Network Representatives Meeting

Wednesday 13th May

     At High St. Methodist Church, Witney



Present :Anthony Burdall (Faringdon) - Chairman, John Brandis (Haddenham),  Adam Cave (Newbury),Pat Davey (Maidenhead), Jeanie Dickie (Swindon),  Margaret Edmondson (Wallingford),  Andy Gordon (Bicester), Mary Hawken (Woodstock), Peter Jarvis (Thatcham), Pam Jones (Witney),  Martin McBride (Carterton), Colin Mitchell (South East Regional Trustee), June Morris (Abingdon), Charlotte Pelling (Carterton), Mike Price (Greater Thame), Chris Seagrave (Wendover),  Colin Sear (Chinnor and District,) Isobel Sheppard (Goring Gap), Marilyn Dyer Lynch (Wallingford), Len Smith (Wokingham),  Patsy Thornton (Wokingham), Mary Trout (Reading), Kay Whittle (West Oxford),  John Whitwell (Banbury). (24 present – 21 U3As represented)


1.0.  Apologies for absence:  Agnes Budagowska (Swindon), Deirdre Mann (Greater Thame), Mark Phillips (Thameside), Geoff Young (Aylesbury Vale).



2.1  Accepted as correct

2.2  No actions arising

2.3  No other matters arising



3.1 Chairman’s report:  Anthony Burdall (Chairman) reported that the Network had celebrated its 1st birthday with a very successful lunch at the Four Pillars Hotel, Sandford-on-Thames.  45 people had attended.  The first event put on by the Network had been a Family History Day at Rewley House Oxford, with more than 100 participants.  This had been followed by three more study days, a lunch and a very successful  conference in Thame in 2008.  More events are scheduled and a sub-group has been set up under Isobel Sheppard’s guidance, to plan and execute study days.  A significant balance has now been set up in the bank account.  It has become vital for U3As to inform the Network of any important dates in their calendar in order to avoid clashes (as with the Thatcham conference this year).  Thirty U3As have become affiliated to the Network and affiliation fees are now due.


Anthony reported that many U3As have grown but not all.  He wondered if those which are shrinking could be helped by the Network.  Andy Gordon, Chairman of Bicester U3A did not think so and explained that Bicester’s problems centred largely around inadequate accommodation and location of venues in addition to apathy.   Bicester as a town had grown but not U3A.  Len Smith of Wokingham U3A said that they have over 1,000 members and only 10% of those come to the monthly meetings.  The emphasis is on the interest groups.  He felt that the situation was self regulating.  Members in Wokingham will come to members’ meeting to hear a good speaker. Mike Price of Greater Thame said that his U3A had benefitted greatly as a result of the co-operation between 4 U3As, who have remained in close contact since then.  They are within 5 – 6 miles of each other, share groups and co-operate with each other but still maintain their independence.  John Whitwell, Chairman of Banbury U3A suggested that a special meeting be held to discuss these issues.  Len Smith said that discussion about size of U3As and the subject of monthly meetings will be a part of next year’s Network Conference in Wokingham.


3.2 Secretary’s Report  No matters to report


3.3 Treasurer’s Report:  Anthony said that he had been acting as Treasurer since Bob Jones had to retire because of ill-health.  He asked members to consider taking on post job of Treasurer.


The committee had decided that the financial year should be from 1st January to 31st December.  At 31st December, the bank account held £1,858, which was very positive after just one year.  At 13th May 2009, the account holds £2,308.  There are no outstanding bills.  The Arts Day is in the process of being organized but cheques have not yet been banked but will be so shortly.  There being no questions,  Len Smith proposed that the accounts be accepted, seconded by Mike Price.  Accepted unanimously.


The bank account name has been changed to U3A Thames Valley Network. 


4.0.  REVISIONS TO NETWORK STRUCTURE:  It had become necessary to change the name from Thames Valley Region to Thames Valley Network, following the restructuring of National Areas to 9 new Regions.   The constitution consequently had to incorporate changes, as circulated to all affiliated U3As in  the Network in a draft document.  The composition of the committee would change as outlined in another document, distributed to all U3As.  Accounts are to be presented at the AGM, which will be the Spring Meeting.  Peter Jarvis proposed that these changes be approved.  Andy Gordon seconded the motion.  Approved unanimously.


5.0  ELECTION OF COMMITTEE FOR YEAR 2009/2010:  The new committee will comprise a Chairman, Vice Chairman, Secretary, Treasurer and not more than four additional membersThe present committee comprises Anthony Burdall (Chairman), Isobel Sheppard, Clive Dray, Peter Jarvis, Mike Price, Pam Jones and Len Smith.  Colin Mitchell, on becoming Regional Trustee/Representative resigned from the committee but receives all papers and attends meetings when he can.  There is therefore a vacancy for at least one committee member, specifically a Treasurer.


The following are to stand for election

Mike Price – previously co-opted

Len Smith – previously co-opted

Both agreed to stand.

Proposed by Peter Jarvis, seconded by John Brandis.  Both elected.


Colin Mitchell to be an ex officio member of the committee.


Martin McBride (Carterton) offered to become Treasurer.

These proposed by Isobel Sheppard  and seconded by Margaret Edmondson. Duly elected.

Mice Price to be Vice-Chairman, Pam Jones Secretary.


Anthony clarified that if the Treasurer disagreed with a vote which had been taken by the committee on a financial matter, he would not have the power to veto the decision.  All agreed.



6.1. Report:  Colin outlined his task as Regional Trustee for the South East Region, comprising 146 U3As.  The NEC is now beginning to realize just how large the South East is.  A proposal from Crawley U3A, seconded by a Kent U3A, will shortly ask the NEC to think again about additional representation for the South East.  Colin asked members to look out for this resolution and to vote on it.  Voting can be postal.  The Network could possibly assist in this if member U3As ask them to lobby but individual U3As have more voice.  The present task of  Trustee is unsustainable for one person.

Colin brought good news.  Every U3A is to get 2 copies of ‘A Time to Learn’ which is a publication aimed at Group Leaders,  put together by a group of ‘sensible people’ by means of a government grant.   U3As can have up to 10 more copies free. 


Colin also drew attention to ‘The Learning Revolution’ – a White Paper produced by the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills.  The Paper sets out how  we can all sow the seeds of a new movement for learning.  In it they ‘invite organizations to show their commitment by signing the Institute of Adult Learners ‘pledge’, kickstarting a movement owned by people and organizations that promote learning for its own sake.  Organisations signing the pledge will be ambassadors for informal learning, actively promoting participation and finding new ways to get more people involved.  The pledge is the first step to fostering change on the ground.’  Colin encouraged people to submit such a pledge and make U3A’s mark.  He also believed that the Network committee should discuss how we can get involved.  There is money available for projects.  In order to receive money from DIUS, a U3A must sign the pledge. Members felt that guidance was needed on this.    Money has been taken from adult education into skills, so local authorities need to know about U3A. (


Colin suggested the possibility of a Regional web-site and newsletter.  The newsletter might contain details of events, such as the Chichester Summer School.  It was suggested that a separate South East newsletter might be posted out with U3A News.  Colin felt that a more likely way of distribution would be through secretaries, who receive National Office mailings.  A page for the South East in U3A News was suggested.             Len Smith suggested that the newsletter on the National web-site should be interactive.


6.2. U3A Thames Valley Network and further education:  There had been opinions expressed that there is nothing ‘mind-stretching’ about U3A.  As some further education establishments are cutting courses, should U3A take them on?  It was felt that U3A is not an organization for employing redundant university lecturers but some members feel that we should have more formal, one-day courses or study days.  Sussex does this in co-operation with universities and the O.U. but there is now a change in the financial climate.  Colin feels that the Networks should be looking at this situation.  Anthony has always felt that a link with Rewley House, Oxford would prove beneficial to the Network.  John Whitwell felt that a link with secondary schools should be fostered.  Andy Gordon felt that we should take things slowly.  The Network is moving in the right direction.  Isobel Sheppard felt it important that U3A remains broad-based, fostering friendship rather than heavy learning.  The social aspect remains very important.  It was felt that if a small group of people from the Network requires something more ‘mind-stretching’ in time we could aspire gradually to some more intellectual study days/courses.  Pat Davey congratulated the Network on the two Study Days she has attended.  Anthony agreed that, in developing a future programme, we could pick some more thought-provoking subjects.  Mike Price wondered if we could organize lectures with Oxford University, similar to the Royal Institute ones arranged by National Office.



7.1. Pam Jones will update contacts list in future. 


7.2. Database of Speakers:  much discussion took place on this but no ideal solution was agreed.  The database will be issued as it stands.  Members were requested to let Pam have any information on speakers, particularly those who are no longer speaking or those considered below standard.  Colin made the point that U3As should look after their speakers by greeting them, ascertaining their requirements, telling them how long they should speak, when refreshments are served, where the loos are etc. 


7.3. Network website at  Colin congratulated Len Smith on creating the website.  Len encouraged everyone to take a look at it.



8.1. Programme for 2009: A sub-group has now been formed for Study Days but more are needed.  Isobel requests that members keep her informed of enthusiasts who would be able to assist with specific subjects.  Mike believes that the flexibility is good as each subject requires people with specific expertise.

8.1.1 Conference ‘Older and Bolder’ Thatcham Tuesday 26th May 2009:  70 plus enrolments at present.  Peter said that the discussion subjects will be interesting and have very good group leaders.  The subject of ‘Older and Bolder’ has been promoted by NIACE and the speaker is the man who set it up.  Peter expressed his concern that a clash of dates with Reading U3A meant that Reading people would not be attending (Mary Trout said that she will endeavour to attend).

Early notice of all these events was requested.  It was agreed that the minimum time needed for publicity was 3 – 4 months and 6 – 7 would be preferable.

8.1.2. Network Lunch: 45 people attended.  There will be another next year but price was considered to be too high.  The Springs Hotel at North Stoke was suggested.  Members asked to send suggestions for May next year.

8.1.3 Study Day ‘Art: History and appreciation’June 17th 2009 So far about 50 applicants.  Members have been requesting application forms.  Len to put these on website.  Anthony e-mails application form to Chairmen/contacts.  Acknowledgements have been a problem, so suggested that applicants enclose a stamped addressed envelope.  Patsy Thornton said that for their Wokingham Study Day, they have received 160 applications and have acknowledged all.

8.1.4 NIMBY A debate:  this is in hand for Tuesday 29th September in Rewley House, Oxford

8.1.5 Study Day ‘Creative life writing: writing your life story’.  Isobel has 3 people who may help.  It will need to be held in a school and will have to be in half-term or holidays.

Peter Jarvis requested that the subject of venues be discussed at the next Representatives meeting.

Summer School:  Mike Price has returned all cheques.  The website has announced the postponement.  Mike requested any information on speakers for the Oxford Summer School in 2010.


8.2. Programme for 2010:  dates need to be fixed.  There will be a Wine Appreciation day in March 2010. It is proposed to hold a ‘Sharing Experience’ based on ‘A Time to Learn’ in February 2010.  Patsy will enquire about Wellington College availability in February half-term and report back to Anthony. (17th February is planned date).



Peter Jarvis suggested that we should consider forming an ‘Older Members Research Group’ and Colin confirmed that National Office is thinking of setting up such a group.  Colin felt that this would be a good thing for the Network.  Will be discussed in Network committee and at the next Representatives meeting.


Andy Gordon took the opportunity to thank all U3As who had contributed to the Oxford Transplant Centre.  He had collected £1,850 from U3As and was very grateful.



Tuesday 22nd September at 10am (coffee) for 10.30am in the Wesley Room (downstairs) High St. Methodist Church, Witney  OX28 6HG.  Sandwich lunch available afterwards.