First news from National Conference
I’m just back from National Conference at Cambridge – rather tired, but it has been great to meet with some inspirational people from WEA, our partner organisations in the UK and from like-minded education providers in other countries. I’ll write something in more detail for these pages shortly – and I will pick the brains of other conference delegates John Swinfield-Wells and Mike Griffiths to help me, but here are a few bits of news to be going on with. Please note that any comments or interpretations are my own personal take on the events.
Sunday 4.30 pm, A personal note – I flagged with this post half finished last night, and sniffled off to bed with my Conference souvenir, a streaming cold, so my apologies that I am not so quick off the mark with news as I had hoped to be.
The membership question was a contentious issue with strong arguments presented both for and against. It was a close vote but in the end the motion was defeated by 42 votes to 36, with 10 abstentions.
To remind you, it was proposed that the existing membership scheme should close on 31st December 2013, and a new one start from 1st January 2014. Had the motion at conference succeeded, existing members would have been invited to join from November onwards.
So, what had the new scheme looked like? Briefly, our students could become members of the WEA Association by paying an annual fee (£15 suggested). N.B. It’s important to remember that it was perfectly OK to come to our classes without becoming a member. However people like branch and regional committee members must be members of the WEA Association but, as registered WEA volunteers on the national database, they could be members without payment if they so wished. Members would have access to the WEA Intranet where they could maintain and update their personal details, find out how to engage with WEA democracy, and find out more about WEA activities and volunteers across the country.
Those speaking for the motion argued that, for WEA to be a credible campaigning organisation, we need a membership that has demonstrated real commitment. Paying a membership fee and active volunteering are both ways in which this commitment can be shown, unlike just ticking a box on the enrolment form. Membership numbers would inevitably drop, but the new figure would represent honestly those with a real interest in supporting and furthering WEA’s work. The scheme should generate enough income to be self financing and even make a surplus to help fund our work.
Some of the opposing points made were that firstly to many people, £15 is a significant sum, so they could be financially excluded from playing a fuller part in WEA’s affairs; volunteers give much in time and effort and would resent the fact that they had to opt out of paying the fee, feeling that they should not be asked in the first place; the measure would not be effective as most people would decide not to join, unless they were volunteers who could do so without charge, so it could actually have a bad effect on our finances.
So it is time to think again about how we can generate an active core of committed members, What do you think? Why not share your ideas with your branch committee or comment below.
Below are brief details of motions 2 and 17 that are rather linked in their themes; both concerned the benefits to students in addition to the learning that takes place, Both of these were accepted with good majorities.
Motion 2 urged the initiation of a marketing campaign that stressed benefits to physical and mental well-being from adult education and volunteering.
Motion 17 urged that these benefits in addition to learning should be further investigated, with a view to trying to get such things assessed and credited in OFSTED inspections.