From education to employment

Workers” Educational Association (WEA) Receives Improved Review after Failing 200

Inspections can often be a dreaded event that signals massive upheaval for underperforming organisations. With Sir Andrew Foster recommending an even shorter period for institutions to effect changes following a negative inspection report, the stress of the inspectors” visit is likely to continue.

In the case of the Workers” Educational Association (WEA), a charitable organisation, the inspection report from the Adult Learning Inspectorate (ALI) in 2004 was just the shock required to act as a catalyst for change. The latest inspection revealed that the level of provision had leapt from “very weak” to “satisfactory” in just two years (specifically in the case of the quality assurance of the courses).

The Inspection

The Inspection in 2004 followed a financial and management crisis. The report has found that “significant changes in both the structure of the WEA and in the quality of its provision have been well managed. Leadership is strong and has enabled the WEA to re-establish a clear direction and purpose, and to restore its reputation as a provider.”

The report went on to speak of specific areas of provision. It stated that “teaching in English courses is particularly good and nearly a third of lessons observed were outstanding.” The inspectors highlighted the effective use of partnerships in recruiting new learners, stating: “partnership working remains a key strength of the WEA and is used very effectively to attract and support new learners, particularly in targeted provision.”

Following the previous negative inspection, radical changes were needed at the WEA. It is now managed by a new team headed by Richard Bolsin, and now consists of nine Regions that correspond to the Governmental demarcation lines. This ensures a smoother cooperation with the various regional Learning and Skills Councils (LSCs) and other government services. In late February the Association will incorporate, a crucial step to put the organisation on the same legal footing as other large charities.

Reaction to Improvement

Richard Bolsin, the General Secretary of the WEA, was clearly delighted at the improvement and said: “I am delighted with what our staff and volunteers have achieved across the country in the last twenty months in terms of curriculum leadership, restructuring, constitutional change and financial recovery.”

Adult learning funding through the LSC remains a concern, following the real terms cut in funding in the previous funding statement and indications that further cuts will be made in the years ahead. In a reference to the uncertain future of LSC funding for adult and community learning, he said: “I am pleased that the WEA has recovered from its problems, had this recognised by the Inspectorate, and can now speak with confidence in favour of adult learning that changes lives and communities.”

Jethro Marsh

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