WEA wins one-year grant reprieve from combined authority

North East Combined Authority's cabinet said protests from learners informed its decision

North East Combined Authority's cabinet said protests from learners informed its decision

29 Jun 2024, 19:17

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A new combined authority has bowed to pressure from the WEA and its learners by continuing an adult education grant it initially planned to scrap.

Earlier this year the adult education charity threatened legal action, and mobilised its learners in protest, against the “shocking and devastating” decision by the North East Combined Authority (NECA) to refuse a guaranteed annual adult education budget (AEB) contract. 

Despite its long-standing grant-funded provision in the area, the fledgling combined authority initially told the WEA it would have to bid for a contract alongside private sector providers, placing 70 jobs and 1,600 learning places at risk.

WEA’s campaign appears to have paid off, with NECA now providing WEA with a one-year extension to “minimise disruption for our communities,” according to reports.

Simon Parkinson, general secretary and CEO of WEA, hopes he can convince NECA to accept his organisation as eligible for grant funding for future years, as is the case in other combined authority areas. 

“We recognise that no funding is guaranteed beyond the end of the [transition] year, nevertheless we also understand that the situation will be kept under review,” he said.

NECA was officially formed in May with the election of its first mayor, Labour’s Kim McGuinness.

McGuinness’ cabinet met on June 11 and agreed to a £2.5 million transition fund to continue grant funding five providers that “currently operate in the region” but did not meet all the grant criteria, for one year. 

Cabinet papers did not name the WEA but stated: “A specific representation from a specialist designated institution who operate [sic] in the region has been received, highlighting a potential reduction in community learning provision. 

“A number of residents have also submitted representations expressing concern over potentially losing provision that is currently delivered by the institution and a petition has been submitted to the mayor. The institution have [sic] put forward a case to be recommended as an ‘in scope’ grant-funded provider.”

The papers confirm the representations “informed the recommendation” for the transition deal.

A combined authority spokesperson told BBC North East it had “listened to the views of learners, providers and stakeholders”.

WEA is legally a designated institution, a specific category of further education institutions defined in law. The designated institutions were reclassified as public sector organisations alongside colleges by the Office for National Statistics in November 2022. Other designated institutions include London’s City Lit, The Mary Ward Centre and Fircroft College in Birmingham.

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