Featured Voices

Simon Parkinson, WEA

User Rating: 5 / 5

Star ActiveStar ActiveStar ActiveStar ActiveStar Active

Meeting the Mental Health Needs of Adult Learners 

The WEA is a national adult education charity committed to removing barriers to learning so that individuals can improve their own life chances and have a positive impact within their communities. Students sign up to WEA courses for a wide variety of reasons, including for some as a means of alleviating symptoms of mental ill-health.

As a provider we have a duty of care and we work to have proper safeguards in place for all our students. We work to make sure that having a mental health condition does not become a barrier to full participation. At the same time, we are realistic about our place in the wider picture of a student’s life.

A student may see their WEA course as very important to them but we must never assume that we are the front line of their approach to managing their condition. This is why it is important that learning providers work in partnership with mental health charities and health professionals so that the wider needs of the adult learner can be met.

Adult Learning as a Solution to the Mental Health Crisis

We should also recognise – and be recognised for – the positive health benefits of adult learning but we must not oversell them.

The evidence base for the positive benefits of adult learning is strong, but there is always scope for more. The Department for Education’s Community Learning Mental Health Research Findings (DfE, 2018) contains some of the best evidence for the ways in which adult learning can bring improvements. They also show how difficult it is to pin down precisely how adult learning makes its impact or where other factors outside the learning environment are the decisive element. This is why collecting data and testimony from our students is so vital.

The WEA has just published its Annual Impact Report. Nearly three quarters of WEA adult students reporting they had a mental health problem claimed participating in adult learning had helped them manage their condition.

Perhaps the most compelling statistic in the WEA Impact Report is that our students visit their GP far less frequently than the national average. We believe, therefore, that there is scope to develop preventative interventions based around learning programmes.

Nonetheless, we need to place the overall findings in context. They are self-reported and they describe broad terms – such as stress – which are not the same as specific definitions of mental health conditions. And so, they tell a powerful story of how a large number of adult students find learning makes them feel better and helps them take control of their lives

– which is something we should celebrate and promote. We will require more evidence to make the strongest possible case to convince Whitehall that adult learning is a key part of tackling the nation’s growing mental health challenges.

General Findings

94% of WEA students said their course helped to keep their minds active 38% of students reported that the courses helped them to reduce stress 32% claimed that WEA courses helped with their mental health issues

Adult Students Reporting Mental Health Issues

74% claimed the courses helped them with their condition 60% managed stress better

61% of students with learning disabilities felt the course helped them with their mental health issues

52% of students with physical health conditions managed stress better

Survey of 5,000 WEA Students - Impact Report, WEA, January 2021

Wider Outcomes than Jobs for Adult Learning

The new Skills White Paper speaks of developing a post-18 funding framework based on employment outcomes. We believe the health and wellbeing outcomes that adult and community learning can bring should be included alongside employment outcomes. Adult and community learning providers have decades of experience and evidence to support the use of a broader definition of outcomes.

Adult Learning as Part of Recovering Our Nation’s Health

The pandemic has affected the nation’s physical and mental health in ways which will take years to be fully revealed and resolved. We will need all the most effective approaches to improving health we can muster and surely adult education must be a part of that.


WEA proposes three recommendations to tackle the mental health and covid-19 crisis through adult learning.

Recommendation 1

We encourage GPs and the network of Social Prescribing Link Workers to partner with adult and community learning providers to pilot and evaluate referral programmes starting in a few areas of the country.

Recommendation 2

To assist the growing network of Link Workers, we would also like to see a national directory of social prescribing options – including adult education courses – to make it easier to refer patients to local services which meet their needs.

Recommendation 3

Most crucially, adult learning should be positioned by the government and Whitehall as an integral part of our nation's mental and physical health recovery after the Covid-19 pandemic.

By Simon Parkinson, WEA

Understanding and Overcoming a Mental Health Crisis in 2021 

This article is from the new publication Understanding and Overcoming a Mental Health Crisis in 2021: issues for post-16 education, employment, the world of work and retirement’. 

Some of the issues and concerns for mental health discussed existed prior to the pandemic, but Covid-19 has caused additional pressures on young people and adults. 

The authors make specific recommendations to support apprentices and students at colleges, university and in adult learning, as well as people in and out of work.

The important role of education, lifelong learning and good work in promoting mental wellbeing and reducing mental health problems is also addressed. 

Published by the Campaign for Learning, it brings together sixteen specialists from mental health and post-16 education and employment to set out what needs to be done to prevent or limit a mental health crisis in 2021. 


Sponsored Video


Upcoming FE Events

Advertiser Skyscrapers

Newsroom Activity

Is a 'love of learning' far from common among tutors/students,
and (Love being blind, madness, a...

AELP Webinar Team added a new event 2 days ago

Register of Apprenticeship Training Providers – Refresh 2021

Overview It has been nearly two years since the ESFA refreshed the current Register of Apprenticeship Training Providers, therefore it is time for...

  • Thursday, 14 October 2021 10:00 AM
  • Online

Latest Education News

Further Education News

The FE News Channel gives you the latest education news and updates on emerging education strategies and the #FutureofEducation and the #FutureofWork.

Providing trustworthy and positive Further Education news and views since 2003, we are a digital news channel with a mixture of written word articles, podcasts and videos. Our specialisation is providing you with a mixture of the latest education news, our stance is always positive, sector building and sharing different perspectives and views from thought leaders, to provide you with a think tank of new ideas and solutions to bring the education sector together and come up with new innovative solutions and ideas.

FE News publish exclusive peer to peer thought leadership articles from our feature writers, as well as user generated content across our network of over 3000 Newsrooms, offering multiple sources of the latest education news across the Education and Employability sectors.

FE News also broadcast live events, podcasts with leading experts and thought leaders, webinars, video interviews and Further Education news bulletins so you receive the latest developments in Skills News and across the Apprenticeship, Further Education and Employability sectors.

Every week FE News has over 200 articles and new pieces of content per week. We are a news channel providing the latest Further Education News, giving insight from multiple sources on the latest education policy developments, latest strategies, through to our thought leaders who provide blue sky thinking strategy, best practice and innovation to help look into the future developments for education and the future of work.

In Jan 2021, FE News had over 173,000 unique visitors according to Google Analytics and over 200 new pieces of news content every week, from thought leadership articles, to the latest education news via written word, podcasts, video to press releases from across the sector, putting us in the top 2,000 websites in the UK.

We thought it would be helpful to explain how we tier our latest education news content and how you can get involved and understand how you can read the latest daily Further Education news and how we structure our FE Week of content:

Main Features

Our main features are exclusive and are thought leadership articles and blue sky thinking with experts writing peer to peer news articles about the future of education and the future of work. The focus is solution led thought leadership, sharing best practice, innovation and emerging strategy. These are often articles about the future of education and the future of work, they often then create future education news articles. We limit our main features to a maximum of 20 per week, as they are often about new concepts and new thought processes. Our main features are also exclusive articles responding to the latest education news, maybe an insight from an expert into a policy announcement or response to an education think tank report or a white paper.

FE Voices

FE Voices was originally set up as a section on FE News to give a voice back to the sector. As we now have over 3,000 newsrooms and contributors, FE Voices are usually thought leadership articles, they don’t necessarily have to be exclusive, but usually are, they are slightly shorter than Main Features. FE Voices can include more mixed media with the Further Education News articles, such as embedded podcasts and videos. Our sector response articles asking for different comments and opinions to education policy announcements or responding to a report of white paper are usually held in the FE Voices section. If we have a live podcast in an evening or a radio show such as SkillsWorldLive radio show, the next morning we place the FE podcast recording in the FE Voices section.

Sector News

In sector news we have a blend of content from Press Releases, education resources, reports, education research, white papers from a range of contributors. We have a lot of positive education news articles from colleges, awarding organisations and Apprenticeship Training Providers, press releases from DfE to Think Tanks giving the overview of a report, through to helpful resources to help you with delivering education strategies to your learners and students.


We have a range of education podcasts on FE News, from hour long full production FE podcasts such as SkillsWorldLive in conjunction with the Federation of Awarding Bodies, to weekly podcasts from experts and thought leaders, providing advice and guidance to leaders. FE News also record podcasts at conferences and events, giving you one on one podcasts with education and skills experts on the latest strategies and developments.

We have over 150 education podcasts on FE News, ranging from EdTech podcasts with experts discussing Education 4.0 and how technology is complimenting and transforming education, to podcasts with experts discussing education research, the future of work, how to develop skills systems for jobs of the future to interviews with the Apprenticeship and Skills Minister.

We record our own exclusive FE News podcasts, work in conjunction with sector partners such as FAB to create weekly podcasts and daily education podcasts, through to working with sector leaders creating exclusive education news podcasts.

Education Video Interviews

FE News have over 700 FE Video interviews and have been recording education video interviews with experts for over 12 years. These are usually vox pop video interviews with experts across education and work, discussing blue sky thinking ideas and views about the future of education and work.


FE News has a free events calendar to check out the latest conferences, webinars and events to keep up to date with the latest education news and strategies.

FE Newsrooms

The FE Newsroom is home to your content if you are a FE News contributor. It also help the audience develop relationship with either you as an individual or your organisation as they can click through and ‘box set’ consume all of your previous thought leadership articles, latest education news press releases, videos and education podcasts.

Do you want to contribute, share your ideas or vision or share a press release?

If you want to write a thought leadership article, share your ideas and vision for the future of education or the future of work, write a press release sharing the latest education news or contribute to a podcast, first of all you need to set up a FE Newsroom login (which is free): once the team have approved your newsroom (all content, newsrooms are all approved by a member of the FE News team- no robots are used in this process!), you can then start adding content (again all articles, videos and podcasts are all approved by the FE News editorial team before they go live on FE News). As all newsrooms and content are approved by the FE News team, there will be a slight delay on the team being able to review and approve content.

 RSS IconRSS Feed Selection Page