RaPAL

Research and Practice in Adult Literacy – a friendly group

Lindsay Cussons

Lindsay Cussons, WEA

Lindsay Cussons and Vicki ColyerI hadn’t heard of WEA before I started attending their classes. The previous adult learning class I’d taken part in was a French course at Chester University, which I found stressful because it was too academic and formal for me.

I found out about WEA when I went to St Peter’s Church in Chester. Everyone seemed friendly and I started talking to Amanda (Derry) who asked if I’d like to join a drop-in art class she was starting up within the church. When I was young I thought I was hopeless at art because I felt discouraged by my school art teacher. However, Amanda seemed very understanding and supportive so I came back the following week. I also started attending a WEA creative writing class at Hoole Community Centre which Amanda went to herself, and invited me to. Through going to the writing class, I’ve gained employment as a support tutor there. I respect the overall ethos of WEA towards adult education. I’m also a volunteer in Amanda’s WEA art class, which evolved from a drop-in workshop. I’ve learned that art can be for everyone to explore and take an interest in, and I’ve developed my creativity and confidence.

I didn’t gain what I wanted from school and college, because they didn’t accommodate my particular needs which included an eyesight difficulty. Through the WEA classes I’ve been involved in, I feel my learning needs have been taken care of and I’ve had a much more satisfactory learning experience.

Tutor Perspective: Amanda Derry

Lindsay first joined my group when it was a voluntary arts workshop, at St. Peter’s Church in Chester; about three years ago. When I became a WEA adult learning tutor I changed the workshop into a WEA class, with the help of 3rd Space umbrella organisation who became partners with WEA and Andy Jurgis, my Learning Manager. The transition wasn’t always an easy one, but with the help of Lindsay who became voluntary support tutor, I received strong support and encouragement which I did need at times! I find Lindsay’s enquiring attitude, contributions to the group (often through ‘Show and Tells’) and ability to befriend students from all backgrounds a big inspiration; and she always brings her exuberant personality to the table.

Lindsay has experienced many difficulties in her past including hip pain which was constant until she had a replacement at the age of forty, and an eyesight disability which means she’s partially sighted. She also has a motor skills impairment so she can find simple tasks difficult, which the rest of us take for granted. These obstacles haven’t stopped her from gaining employment, studying, travelling and living a varied life with many interests. She has obtained employment in another WEA class (although still comes to mine) and when talking to her, she explained she feels comfortable in my class, enjoys the lessons and meeting people; and is very supportive of the class’s diverse and inclusive approach:

“The Therapeutic Arts and Crafts group has enhanced my artistic skills. When I was younger I used to think that I was hopeless at art, but now I know that art is for everyone and we can all be creative. I feel relaxed when I come to the class.”

WEA

WEAFounded in 1903, the Workers’ Educational Association (WEA) is a charity and the UK’s largest voluntary sector provider of adult education. In 2014/15 we delivered 9,700 part-time courses for over 70,000 students in England and Scotland with classes in almost every local authority area and our work in England was assessed in 2014 as ‘Good’ by Ofsted.

The WEA is committed to supporting students to develop their English and maths skills and offers a range of non-accredited and accredited courses across its nine regions in England. For many, our provision serves as a first step back into learning. It is central to our mission, vision and our approach to education and learning. Many of our English and maths students are enrolled on entry level provision, hoping to gain higher level qualifications in the future to secure employment or to further their learning. Many face a number of challenges including low self-esteem, a lack of confidence in their skills, poor pay or unemployment and challenging living conditions. We work in partnership, within communities, to reach those often hardest to reach; providing them with opportunities to develop their skills.

With the support of nearly 400 local branches, 3,000 volunteers, 2,000 part-time tutors and our active membership, the WEA provides high quality, student-centred and tutor-led education for adults from all walks of life. We bring education into the heart of communities, helping people learn whatever they want – from maths, English and skills for employment, through health and wellbeing courses, to cultural studies that help students broaden their horizons and community engagement programmes that encourage active citizenship.

We believe learning is for everyone and learning is for life. It helps people feel that anything is possible. It can be life-enhancing and life-changing – improving health, self-confidence and creating positive changes that ripple out from individuals to communities.

We also have a special mission to reach those who want to improve their lives and communities. Education is a beautiful and powerful tool for tackling economic and social disadvantage because it raises aspirations and helps people create their own change. We campaign for adult education and whether you want to become a student, member, volunteer, tutor or partner, you are always welcome to the WEA.

So learn the WEA way – friendly, accessible education on your doorstep. You do not need any previous knowledge or qualifications to join most of our courses, only a willingness to share with others your curiosity, ideas and experience.

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