The WEA runs over 1,400 courses each year in the South East of England, attracting over 15,000 enrolments. We operate across the whole of the region – in the densely populated urban centres, in the rural areas and along the south coastal strip.
Although the south east is relatively affluent, there are significant pockets of both urban and rural deprivation and poverty. Addressing the needs of learners who are socially, economically or educationally disadvantaged is a strategic priority and partnership working is the basis for much of this delivery.
We prioritise the hardest to reach learners and the Preparation for Life and Work curriculum. More than half of these courses offer national qualifications and there are clear progression routes from the supporting non-accredited provision. Although we work in some of the most disadvantaged communities, 86% of those who take a qualification are successful. We have maintained our English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) provision following the introduction of fees, by working with specialist agencies to ensure learners have access to appropriate advice on tax credits and benefits.
WEA classes are delivered in the heart of local communities, using safe and familiar venues and outreach recruitment methodology. Courses aimed at reducing social exclusion include health, family learning and citizenship. The WEA has an important role to play in delivering learning opportunities that enable people to develop their own personal communication skills and contribute to their community.
There is increasing use of volunteers to provide learner support in Skills for Life classes and to help with office based tasks. These activities often lead into work, including as tutors. An innovative addition to this work has been the recruitment and training of volunteers to support art and craft groups with frail elderly people, creating self sustaining groups which can continue during non-teaching periods.
Well qualified and inspirational tutors are employed to deliver a wide ranging Cultural Studies programme, including history, literature and art appreciation, through self organised classes supported by an active branch structure of committed volunteers. This programme generates 85% of the region’s fee income within an affordable fee structure. The WEA is also recognised as a key provider of initial tutor training for community learning tutors in some parts of the region.