reduce demands on medical services and supports people in taking an active part in society.


Case study: Active in age

The Beth Johnson Foundation and WEA Community Health Education in Stoke-on-Trent (CHEST) project have been working together successfully for more than six years, helping people in Stoke-on-Trent to develop volunteering skills and maintain good health and mobility as they get older. An example is the ‘Active in Age’ courses which have grown into a network of gentle exercise leaders, working voluntarily and within their staff roles to offer chair-based exercise sessions. We help to publicise each other’s projects and this partnership demonstrates the benefits of charities working collaboratively, rather than competitively, as communities get more opportunities to participate in different activities and progression routes. We have also been able to work together with groups to contribute our knowledge and experience to policy development and research, in particular trying to ensure that the importance of prevention and partnership working is recognised in local health priorities.

I have been attending WEA classes for over 6 years now and it still remains a big part of my life. It helps me to keep my sanity and gives me something to look forward to. I suffer from various illnesses, among them depression. It helps me keep my mind active by using the lessons for positivity as well as finding lots of new friends via them. I now have a much healthier lifestyle due to the interesting things I can learn about. For me the WEA is a lifeline.


Community engagement

WEA community engagement education combats social exclusion and promotes active citizenship. Working with socially and economically disadvantaged adults along with members of marginalised communities, the WEA runs courses to help students engage with political and social issues. Our active citizenship programmes encourage greater participation in democratic decision-making while our community volunteering courses empower students to take a stronger role in civil society.


Case study: Engaging with the environment The Counting on a Greener Scotland (COGS) learning pack provides interesting, relevant numeracy and environmental resources designed for adult learners with wide ranging needs and interests. It embodies the WEA ethos through inspiring active citizenship regarding environment, aiming to stimulate connections between environmental topics, numeracy skills, learners’ lives and their awareness of local and global impacts. Developed with the support of Education Scotland, the WEA worked with meteorologist and educational consultant, Heather Reid, and the Glasgow Science Centre to ensure accurate, high quality scientific information. Use of the pack was piloted with Glasgow Science Centre. The partnership between WEA Scotland and Glasgow Science Centre has led to a community engagement programme, supported by the Scottish Government, extending learning opportunities to adults in other science centres across Scotland in Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Dundee.



WEA cultural education broadens horizons through understanding cultures, identities and environments embodying our commitment to social purpose. We know that learning about culture can cause life-changing personal development, which teaches people to engage with ideas critically and independently. Through such learning, students develop the skills, understanding and resilience to deal with change and help shape the future.


Case study: Digging for history

One student that I worked with on a one to one basis was extremely shy at the beginning of the project and had difficulties with his speech. By the end of the dig he was able to tell me what he has enjoyed and was asking questions.

Digability Inclusive archaeology (a Heritage Lottery Funded project) offers adults with a range of physical, mental or sensory impairments an innovative and unique way to learn.

Mixing classroom based sessions with practical field visits, the project engaged students in archaeology, something many of the students thought their disability would preclude them from. Although it initially took The students were able to ‘get down some of them out of their comfort zone, and dirty’ and do some trowelling while now they’ve had their first taste of others used swan-neck hoes to work the practical archaeology, they are keen to site from their wheelchairs. progress further.


Our approach

Working very locally: The WEA has worked continuously in many neighbourhoods for decades. Activities happen very locally – often well below the level of local agencies and authorities. Being responsive: Local networks are the key to widening participation. WEA work around tackling race inequality or health issues faced by migrant communities arose from continuous outreach working. This work is highly responsive and often built on non-accredited learning programmes – well before a suitable qualification is available. Professional tutors: Over 2,000 tutors work with the WEA, working in their communities, understanding adult needs and building a curriculum from the community context. They are a vital ingredient in raising educational aspiration, making the return to learning a success, helping people through transitions in their lives and treating them with respect – as citizens whose views matter.

Many of our students are getting qualifications when their children are little so that when their kids go to school they can get a job. So it’s not just learning for learning’s sake.


An active and student centred approach: Wherever learning takes place with tutors and students working as equals. Networks of genuine partnership: Where adult educators can bring their expertise to work with other organisations locally or over wider areas. Volunteers: Some 3,000 volunteers currently work with the WEA. We want to further develop their role, recognise their contribution, show the difference they make. Links to other opportunities: We will continue to work with partners, providers and services, such as the National Careers Service, the Money Advice Service and The Open University, so that people are supported to take their next steps. A clear vision: Promoting the purpose of adult education and the benefits it brings to individuals, community and society.

Financial information

WEA Income Sources (2012/13) £18.81m


Fees & Contracts



Grants Receivable



Other Income



Investment Income



SFA Grants

The WEA is a Specialist Designated Institute (SDI) in England and receives public funding from the Skills Funding Agency. WEA Scotland receives core funding from the Scottish Government in the form of a Strategic Funding Partnership Agreement with Education Scotland. With a carefully structured fee policy that ensures those who can afford to pay do so, the WEA is able to generate fee income. Further income is sourced from a wide range of grants and contracts funding sources, including the National Lottery, other government departments, health organisations, endowment and trust funds and local authorities.

The WEA is distinguished by the extensive roles played by volunteers, from governance through to classroom support. The significant contribution of volunteers has been consistently identified as a strength both internally and in external assessments such as Ofsted visits: “a key strength of the organisation has been, and continues to be, the strong historical bond that exists between employees and volunteer members of the organisation”. The input of volunteers makes our adult education work distinctive and research conducted as part of the Government’s ‘Pound Plus’ methodology has estimated the value of volunteering to the WEA to be in the order of £4.3 million per year.


WEA, 4 Luke Street, London, EC2A 4XW T: 020 7426 3450 F: 020 7426 3451 E: @WEAadulted Funded by: The Workers’ Educational Association (WEA) is a charity registered in England and Wales (number 1112775) and in Scotland (number SC039239) and a company limited by guarantee registered in England and Wales (number 2806910). Registered Office: Workers’ Educational Association, 4 Luke Street, London, EC2A 4XW.

Profile for Workers' Educational Association

WEA Annual Review 2014  

WEA Annual Review 2014