A new partnership between the Co-operative College and the Workers’ Educational Association has been launched at the House of Commons by John Hayes MP, Minister of State (Further Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning), at a Parliamentary Reception hosted by MP Stephen Twigg. The Co-operative College joined members of the Co-operative Group and the WEA, the country’s biggest voluntary sector provider of adult learning, on 22 June to celebrate the partnership, which is the first of its kind for over 100 years.
The Co-operative movement and the WEA have a common heritage, working in adult education, community development and business to improve the quality of life for thousands of people. The WEA was formed in 1903 to open up access to higher education for working men and women. Its chief founder, Albert Mansbridge, worked as a clerk with the Co-operative Wholesale Society, and brought co-operatives, trade unions and the universities together in what he called ‘an adventure in working class education’. He was also an early advocate of the case for setting up a Co-operative College.
Richard Bolsin, General Secretary of the WEA, said:
“We are pleased to announce plans to build closer links nationally and amongst members locally, working together to help strengthen civil society through programmes designed to empower citizenship and strengthen democracy. This collaboration builds on the Co-operative’s and the WEA’s shared interests, values and policy positions.
Key areas of work will include projects on international development, research, campaigning, exploring our joint heritage, growing our capacity through the development of our increasing memberships, including trustee development, and supporting the Co-operative College in the development of co-operative schools.”
Mervyn Wilson, Chief Executive and Principal of the Co-operative College said:
“We have always believed that active citizens enrich communities. Through this partnership we will work together to build on our strengths in working with members and their communities and explore ways in which the WEA can contribute to the growth of co-operative trust schools by developing and embedding values of active citizenship, health and well-being, democracy and equality within each school and across the communities they serve.”
Marilynne Burbage, Chair of the Co-operative Group’s national Values and Principles Committee, added:
“The Co-operative movement and the WEA have a proud record going back well over 100 years of working in the heart of local communities across the UK. Much of that work helps to promote more sustainable, confident localities and to improve the quality of life for individuals and their communities. Our shared values mean that working more closely together is a natural step and one we hope will increase the impact of our work.”