Showcasing the social impact of learning

6 April 2016

Festival of Learning builds on the success of 24 years of Adult Learners’ Weeks, and nominations for this year’s awards are now open. Ruth Spellman, Chief Executive of the Workers’ Educational Association (WEA), tells us about this year’s brand new award category – the Social Impact Award, sponsored by the WEA. Visit the Festival of Learning website for more information about the awards, the award categories and how to nominate.


The Workers’ Educational Association (WEA) is sponsoring the Festival of Learning Social Impact Award because we find the stories of many of our learners inspirational.  They overcome personal, social and educational disadvantages and become exemplars in their communities.


People like Ray Bullock who set up Endurance, which organises residential trips for rough sleepers, recovering alcoholics and people with mental health issues, taking them through their own personal development journey.


Having recently completed an MA in writing and philosophy at Liverpool John Moore’s University, Ray is now building writing skills into the Endurance offer.


Or Johurun Nessa, who joined our biggest environmental project two years ago in Newcastle upon Tyne, called Greening Wingrove, developing links with dozens of local community groups and introducing “community living rooms” which generate great ideas to improve the local neighbourhood.


My reasons are also personal.


My grandfather left school aged 11 and started his learning journey with the WEA in 1911 and went to Ruskin College, Oxford, and to Cambridge University, sponsored by his trade union.


He inspired his fellow workers and my sisters and I to value education, not only for personal gain but for the good it can do in the world.  Social impact can be measured in many ways, but community benefits and intergenerational impact are at the heart of this award.


For more information about the Festival of Learning including how to submit nominations for awards please visit the website The deadline for nominations for 2016 awards is 5pm on 20 May 2016.


The Festival of Learning is part-funded by the European Social Fund (ESF) to help publicise ESF activities and outputs. The ESF is a European Union initiative that supports activities to improve employment opportunities, promote social inclusion and invest in skills. So far, the current ESF programme in England has committed over £1.2 billion to jobs and skills.  Funding is being used to:


  • help young people, jobseekers and inactive people access employment;
  • tackle barriers to work faced by disadvantaged people; and
  • invest in education, skills and lifelong learning.


You can find out more at