We’ve had a lovely mention in this WEA newsletter, by Ruth Spellman, Chief Executive of the WEA (national).
CHIEF EXECUTIVE’S MONTHLY UPDATE – SEPTEMBER 2013
Since my last E-brief the pace of events has accelerated even more than anticipated! There are lots of good things happening. As always at this time of the year the party conferences have just concluded and we are suffering from an excess of sound-bites from politicians seeking our mandate. A timely reminder that the work the WEA does to engage students with the political process is badly needed. When David Cameron thinks the price of a value of loaf of bread is “North of £1” and Boris Johnson thinks a pint costs £0.80p, you really do have to ask yourself if our politicians are in touch with the realities of life. Perhaps Ed Miliband is right after all to focus on the cost of living. We hope all three parties will give some thought to the education agenda between now and the day of the election.
Over the past month the external events I have attended include the Eastern Region Centenary which was held at Trinity College Cambridge. It was a wonderful celebration of the achievements of our staff, volunteers and students and an opportunity to say thank you to friends and supporters. Gordon Vowles and Peter Threadkell did an excellent job in hosting the event and many congratulations to the staff team involved. As Gordon pointed out it was in Cambridge 100 years ago that the first AGM took place for the Women’s Suffragette Movement. Also although Cambridge University is 800 years old, it was only in 1948 that it first admitted women to study for degrees. It was highly fitting that the great granddaughter of Albert Mansbridge was there in person. Other events include the WEA Council Meeting which took place on September 6th. This was very well attended despite very busy diaries and Council meetings are proving very effective vehicles for face to face communication between staff, volunteers and regions.
I attended a meeting at NIACE to discuss Adult Learners Week and I am pleased to say that NIACE has awarded funding contracts to both the Eastern and Yorkshire & Humber regions for 2014. Many congratulations to those involved in the bid. The Adult Learners Week remains a key opportunity for the WEA to raise its profile, and to celebrate the achievements of our students. Now that we are helping to shape the week through my involvement in NIACE and the credibility of the WEA as a delivery partner for years, we hope it will be even more beneficial in future.
We have had meetings of our Audit and Risk and Education Committees and all have been helpful in clarifying our risks, opportunities and priorities for 2013/14. Preparations are well advanced for Ofsted and I am delighted to say that the reports being produced are rigorous, concise and easy to read summaries which will help all staff, tutors and volunteers as well as Ofsted to understand the strengths of the WEA, areas for improvement and the range of our educational delivery. The SAR will of course be consistently updated through the year, as will the improvement plans. Web-links will be provided later in October.
I attended the “Women Mean Business Launch” at the Newark Exchange in Nottingham at the invitation of East Mids region. This was one of the best events of its kind which I have ever attended, aspirational, motivational and brimming with ideas which we in the WEA can take forward. I am very grateful to Mel Lenehan for building the links with this important group and for leading us forward towards a strategy for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion. EDI is at the heart of the DNA of the WEA. I met with Michael Wheeler (Chief Executive of Hillcroft College) who wants to work in closer partnership with the WEA and with the Director of the Wallace Collection in London, who again wants to discuss partnership. This latter initiative is being followed up by Natasha Chatterjee, who is the new BDM for the London region and other staff from the London region. There could be the potential to build on the work with museums and with galleries taking place in other regions (eg the North West, Yorkshire, etc). I know Natasha and the London region will be keen to learn from other WEA experience.
Finally, I received a very warm thank you letter from the Skills Minister, Matt Hancock on 9th September, thanking me for my input as a member of the National Careers Council. I think there is a bigger role for the WEA to play in adult careers advise and I will be discussing these issues with SMT. There have been a number of successes to record in September regarding funding bids and our core education delivery is steaming ahead as normal.
- North West Region secured funding for one financial project from the Skills Funding Agency amounting to £174,000.
- Southern Region was successful in one financial project from East Surrey College amounting to £295,270.
- Yorkshire and Humber Region was successful in one financial project Grundtvig amounting to £340,089.
- North West Region was successful in three financial projects, one from Cheshire East Council amounting to £16,000; one from Warrington Borough Council amounting to £13,000 and one from Cumbria County Council amount not yet known.
- Southern Region was successful in six financial projects, one from Oxford and Cherwell Valley College amounting to £16,000; two from Slough Borough Council amounting to £28,000 in total; one from West Berkshire amounting to £25,244; one from Reading Borough Council amounting to £9,250 and one from Oxfordshire County Council amounting to £10,000.
- West Midlands Region was successful in six financial projects, one from Worcestershire County Council amounting to £18,584; one from Inspire Community Training and Development amounting to £1,353; two from Telford and Wrekin Council amounting to £21,200 in total; one from Community Learning amounting to £750 and one from Stoke City Council amounting to £1,530.
- Yorkshire and Humber Region was successful in one financial project from Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council amounting to £2,125.
We have auditors in at the moment, a conference to prepare for and enjoy, and a potential Ofsted pending. However, I want to acknowledge all the hard work which is going on across the Associations and in Scotland and commend everyone for “doing more with less” which seems to be the daily challenge.
We are setting up a working group to address issues arising from the Staff Survey (without creating another mountain of work) and we are looking at all our systems and processes to try to save both time and money.
Enjoy the conference. I’m very much looking forward to it. It will be my first as your CEO and General Secretary, so no pressure!