Today marks a momentous occasion at the WEA, as the charity turns 120 years old.

Simon Parkinson, CEO and General Secretary of the WEA said: “Standing on the shoulders of giants is a well-known phrase, which captures perfectly the balance of responsibility and pride that I feel leading the WEA into its 120th year.

Founded in 1903 by Frances and Albert Mansbridge, our founders set aside two shillings and a sixpence from their housekeeping fund to establish an initiative to promote the Higher Education of Working Men. This quickly extended to women by 1907, before the women’s suffrage movement was given real consideration.

Both Frances and Albert saw what we can still see now – that education is too often out of reach for many adults.

120 years later and the WEA has grown to become the UK's largest voluntary sector provider of adult education. However, what has and will never change is our mission to bring education within reach of communities across England and Scotland – whether this is in local venues or online.

Over the 120 years, the WEA has adapted in line with what is happening in the UK and world – delivering learning during times of war as well as peace, through the economic highs and lows, and moments that caused the world to pause, such as Covid.

We want to build on our legacy, and so, as we embark on our 120th year, we will be looking to the future. Our theme for the year is ‘Ready for the Future’ and we will be asking questions such as; what will the future of adult education look like? What will learners need and expect?

We will be exploring this topic with our learners, staff, members, volunteers, partners and stakeholders over the year and use it to inform our delivery."

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