Workers' Educational Association
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The Workers’ Educational Association (WEA) seeks to provide access to education and lifelong learning for adults from all backgrounds, and in particular those who have previously missed out on education. The International Federation of Workers Education Associations (IFWEA) has consultative status to UNESCO. Archbishop William Temple was a strong proponent of workers’ education.
Albert Mansbridge established An Association to promote the Higher Education of Working Men in 1903 (renamed 'Workers Educational Association' in 1905).
The WEA is divided into nine regions in England (each matching a Government Office region), a Scottish Association and over 500 local branches. It creates and delivers about 14,000 courses each year in response to local need across England and Scotland, often in partnership with community groups and local charities. These courses provide learning opportunities for around 85,000 people per year, taught by over 2,500 professional tutors (most of whom work for the WEA part-time). These figures make the WEA the largest voluntary sector provider of adult education in Britain.
The WEA is a national charity and is supported by the Government through funding from the Skills Funding Agency in England, and in Scotland by the Scottish Executive and Local Authorities. It also receives fees from learners on many of its courses and is often successful in funding bids from government, lottery and other sources for educational projects in local communities around the country.
There are also Workers' Educational Associations in Northern Ireland and in North and South Wales. Since 1992/3, these have been entirely separate organisations from the WEA National Association, which now operates only in England and Scotland.
WEA London Region
It runs a wide range of local courses all over London, from Basic Skills to Beethoven; from Community Interpreting to Contemporary Literature; from Digital Media to Dance; from E-learning and Egyptology to English as a Second Language, and from Health and Safety to Helping in Schools.
These courses all share its common values:
- Creating equality and opportunity, and challenging discrimination
- Believing in people, communities and their potential to change through education
- Putting the learner at the centre of everything we do
WEA Northern Ireland
The Workers’ Educational Association NI provides adult education in community and workplace settings. Its title is somewhat misleading as it provides education for all types of people and in particular tries to reach out to those who missed out on learning first time round. It works mainly with those over 18.
Some background ...
- It was set up in Belfast in 1910 and part of a wider network of WEAs, the first of which started in England in 1903.
- Today it operates across Northern Ireland and in the Border Counties in the Republic. It has around 6,500 learners in any given year.
Its courses are organized mainly in venues such as community halls, arts centres and training rooms in workplaces. In fact it can pretty much set up a course wherever and whenever a community group, voluntary organization, union or employer needs it.
The WEANI’s Vision is a prosperous, creative and cohesive society where everyone is a learner. Its Mission is to make learning irresistible.
Its values are:
- When it comes to learning no-one should be left behind
- People learn best and create most when they are open to difference
- Working collaboratively is second nature to the WEA
- Everyone receives a quality of service
- Actively listening to learners is core to its business
- Innovation and risk taking are essential
The WEANI's Vision, Mission and Values have shaped its Strategic Plan ‘Irresistible Learning’ which sets out its objectives up to 2013.
visit www.wea-ni.com for more info.
Coleg Harlech WEA (North Wales)
Workers' Educational Association (North Wales) was established in 1925 as the North Wales District of the Workers' Educational Association. On 1 April 1993 it became a separate charity in response to the new funding arrangements for further education in Wales, under the Further and Higher Education Act 1992 and on 1 August 2001 it merged with Coleg Harlech - a campus-based institution which shares the WEA's 'second chance' ethos - to form Coleg Harlech Workers' Educational Association (North Wales). The WEA in Wales is supported by DELLS (formerly ELWa), the funding arm of the Welsh Assembly Government.
WEA in Australia and New Zealand
In 1913, the University of Melbourne invited Mansbridge to visit Australia where WEAs were initially set up in all states. As of 2012, the WEA in South Australia which claims to be ‘Australia's largest non-government adult community education organisation’ and the WEAs in New South Wales are still operating.
Mansbridge also visited New Zealand, where WEA branches were established in 1915. Five or six branches are still operating along similar lines to those in Australia.
Early work was patterned on the WEAs in the UK. However, given the different demographic arrangements in Australia, and in the absence of other adult education providers, the WEAs in Australia became general adult education agencies. In the 1980s a range of other training providers started offering adult education thereby changing the role of the WEAs. The WEAs in Australia has many clubs and societies associated with their operation. A typical example is the WEA Film Study Group based in New South Wales.
- WEA Sydney
- Workers' Educational Association of South Australia Incorporated (WEA South Australia) Adult Education for Lifelong Learning
- WEA Hunter Adult Education and Training, Newcastle, NSW
- WEA Illawarra
Lawrence Goldman, past President of the former Thames and Solent District WEA, has written:
- Dons and Workers: Oxford and Adult Education Since 1850 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995)
- 'Intellectuals and the English Working Class 1870-1945: The Case of Adult Education', History of Education 29:4 (1999), 281-300
- 'Education as Politics: University Adult Education in England since 1870', Oxford Review of Education 25:1-2 (1999), 89-101