20 November 2020
The Workers’ Educational Association is the leading voluntary sector provider of adult education in England and Scotland. A charity founded in 1903, the WEA is dedicated to high-quality professional education at community level. In its partnership with Job Centre Plus and mix of work-related and well-being courses the group is clearly in tune with the times.
Samantha Johnson is Education Coordinator, The WEA Southern Region*.
The WEA strapline is ‘ Adult Learning Within Reach’. That’s been our USP for well over a century and these days being properly accessible has never been more important. It works in two ways.
First, we always work at the heart of communities. Currently we’re offering a wide range of courses targeted for people in East Surrey: Epsom and Ewell, Mole Valley, Tandridge, Reigate and Banstead. Second, we make sure no one who is keen to study is denied because they can’t afford the course fee. More on each in a moment.
We have such a variety of courses. They cover job-related topics, for example social care through our link with Job Centre Plus (see below) and a Level 2 Award in Support Work In Schools & Colleges (CACHE/NCFE).
But also self-development and enjoyment. There are courses supporting parenting and mental wellbeing, money management and courses for volunteers in subjects such as Mental Health Awareness and Safeguarding. Full range at WEA East Surrey
As you would expect, we normally hold our courses in community settings such as Family Centres and Church Halls. We responded to lockdown by moving online with Zoom and our own virtual platform. This has been a lifeline to students who might otherwise have been isolated. We’re gradually going back to face-to-face with strict safety measures but continuing online to meet demand.
Our newest venture is a Care Sector-Based Academy in partnership with Surrey Job Centre Plus which starts this month. It’s an exciting development because we think the care sector will grow in the next few years – it will be more professional and much better understood.
To gauge interest we ran some ‘taster’ What is Care? sessions earlier in the year. They were very well received. We’re optimistic about putting on more Academies across Surrey next year. There’s a real benefit to employers who know students have already shown real interest in the sector. They will have completed an intensive course, have a good understanding of what the job involves and developed the knowledge they need to start a career.
The aim is to help fill the need for good-quality care workers. A Sector Based Academy is a government initiative with 3 elements:
We are a registered charity and all our courses are subsidised, meaning they can be offered at low cost. Typically this is £3.20 per person per hour. And all WEA courses are free to anyone receiving relevant Income-related benefits.
To ensure we meet real community needs we invite individuals or groups to suggest courses for the public or for specific groups. I can set up courses at short notice and they can often be viable with as few as 8 people. We’re also lucky to have great support from local volunteers as both tutors and organisers; involving the community is another way we provide ‘learning within reach‘.
Our many local partners include East Surrey College (who fund our East Surrey contact work), charities, mental health organisations, schools, family centres, housing associations and councils. To find out more about our local work or book a course for a targeted group of people or group of volunteers, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07825 112798.