Guest blog – Conference motion on Health and Wellbeing –

Lindy Gresswell, Chair of the WEA’s Yorkshire and Humber Region, has forwarded the text of a speech supporting one of the region’s motions to last weekend’s members’ Conference. She’s sharing this as a guest blog. Lindy is a WEA student and active volunteer. She says that fellow Regional Committee member Hugh Humphrey also helped to shape the text. It’s an example of how WEA members and volunteers contribute to the Association’s development and planning through our democratic processes.

Lindy Gresswell

Lindy Gresswell

“President, delegates; Lindy Gresswell Yorkshire and Humber Region

The WEA, by giving Health and Wellbeing its own separate theme obviously recognises the benefits of this type of education.  We are now asking the trustees to initiate a dedicated marketing campaign that will inform students of these benefits.

Learning and education can have a positive effect on wellbeing. This has been reflected in numerous research studies. The Coalition Government’s new mental health strategy recognises the link between learning and mental health.

Dr Andrew McCulloch, Chief Executive of the Mental Health Foundation says:

… learning interventions could form part of the solution for people who have less severe symptoms of mild or moderate depression and anxiety as well as for those who are already on the road to recovery.

 He suggests that: Primary Care Trusts and future GP consortia should, in cooperation with local authorities, consider commissioning such programmes.

The Foresight report also quotes, ‘Learning through life has direct impacts on the mental health and wellbeing of the UK population across all age groups.’

The benefits of adult education can also be seen in other areas.  From the publication, ‘The Contribution of Adult Learning to Health and Social Capital’ Leo Feinstein et al say that,

Participation in adult learning is a significant factor in positive processes of psychological and social development, ’and appears to have all the ingredients of confidence building and rising social awareness.

At present local authorities and colleges don’t appear to offer a great deal in this area and although there are all sorts of initiatives in the community these tend to be very ad hoc, often short lived  and not co-ordinated in any way. There is a real opportunity for us to ‘up our game’ and establish ourselves in this area.

There is also research that acknowledges the benefit of volunteering on health:

A report commissioned by Volunteering England suggests that the benefits of volunteering can include:  A longer life, a healthier lifestyle, Improved family relationships, Meeting new people, Improved self-esteem and sense of purpose.

It should be possible to put together a comprehensive WEA personal development programme which would lead on to people joining other WEA courses, volunteering or other activities.  One approach could be to establish three or four flagship courses and get these into every area of the country

Obviously, a group needs setting up to look at what we have got and develop a strategy. Once we are in position to deliver a number of key courses to all parts of the country, which includes having the right tutors available, then we can initiate the marketing campaign referred to in the motion.

There may well be initiatives afoot already but we do need to move on this quickly. It is an area we have been good at over a number of years but we have now created ourselves an opportunity to move up a gear.  It is essential that we do so.”

Conference delegates voted in support of the motion so expect to see further action on this topic for the benefit of students and communities.

About Ann Walker
Adult education and lifelong learning specialist and campaigner. LinkedIn:

2 Responses to Guest blog – Conference motion on Health and Wellbeing –

  1. Health and well being is very beneficial to people’s journey, being diagnosed with bipolar disorder some 8 years ago, I have found my journey with the WEA very enriching and a very positive contributor to my positive health and to this end have encouraged many of our local mental health support group to undertake WEA courses and have had many positive comments back from course attendee’s and to this end, tomorrow I’m off to learn how to be a regional WEA mental health awareness trainer !

    Also, I can’t believe how I thoroughly enjoyed the democratic process at the 2013 Conference, all the for and against arguments and how exciting and on the edge of your seat it was when the votes had to be counted ! Hopefully when involved in the future the ambassador’s will have the right to vote, they having and contributing positively to the future of the organisation.

    • Hugh Humphrey says:

      Linked with the Health and Well Being motion is the question as to whether the WEA should aim to develop four or five flagship courses on this theme then run them out across all Regions.
      There used to be an excellent WEA Women and Health programme of courses which could easily be adapted for all students, We have some excellent material on pre-retirement courses,
      and it would not be difficult to create a specific confidence building course. We have often talked about having courses which are ‘jewels in the crown’ and it would really enhance our
      new theme of Health and Well Being if we could create a few such courses there and then have a marketing campaign to run them out in all Regions.

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