ECA Annual Conference and AGM Report

The ECA held its 2012 AGM and Annual Conference at Leicester College of Adult Education on 10th November. Entitled ‘Changing States – Lifelong Learning at a Time of Transition’ the conference focused on the funding opportunities available from the European Lifelong Learning Programme.

Guest speakers at the event included both Sue Waddington, President, and Gina Ebner, Secretary General from the European Association for the Education of Adults (EAEA), Jim Bradley, from Stirling University, Mark Ravenhall, from NIACE as well as ECA Chair Bernard Godding and ECA Trustee Judith Robinson.

The morning session looked at projects past and present connected to the ECA which had been funded over the last 7 years under the EU programme.

First Jim spoke about the REAL Project, a new project funded under the programme with which he is involved and which will start in early 2013. The project will build on the success of the ECA’s Flexi-Path project and extend, adapt and develop the Flexi-Path toolkit so that it can be used by anyone teaching adults who wishes to accredit their competences based on relevant experience. It will use national qualification frameworks of the partner countries to help develop a toolkit focused on enabling learners to validate their own experience against their own national framework. It also hopes to change the power relationships which currently favour the receiving institution and tend to work against both the applicant and the whole ethos of RPEL (Recognition of Prior Experiential Learning).

Bernard and Judith then showcased previous work carried out by the Association which had been funded by the Grundtvig and Leonardo strands of the EU programme including TeddyBear an intergenerational learning project, TEACh an active citizenship project and Flexi-Path which developed a tool to assess competencies of senior staff in the sector.

The afternoon looked at the future of the Lifelong Learning Programme and its transition to the new funding programme ‘Erasmus for All’ which is expected to start in 2014.

Mark, Director for Policy and Impact at NIACE, has recently taken on the role of leading NIACE’s programme of work related to the EU as UK National Coordinator of Adult Learning. He spoke to delegates about the role of the National Co-ordinators which includes ensuring effective liaison, coordinating the actions of various actors and sensitising them to EU policies as well as raising awareness of adult learning. He also talked about the EU agenda priorities which included making lifelong learning and mobility a reality, improving the quality and efficiency of education and training, promoting equality, social cohesion and active citizenship through adult learning, enhancing the creativity and innovation of adults and their learning environments and improving the knowledge base on adult learning and monitoring the adult learning sector.

Gina leads the advocacy work of EAEA, of which the ECA is an associate member. She explained in some detail the processes of negotiation which have taken place over many months to set a new framework for the Commission’s support of education and training initiatives. It includes a proposal for an integrated programme of education, training, youth and sport with a total budget of 15,2 billion Euros for 2014-2020, a considerable increase in these areas according to the Commission. A simplification of the current structure to one main programme for Education and Training has been outlined. It has been suggested this would avoid fragmentation, overlapping and/or proliferation of projects few of which have the critical mass necessary to make a lasting impact.

Sue Waddington used her extensive knowledge of UK and wider European adult education movements to explore issues with delegates and the two previous speakers.

This led to some interesting cross-questioning and following the dialogue the conference was brought to its end with thanks to all the speakers.

The Association’s AGM saw Walt Crowson elected as Honorary Secretary and Naomi Godding re-elected as National Treasurer. Members also voted to keep membership fees for 2013 at the current level.

Date Added: November 22nd 2012