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  • Durham OnAir

Protest at County Hall to save WEA courses

Residents of Durham, will be gathering for a peaceful protest against the recent decision by NEMCA to de-fund the WEA. The protest is scheduled to take place on 14 March 2024 at Durham County Hall, beginning at 11am.  

The protest aims to draw attention to the detrimental effects of not funding the WEA, an organisation that has served residents of Durham for over a hundred years.   

Unlike traditional providers, the WEA teaches in familiar community settings, fostering adult-to-adult learning with a high degree of tailoring. This model ensures that education is within reach of those who are often on the margins of society – from those who did not have the best learning experience at school, fleeing domestic abuse or war, suffering from mental and physical challenges, or are suffering from isolation.   

However, recent defunding by NEMCA (North East Mayoral Combined Authority) threatens this inclusive approach, which will see over 1,600 learners with no other option. Instead, NEMCA is the focusing on colleges, excluding many vulnerable individuals.    

Participants of the march reached out to the Leader of the Council Amanda Hopgood, who declined to meet the learners. Committed to fighting the decision, residents will deliver their artwork to the County Hall and share their stories on why WEA learning has supported them.  

Crystal Jones, a learner with the WEA who will be attending the march said: “The WEA means everything to me, I like attending so I can try my hand at new discoveries. 

“I have studied a lot with the WEA. I started with a course on cooking on a budget and then moved onto crafts and have even done gardening courses. This gave me the confidence to take on different subjects, including maths, digital skills, and even food hygiene. 

“The WEA courses have helped me with my speech, I would often get nervous and stammer, but now the courses dramatically helped me improve my talking and its where I have made a lot of my friends. 

“Without the funding, the WEA cannot deliver their courses and I would have nothing to look forward to as it brightens my day to go along. If it wasn't funded everything would change and I don't want that to happen.” 

CEO and General Secretary of the WEA, Simon Parkinson said: "We refuse to stand idly by as vital educational opportunities are stripped away from our learners. We have been trying to meet with Dr Henry Kippin the Interim CEO of NEMCA for weeks to rectify this and explain why WEA not only meets the requirements, but is protected by law to receive funding.   

“I am proud of our learners for using their democratic right to protest to share the impact that the WEA has had on their lives.   

"Education is a fundamental right and to deprive individuals of the chance to learn, grow, and thrive is wrong."  

The protest will feature learners from a range of our courses, particularly community learning courses, and other community leaders, sharing personal stories and perspectives on the importance of accessible education. Attendees will have the opportunity to sign petitions and engage in peaceful demonstrations to amplify their voices and demand change.  


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