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A VOLUNTARY adult education movement is searching for new members to help steer its future.

The Wirksworth Workers’ Educational Association (WEA) is on the look-out for fresh students to take an active role on its steering committee which is staffed entirely by volunteers.

Every student who enrols on a WEA course has the opportunity to suggest other courses that their local branch could put on.

The Wirksworth WEA is part of a 450-strong network which is the largest voluntary sector provider of adult learning in the UK.

Chairwoman Jean Douglas said: “We believe our courses offer an excellent learning experience and the chance to meet and get to know other people. You don’t need any previous knowledge or qualifications, just a willingness to share ideas and experiences.

“We are keen to attract people of all ages and from all walks of life. Courses are held during the day and in the evenings so we hope we can cater for everyone. While we rely on the fees we charge, our classes are free to anyone on income-related benefits so it’s worth getting in touch if you are interested.”

Running at the moment are courses on opera, literature and a course looking at Derbyshire’s architecture.

Helen Bulaitis is currently attending a literature course in Wirksworth.

She said: “Years ago I did an English degree. I had been a full time mum for the last ten years and really wanted to do something to exercise my brain again.

“I’m really, really enjoying it. It’s a great group of people from all walks of life. It’s good to get out and meet new people.”

Enrolment is now underway for two new courses starting in April and May.

Tutor Chris Hall will be leading ‘Birding with others’ in a series of two-hour walks to look at and identify birds. The sessions will start with an introductory meeting at Wirksworth’s town hall on Thursday, April 28, at 6.30pm, followed by five outdoor meetings at Allestree Park, Carsington Water, Wingfield Park, Black Rocks and Osmaston Park.

And from Saturday, May 14, Sean Moran’s mission is to help students learn to walk confidently in the wilder parts of the Peak District. ‘Navigation skills for hill walkers’ is designed to teach the basics of how to get around using map and compass and will include four field trips to local moorlands.

The first of five sessions, from 10.30am to 12.30pm, is at Wirksworth Town Hall.

Sean, of Wirksworth, has been a tutor with the WEA for around two years.

After being diagnosed with cancer five years Sean swapped his long hours at work for a part time job and took up walking as a hobby.

Sean, a university lecturer, taught himself to navigate and enjoys exploring plane crash sites in Derbyshire.

He said: “It is interesting and we have quite a unique group of people.

“People do tend to be quite enthusiastic about their hobbies so it is a chance to share your enthusiasm with people.”

The current rate of pay for WEA sessional tutors is £22.46 per hour and travel expenses and mileage are reimbursed.

The national charity was founded in 1903, to support the educational needs of working men and women and now runs over 10,000 courses each year, providing learning for more than 110,000 adults of all ages.

It is supported by Government funding from the Skills Funding Agency and funds are also raised regionally.

The Wirksworth WEA is also keen to hear from anyone who would like to tutor a class and share their expertise.

For more information about fees and enrolment or an information pack about becoming a tutor, contact the WEA’s Derby office on 10332 291805 or visit the Wirksworth branch website on www.weawirksworth.org.uk

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