On Tuesday, 16th May, the WEA officially turns 120! 

Building on solid foundations

The Workers’ Educational Association (WEA) was founded in 1903 by Albert and Frances Mansbridge with the aim of extending education to working class people. The first WEA branches were opened in Reading and Rochdale, offering lectures and courses which were open to all. Since then, the WEA has grown and grown, responding to the needs of society. 

In 2020, amid Covid 19, we began to offer our first fully online courses, widening access to quality adult education even further. In the last year alone, we supported 30,000 learners to achieve their goals.  

Improving lives

Increasing the WEA is supporting learners to gain the skills they need to get their first job, return from unemployment and to get on in their careers. 45% of unemployed learners studying with us went on to get a job and over 60% felt more confident about getting one and knowing better what to do. 43% employed learners went on to earn more after their course.  

I am very excited about the next chapter in my journey. I wouldn’t have been given the opportunity without the knowledge gained on the course with the WEA.  

But we also provide community connections and develop passions which inspire the mind. For many the impact of our learning is so much more. 84% of our learners reported improvements in wellbeing and are simply healthier than the average (92% of our learners visiting the doctor less than the national average! 

The change since getting involved with the WEA has been extraordinary. It has all made such a difference in building my stability and resilience.

Ready for the future

The world has changed since WEA was founded in 1903, and we have changed with it. Building on our leap online in 2020, we have just launched a brand-new digital learning experience to make our courses even more accessible and to more effectively support our learners to achieve their goals. 

Simon Parkinson, CEO of WEA said: 

“We have a lot to celebrate after 120 years! I could not be prouder of the work we do and the individual achievements of our learners.  

But our focus is on the future and the next 120 years. There are still 11 million people in the UK who have a lack of essential digital skills. 4 in 5 adults in the UK have a low level of numeracy. And the CBI predict 90% of the workforce will need to re-skill by 2050. And society is suffering from a breakdown of communities and an epidemic of loneliness.  

We have so much more to do. The need for adult learning which is in reach of every community could not be greater.” 

Simon Parkinson, Chief Executive and General Secretary of the WEA

You can support us in our aim of making adult education accessible to all across England and Scotland by:

Becoming a WEA member for just £15 a year

Volunteering with your local WEA 

Making a donation to the WEA

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