Everything Else

Regional Summer School Learning

Lively and Successful – Again!
Catherine Ware from the London Region of U3As on the growth of its summer school

Hot Spot: a place of more than usual interest, activity, or popularity. [Definition by Merriam Webster Dictionary] That’s a good way to describe yet another very lively and successful summer school (well attended despite a heatwave!)

The event was held again at the St. Bride Foundation (off Fleet Street), which not only has a beautiful airy lecture hall, but also an open courtyard where members can enjoy a delicious lunch while chatting in the sunshine.

Since its inception six years ago, this three-day non-residential event has continued to develop the number and range of activities on offer. The introduction of guided walks was popular and enabled us to offer a broader programme (without increasing our room rental costs!) Members can attend for one, two or three days, and although most book for just one day, this year has seen an increase in 3-day bookings.

Attendees select from a large and varied daily choice of talks, workshops and guided walks. The wide range of topics draws from the Arts, Humanities, Sciences and Social Sciences, but in the past couple of years we’ve experimented with a broad theme threading through. This year we commemorated the centenary of the 1918 Representation of the People Act, and many of the sessions looked at the achievements of women, not only politically, but also in music, art and science.

Records over the past 5 years show a steady growth in numbers attending, from 127 in 2014 to 274 this year. Of those coming this year, 43% said they’d not been before. The numbers increased significantly when we introduced online booking in 2016, which made it so much easier and quicker to book from anywhere in the country.

While the vast majority (78%) of this year’s attendees came from London U3As, the remainder represented 42 U3As outside London – mostly within commuting distance, but some from as far away as Camelot, Edinburgh and Porthmadog. It seems that those coming from further field make a holiday of it, staying with family and friends.

Most of our speakers are members of London Region U3As. Occasionally we benefit from links with universities and community organisations. Analysis of feedback forms indicates a good response rate and high level of appreciation. Most sessions this year were judged good or excellent.

There’s evidently an appetite for not only high-quality information and presentation, but also stimulating debate and interaction. The challenge of planning for next year is about to begin…!

Absorbed in a subject
Pat Garland organiser of this year’s Scottish U3A summer school says it was a chance to study a subject in greater depth

“The 2018 Scotland summer school was considered a great success by the 51 delegates who attended from 19 member U3As. The event was held in the West Park Conference Centre, Dundee and each delegate chose one of four topics: American History, Craft, Ecology or Geology.

The huge advantage of summer schools is that delegates have time to study their chosen topic in greater detail and talk about it during breaks with each other.

The American History group, led by tutor Jim Ashwood from Dundee U3A, covered the Civil Rights movement in the US from the end of the American Civil War in 1865 to the present day. The history and culture of the civil rights movement has been built up over hundreds of years and the story is still developing.

Finished products from the craft group were displayed which included small wall hangings made by table weaving and colourful bags made by stenciling on freezer paper, printed with acrylic paint, with embroidery on top.
The Ecology topic, led by Bob Batty from Oban U3A, focused on the oceans and marine environment and the Geology seminars – enthusiastically led by Alison Tymon from East Berwickshire U3A, combined presentations and participative practical work looking at samples of rocks, minerals and fossils.

There is of course a social side of summer schools and members made the most of networking and talking with other U3As during breaks. One evening the celebration dinner was attended by the Lord Provost of Dundee, Ian Borthwick and his wife; the after dinner musical entertainment was provided by a group of talented young musicians from St Paul’s RC Academy.

Thank you to members of Dundee U3A and Kath Payne, Chair of U3A in Scotland who helped me make this such a success. Delegates tell me that they are already looking forward to the next one planned for 2020”