Transcript of Workers Educational Association Area Tutor Organiser Elizabeth Bryan's filmed talk about the one day schools in 1957-1958
I'm Elizabeth Bryan, the Area Tutor Organiser for the Workers Educational Association (WEA) in the Edinburgh and Lothians area.
Starting off in a kitchen with two and six from the housekeeping, the WEA has grown now to being one of the largest UK charities in Scotland. There are branches around the country and classes run in almost every local authority in Scotland.
There's still a very strong partnership with the trade unions and we run courses in partnership with a whole mix of different organisations including libraries, museums and archives.
This is a very interesting item in the National Library of Scotland because it's a listing of one day schools organised by the WEA southeast Scotland district in 1957, 1958.
Very topical issues of the time are being covered in the one day schools. Issues like Japan in the post-war years, looking at the recession, looking at pensions, the hydrogen bomb, looking at parliament as well. And literature. So all topics actually that we could run a WEA programme on today.
Some of the people who are leading the different one day schools are very interesting as well because I see names like Jack Kane and Hamish Henderson mentioned. Jack Kane was the WEA southeast Scotland district secretary from 1955 until 1976. But he's also very well known in Edinburgh because he was a councillor for the Craigmillar area for over 38 years and the first Labour Lord Provost of the city of Edinburgh.
Another very interesting speaker is Hamish Henderson. Hamish Henderson was giving a talk here on literature as a social and political weapon. And of course in the 1950s Hamish Henderson was really the catalyst for the folk revival in Scotland and the founder of the School of Scottish Studies at Edinburgh University and a well-known poet and songwriter in his own right.
There are very high numbers of men taking part. In adult education today we see quite a lot of women involved particularly in one day schools or one off workshops but very high numbers of men involved in the adult education programme at this time. This is partly, I would imagine, because of the strong involvement of the trade unions in the programme and the high number of members of the workforce who would have been men in the 1950s rather than women.
One of the really important aspects about the WEA programme, as well as it being about opening up education for working people and about the kinds of courses that were being run, is the way the classes were delivered.
We have a quote from Jack Kane which really I think epitomises that. This is Jack Kane writing in 1957 'There is one point in which the WEA place great stress. That is the quality of their teachers. It's not simply a case of lecturing to people. We don't think that this is adult education. We try to get the highest possible degree of student participation and at least half the time in all classes is devoted to discussion. The classes are always tailored to suit the student.'
So the idea really about the programme was that, and this dates back very much to the early tutorial classes in the WEA, that the people taking part in the programmes were bringing a lot of their experience and knowledge to the discussions and the debates as well as the tutor or the lecturer who was leading the course.