Simon Parkinson, chief executive and principal of the Co-operative College, is leaving the organisation to take up the role of chief executive and general secretary of the WEA (Workers’ Educational Association).
Having been in post since March 2015, Mr Parkinson has overseen the work towards a co-operative university and expansion of the College’s national and international project work, including the launch of Youth Co-operative Action (delivered with support from the Co-op Foundation and the #iwill Fund) and Co-operative Adventure (a landmark project that empowers and inspires young people with learning difficulties, disabilities and autism to make a difference in their communities).
He will move into the new role after the College’s Centenary Conference (26-28 November). Founded in 1903, the WEA is the UK’s largest voluntary sector provider of adult education – teaching around 50,000 students a year in England and Scotland with the active support of around 350 local branches, 2,000 tutors and 3,000+ volunteers and members.
“I have enjoyed my time at the College immensely and have felt privileged to lead it through its centenary year,” he said. “The power of people working together should never be underestimated, it is after all what built the global co-operative movement.
“With high profile projects such as a Co-operative University now tantalisingly close to fruition, I feel the College is well placed to build on the enthusiasm and momentum created. Through our work on the Adult Education 100 campaign, we have built on our strong relationship with the WEA and I hope to see this relationship go from strength to strength in the future.”
College trustees met on 11 October to agree interim plans. Nigel Todd, chair of the trustees, paid tribute to Mr Parkinson’’s work. “Simon has made a huge contribution to the Co-operative College, and has helped to open many new doors for co-operative education,” he said.
“We’re therefore very sorry to lose Simon, but of course happy for him and delighted that the WEA will gain his skills and leadership qualities that we’ve enjoyed.
“The WEA was a source of inspiration for the founding of the Co-operative College a century ago and Simon’s appointment brings us closer together again at a crucial point in the story of adult education. In a sense, it’s goodbye but we’ll see you soon.”