WEA Update June 18


This fifth edition of the monthly e-briefs by WEA Scotland features a number of staff and student successes from the past few weeks.  The work of WEA Scotland has also been recognised at a Scottish Parliament Reception and in meetings with the Cabinet Secretary for Economy Jobs and Fair Work.  Beyond these political and media opportunities the WEA continues to do what it does best: provide and deliver a breadth of high quality learning that makes a positive impact to individuals and communities across Scotland.  Much of this good work is also captured in this edition.

I am grateful for all the positive comments and feedback on the monthly e-briefs from staff, learners, volunteers and external stakeholders.  Please keep them coming.  If you want to know more about any of the work we feature please don’t hesitate to get in touch.  Equally if you think there are colleagues or other organisations that might benefit from working with the WEA, I would be delighted to have a conversation with them at any time.

Conscientious Objection in Scotland: Legacies of Resistance

In last month’s e-brief we reported on the excellent project work to bring to life the meaning of Conscientious Objection across Scotland and show the legacy of those who were branded as cowards or traitors for refusing to kill as part of the resistance to the First World War.

In the past month, there have been a number of project dissemination events culminating with a reception at the Scottish Parliament on May 23rd.  This was sponsored and hosted by Christine McKelvie MSP who is the Convenor of the Scottish Parliament’s Equalities and Human Rights Committee.  The evening was a great success and enjoyed by the learners staff and partner stakeholders who attended it.

I am grateful to Kait Laughlin for delivering such excellent work.  We hope to have a film of the event and photographs available soon.

Meeting with Cabinet Secretary

A bit like buses, you wait for ages then two come along at once….  On the same evening as the Parliamentary Reception for the Conscientious Objectors Project, I joined a few colleagues from across Scotland who were invited to meet with Keith Brown, the Cabinet Secretary for Economy Jobs and Fair Work.  We were invited to meet with him on the third anniversary of Scotland’s Business Pledge.  The aim of the meeting was to provide feedback on the Pledge and how best it could be progressed going forward.

For those of you who are not aware, signatories to Scotland’s Business Pledge, of which the WEA is one, essentially agree to conduct their business ethically as measured by a number of tests.  There are nine tests and include practices such as paying the living wage, no zero hours contracts, engaging with your workforce, paying bills promptly and a number of others.  Full details of the Pledge can be found on the Scottish Governments website.

This was to say the least an interactive full on discussion with lots of views shared.  However as this was a private meeting to the Cabinet Room of the First Minster’s residence at Bute House, no pictures were taken for the media.  You will therefore just have to take my word for it that I kept the Deputy First Ministers seat warm for him.......

WEA Scotland Staff Successes

This month I am delighted to recognise three members of staff who in addition to delivering an excellent service to their learners, have found the time and made the extra effort to achieve additional qualifications.  Balancing part time study with a full time job says much about the professionalism and commitment of these staff and they should be congratulated for such an excellent achievement.

Ross Weatherby who leads the Reach Out Project in the North East, completed his BA in Professional Development.  Ross has spent the last two years combining his work for the WEA with part time university study.  His degree culminated with a twelve day intensive visit to Portugal where Ross focussed on how digital learning can optimise the experience of learners.

In the West of Scotland, Craig Brown and Stewart Fraser both completed their Higher National Unit: Teaching ESOL Literacies to Adults.  This is an SCQF Level 9 award and was taken in the evenings (after a hard day at the WEA!!) over a ten week period. The course focussed on the assessment of learner needs then planning, delivering and evaluating an appropriate learning intervention.  There was also a significant amount of reflective learning which both Craig and Stewart reported as being very beneficial in enhancing their skills and capabilities.

Developments across Scotland

North East Scotland: Mental Health Awareness

In addition to completing his degree in the past few weeks, Ross Weatherby has also been spreading the word about Reach Out via Prison Radio in Aberdeen.  Ross was invited to the prison to talk about the opportunities on Reach Out as part of a wider conversation on Mental Health.  He was interviewed at length much of which was aired on the prisoners radio show.  We hope to have pictures and excerpts from the radio show in due course.


Innovations in ESOL in WEA Highland

Few of us can probably fully appreciate the challenges of starting a new life in a new country and being unable to speak the language.  The WEA is helping learners meet these challenges every day and enabling learners to integrate more quickly and effectively into Scottish Communities.

Mark Thomson from Highland has added some new and innovative programmes to the core provision of helping people with the language or to enable them to find work.  Firstly, he has set up a new group to support those ESOL learners who are also profoundly deaf.  This is not only innovative but must be incredibly welcome to those facing this additional challenge of integration.  Without this response and proactive provision this would be one further additional barrier this group of learners would need to overcome.  In offering this service it is helping prevent the isolation that could otherwise occur and providing a real opportunity and support to this most challenged of learner groups.

Other additions to our ESOL provision in Highland are equally innovative, exciting and potentially replicable across the whole of Scotland.  Supported by the local MSP: Drew Hendry, Mark has set up classes for ESOL learners, specifically targeted at those who need to have the language capability to pass their driving test.  This will not only improve their language skills but will also enable them to be more mobile, integrate better to the wider community and improve their employment prospects.

Another innovation has seen Mark utilise WhatsApp as a learning tool with learners recording their language skills on the phone and getting feedback from Mark via a voice recording on WhatsApp.  While many staff and learners might baulk at the use of technology, this innovative approach builds on the fact that while not everyone can access or wants to use a computer for learning, everyone owns and uses a phone. This is a great example of working with technology in a meaningful learner centred way as opposed to using technology because pedagogy says you should!!

Glasgow Mail Workers Short Film

The CWU Learners at the Glasgow Mail Centre have now completed their short film: “Up Oor Close”.  The film was premiered at the Radical Film Festival on May 7th to a packed audience who rightly recognised and appreciated the learners’ outstanding work.  This film is the culmination of nine months’ work for the learners who have undertaken learning in research skills, screenwriting, then acquiring the skills to turn their script into a short film.  They were helped to make their film by established screen writer Danny McMahon, film maker Stuart Platt and actor Atta Yaqub.

Watch this space for the film in due course.

Download June e-brief

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