Course Talk: Moving on from ARCA

Course Talk: Moving on from ARCA

Listed on November 27, 2013 in Spotlight

After most of a lifetime involved in adult education, former Principal of Pendrell Hall David Evans talks to us about residential learning and working with ARCA – formerly the Adult Residential Colleges Association.

LC – ‘Non-vocational residential adult education’ is quite a mouthful – in a nutshell how would you describe what this means?

DE – It is difficult to put it into a nutshell, but can be described as learning for its own sake in a residential setting with like-minded people from all walks of life. An opportunity to escape from everyday life and to be totally absorbed in the subject of your choice for a few days.

LC – David, you were formerly Head of ARCA – how long did you work with the association and what were your main responsibilities ?

DE – I worked for ARCA for just under 20 years and in that time played an active role in the management of the association as a committee member, Chairperson and Treasurer

LC – What kind of courses did you offer at Pendrell Hall and what were the most attractive features of your programme ?

DE – Courses at Pendrell Hall ranged from art and craft to music to history to IT – in fact across the whole spectrum. I think that the uniqueness of participating in a course with not only local tutors, but those with a national and international following was important. I am also a firm believer that in a weekend course a learner can cover as much ground as participating in a whole term of non-residential adult education.

LC – Staffordshire County Council made a decision to close Pendrell Hall College in 2010 – what have you been working on since then?

DE – I retired in 2009 not knowing that the College would be closed a year after I left. For the next 4 years I continued as Treasurer for ARCA and still participated in campaigning for residential adult education.

LC – Before it’s closure, Pendrell Hall offered a vast range of weekend courses – Was there an evolution over the years as to which subjects were popular at any particular time?

DE – The arts and music were always popular with IT and Digital Photography coming to the fore in recent years.

LC – Several other residential colleges have been closed in recent years, how do you think this has affected the profile of residential learning in the UK?

DE – Adult residential education has been an important part of the nation’s provision since the second world war. The demise of so many colleges during recent years due to financial restraints has placed increased pressure on the sector. If only those in power would accept that some continued support would help people maintain active minds and so active bodies (this is now an undisputed fact) and so in reality reduce the cost to other public services.

LC – ARCA was a key resource and support for non-vocational adult education providers – what do you think members gained most from belonging to such a focused organisation ?

DE – Without a doubt belonging to the association provided a much needed network for those involved in the sector. It gave an opportunity to seek advice on issues and share concerns as well as successes.

LC – You have been a great voice for non-vocational residential learning over the years – how do you feel the adult learning landscape has changed?

DE – Public spending cutbacks have greatly reduced the adult education offer. Yes I will accept that organisations such as the University of the Third Age and other voluntary bodies can help fill the gap, but many people do not possess the personal skills or incentive to take up these opportunities. They require some support and a kick-start to enable them to enable them to participate. If those possibilities are not provided by the public purse then eventually our nation will slip even further down the ladder of enlightened and educated populations.

LC – Short residential courses are now available at a wide range of venues across the country, what do you think people should look for when considering a weekend course ?

DE – This is very much up to an individual choice, but certainly the style of teaching and its quality must be high on the agenda. The ambience of the venue is also important as if we enjoy our learning experience we learn much more. Value for money is also always an important consideration.