I imagine many of us watched the tennis match on Sunday the 7th July and saw Andy Murray grit his teeth, strain every nerve, and those of the crowd, to achieve the elusive title of Wimbledon Champion. It was an extraordinary feat watched with almost painful intensity by thousands of devoted fans, and millions around the world. We all have a satisfaction in success, and we all want a little of the action for ourselves.
Looking around the UK at the moment we have never needed inspiration more. The recession drags on.
The Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) settlement, whilst not catastrophic for the WEA, will inflict most damage on fragile communities and many individuals will experience redundancy and insecurity for themselves and their families.
The WEA is fighting back. This year we will have delivered a strong and solid performance against all our key objectives. This is a tribute to the teamwork which I see every day and the efforts we all put in every day – like Andy Murray we will not be beaten.
My visit to Rochester – our admin and support hub for London and Southern regions was a case in point. The team there is an example of excellent practice in the WEA. Smooth and efficient practices resulting in excellent support for our tutors and learners. Despite managing huge amounts of change the Rochester office is full of smiling faces, high morale and a commitment to succeed.
This month has also seen the temperature rise both in respect of the weather and politics. We are seeing the parties gearing up in time for the next election ( May 2015 ) and the referendum in Scotland ( September 2014 ). The WEA has been proactive on Family Learning, The Pupil Premium, and the impact of WEA learning working with our knowledge and research and through our partnerships, but also through our parliamentary friends, supporters, volunteers and ambassadors.
We have three major campaigns running this year on disadvantaged women, learning for parents and families along encouraging people to engage in local decision-making in the run up to next year’s European elections, the Scottish referendum and the 2015 general election. Our voice will be important on issues of disability, community cohesion, health and wellbeing, in-work poverty and lack of access to affordable further and higher education. We will also be emphasising the importance of culture and the arts to inspire and enthuse adult learners, combat isolation and improve lives. We will also be fundraising for our colleagues in Zambia, sharing knowledge and experience.
The 40% drop in adult participation in learning over the past few years is very worrying and so far the policy response has been disappointing. There is no clear political focus on adult education or a widespread recognition of the social and economic benefits of adult learning If our economy is to be successful we must find ways to be innovative and create opportunities for adults in their communities to progress and to learn throughout their lives. This is the unique contribution of the WEA.