Women defend 'leisure courses'

10th October 2008 at 01:00
The WI has joined the battle to stop the attrition of adult learning opportunities

The women's organisation that embarrassed Tony Blair with heckles and slow handclaps in 2000 is backing a campaign to protect adult education.

The National Federation of Women's Institutes has cast off its cosy jam- making and hymn-singing image to join around 60 other organisations in the Campaigning Alliance for Lifelong Learning (CALL).

The WI, which has a long history of involvement in adult education and runs its own college in Oxfordshire, is turning its attention to the government policy that has seen a 1.5 million drop in the number of post- 19s on courses.

Joy Greasley, vice-chair of the federation and a tutor at the WI-run Denman College, said: "When Tony Blair came to the meeting, that's when people started to take us seriously. Although it wasn't necessarily a good thing for Tony Blair, it put us into the spotlight.

"Our stand on things was something that people noticed."

The WI has been a campaigning organisation for decades, taking on issues from equal pay to breast cancer screening.

Ms Greasley said the organisation now wanted to challenge the restriction of educational opportunities for adults.

"We are concerned it's going to cut off our members from something we believe they are entitled to," she said.

"For the people we represent, particularly those in middle age or later, it keeps minds active and provides a healthy outlook on life."

Denman College, set up 60 years ago to provide paid-for residential and daytime courses, offers 6,000 paying students each year hundreds of subjects, ranging from digital photography to history.

It was "leisure courses" such as these that the Government intended to stop funding when it changed its priorities to favour work-based courses through the Train to Gain programme.

Ministers argued that to meet the stringent targets set by Lord Leitch's review of the nation's skills they could not put resources into classes that did not result in recognised qualifications.

But Ms Greasley said that, in her organisation's experience, "leisure courses" were vital and often equipped people with practical skills for employment or improving their community.

As well as the WI, the campaign includes organisations ranging from the Church of England to education bodies such as the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education.

At the launch of the campaign last week, Alan Tuckett, director of Niace, said: "We are here to argue the case that people can be trusted to make judgments about what they need to learn and when they need to learn it."

Subscribe to get access to the content on this page.

If you are already a Tes/ Tes Scotland subscriber please log in with your username or email address to get full access to our back issues, CPD library and membership plus page.

Not a subscriber? Find out more about our subscription offers.
Subscribe now
Existing subscriber?
Enter subscription number

Comments

The guide by your side – ensuring you are always up to date with the latest in education.

Get Tes magazine online and delivered to your door. Stay up to date with the latest research, teacher innovation and insight, plus classroom tips and techniques with a Tes magazine subscription.
With a Tes magazine subscription you get exclusive access to our CPD library. Including our New Teachers’ special for NQTS, Ed Tech, How to Get a Job, Trip Planner, Ed Biz Special and all Tes back issues.

Subscribe now