There are Mayoral Elections in ten areas on 2 May: 

  1. East Midlands;  
  2. Liverpool City Region;  
  3. Greater London;  
  4. Greater Manchester;  
  5. North East England;  
  6. North Yorkshire & York;  
  7. South Yorkshire;  
  8. Tees Valley;  
  9. West Midlands;  
  10. West Yorkshire 

Most of these areas have elected Mayors already but a few (East Midlands; North Yorkshire & York and North East England) are wholly or partly new. For the first time soon they will make all of the decisions about adult education. 

All of the Mayors in these areas will have responsibility for a substantial Adult Education Budget which will support adult learners by funding providers like the WEA (in fact, most MCAs already fund the WEA in some way). 

Do you ever hear candidates debate adult education funding? 

Although funding for Adult Education is one of the main responsibilities of Mayoral Authorities it tends to have a low profile in election campaigns compared with other issues such as transport and regeneration.  

Sometimes you may hear about Universities, occasionally about colleges, but what about community-based education? Ever heard about that? It’s incredibly rare. 

Where Mayoral candidates do talk about learning their focus tends to be mostly on skills for jobs – which are important, but are only part of what the Adult Education Budget can support.  

What can you do to help? 

During an election period, candidates for the Mayoral election will be open to engagement on the policies that they are proposing to take through should they be elected. 

They will be attending hustings, appearing on radio talk shows and turning up at your door. All of these are a great opportunity to raise the profile of community adult learning with them personally, their teams and everyone at the events. 

It is a chance to challenge prospective Mayors on how they would use their budgets to: 

  • Increase participation in adult learning 
  • Support learners in disadvantaged areas 
  • Fund courses for adult learners who want to boost their confidence, improve their wellbeing and be more active in their communities 

Who are the candidates? 

By now, all candidates will be known. 

You may need to do a little research locally to find your candidates. Local press will cover most of their campaigns and many will have a presence on social media.  

Wikipedia entries for the Mayoral region are usually reasonably accurate and a good way of finding the names of candidates. There is also the Democracy Club website which attempts to collate details on as many candidates as possible.  

You may not be able to find email or postal addresses for all candidates but there are other ways to interact with them: 

  • Check local press and community venues for hustings events where one or more of the candidates will speak at public meetings 
  • On social media – you may want to follow and interact with candidate’s accounts  
  • You may even be “door-stepped” by candidates, especially nearer the time of the election when they are canvassing for support by visiting key areas 

What should I do if they turn up at my door? 

If you have the opportunity to interact with mayoral candidates you might want to tell them: 

  1. Your personal story of why adult learning is important to you 
  2. How has it improved your life, and 
  3. How might it continue to do so if the Mayoral Authority maintains the funding for courses like you have benefitted from 

You might also want to ask: 

  • If elected, how will they fund adult learning in community venues which support disadvantaged learners? You might want to add that not all adult learners feel comfortable learning in traditional education venues like colleges. 
  • Will they support adult learning for health and wellbeing and to strengthen community ties as well as learning for work? 
  • Will they provide flexible grant funding (rather than limited contracts) to education charities with track records of supporting those in the most disadvantaged neighbourhoods? 
  • Will they support adult learning for those with low or no qualifications and who want to build up their confidence and aren’t yet ready for work skills courses? 

Please share with us how it goes 

It is helpful to know which candidates are being supportive – or not so supportive – of adult learning to inform our future work with the Mayoral Authorities. 

If you are able to share any observations, correspondence or insight please message us at [email protected] 

Thank you in advance for any help you can give to our campaign to keep adult education in reach of all those who need it. 


Important note: 

Please remember that if you are representing or supporting the WEA in any way then you must ensure that you engage with all candidates equally and in the same way and do not align the charity with support for (or opposition to) any specific candidate. This is to comply with strict guidelines for charities at Election times. 

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About the author

Chris Butcher

Public Policy Manager

Chris is the Public Policy Manager at the WEA.