News update from Ruth Spellman, CEO

Ruth Spellman, CEO & General Secretary of the WEA is standing down from her current role with effect from 31st December 2019. Ruth has led the WEA through many changes and challenges over her 7 and half years of office and leaves us in a strong position as a national provider of high quality adult education, empowering adults through learning at all stages of life.
Ruth stated “The WEA has always been a part of my life. My grandfather was first of all a student and then a tutor. My father was a part time lecturer for the WEA and my mother taught pottery for the WEA in our front room. I came to the WEA later in life, having had a career which has been all about developing people potential and opening up learning opportunities but the WEA has given me the most personal satisfaction. Together with a talented team of professionals and a huge network of staff, tutors and volunteers we have taken the WEA forward to serve a new generation of adults. Our country is increasingly divided between rich and poor and in too many communities access to education is ad-hoc and insufficient. I pledged to challenge and change this and together we have made significant progress. If I have a couple of learning points to share at this point it is that the WEA must continue to adapt and change and retain a strong external focus if it is to thrive and prosper.

The WEA is a much loved organisation across England and Scotland with deep roots in many communities and significant number of active volunteers. The demographics of our students tells its own story. More than a third of our students live in a disadvantaged postcode, 43% of them are on low incomes and in receipt of income related benefits and 42% have no or very low previous qualifications. In addition, our students are diverse, 75% of them are women, and 30% of our students are Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic and Refugee (BAMER). A third of our students are now located in the North of England as a result of our successful devolution bids and we are supported by an increasing range of partners.

We have just published our ‘Strategy 2025’ which will guide our steps over the next few years and create many more opportunities. Further announcements will follow in the autumn as recruitment of Ruth’s successor takes place, and we look forward to building on Ruth’s legacy. She will continue to be a volunteer and ambassador for adult learning and for the WEA.