The WEA welcomes the NIACE & Ofsted Joint Project: Illuminating Excellent Practice in Family Learning which complements the Association’s own campaign to promote the value of education for parents.
The WEA was founded in an era when compulsory education had only recently been raised to the age of 11 by adults who understood that their access to education was critical to a more equal society – an educated democracy. The WEA quickly grew in working class communities as adults demanded the chance to study and debate issues concerning them. Today the WEA is still committed to the idea that education belongs to the individual (not the state) and that fostering it through families, communities and workplaces is vital to a successful society.
Delivering on that commitment today means providing educational opportunities in disadvantaged communities that resonate with adults living there. One of these is the aspiration of parents and carers for their children to succeed in education. They know that, even today, good education is a route out of poverty and builds the confidence for a successful and fulfilled life. They value local schools and children’s centres as vital community resources.
In most cases, these adults begin their classes with little idea of what it might lead to for themselves. However, their own return to education can quickly restore their own confidence and aspirations. Many resume their own education and make progress, setting an example to their children at the same time. The WEA has seen countless parents move on to volunteering and work – often in support of local schools and children’s centres. This process has been happening for more than two decades in some of the most disadvantaged communities in England.
Genuine partnership working is the key to this approach. In many neighbourhoods across the country, the WEA has longstanding relationships with schools and local services that are meeting the needs of families. By making a commitment to this work nationally and combining it with great local practice, the WEA continues its social purpose mission today.
However, the need to promote educational success for disadvantaged families is as critical as ever. The WEA supports the recommendations of the NIACE Commission of Inquiry into Family Learning and calls upon schools and government departments to promote the use of resources such as the pupil premium to increase the involvement of parents in learning in schools. It also supports moves by Ofsted to include the assessment of family learning and parent involvement in its inspections of schools and pre-school provision.