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learningrep » Spring 2012

Have you got the write stuff? >> Louis de Bernières shares his top tips


Andy McNab Maureen Lee Quick Reads World Book Night Six Book Challenge

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» Comment

Investing for the future With the economic forecasts continuing to be grim reading and government investment in skills reducing overall, there is a greater than ever imperative for the private sector to invest in training and skills. As you will see inside this edition of The Learning Rep, unionlearn and union officials, academics, skills leaders and employer groups recently met in a seminar at the TUC to look at the issue of skills investment. What is clear, and strongly endorsed by those attending the seminar, was that growth was the key to resolving our current economic problems; skills are a key component to that growth; and employee engagement is vital to raising skills. Part of the discussion looked at the need to make the money we already spend on training work better for us. The government already provides over £4bn in tax relief for companies providing training, yet extraordinarily no one monitors how this money is spent and what it’s used for. The government doesn’t even keep records of the applications made. Proper use of this money could make a huge difference, if it were targeted at groups that really needed the training in core areas and keys skills. A change in the way we handle this tax relief would provide a big investment in skills in the key areas needed without the need for extra funding. Working with the businesses applying would help them target their training to develop and grow their businesses. Surveys of business spend on training show that overall, despite the economy, it had been holding its own but is now slowing and lower earners are even less likely to receive training. We know the importance of learning and there is lots of good practice out there, as can be seen across The Learning Rep. As a nation, we should ensure that nobody is shut out of employment because they lack the chance to learn and make sure the investment is in place and effectively used to achieve that. Tom Wilson Director, unionlearn







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Top Scottish learner News Celebration of Learning Dyslexia awareness Six Book Challenge Quick Reads World Book Night Maureen Lee Louis de Bernières Sellafield learning centre ULR profile Regional conferences TUC Education Contacts Calendar Resources


The Learning Rep spring 2012 Editor: James Asser Writers: Astrid Stubbs, Martin Moriarty Cover photo: Louis de Bernières at Brighton Cityclean by Rod Leon Design: Print: Ancient House Printing Group Distribution: Cavalier mailing

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News «

USDAW member Susan Manson, who says she has changed her life through union learning, has been named as the first Learner of the Year by Scottish Union Learning.

Susan is Scots learner of the year Susan started her learning journey when she signed up for a basic IT course during a Check Out Learning campaign day in the Airdrie branch of Morrisons supermarket, where she works as a cleaner.

Morrisons worker Susan Manson has secured help for her dyslexia through her union USDAW

Betty Spence, another USDAW ULR at Morrisons, is very pleased Susan won the inaugural award. “Seeing the difference in Susan, and how much more confident she is now, is what makes being a union learning rep worth the effort,” Betty says. Louis Flood

But although she was keen to get to grips with computers, once she started the course, she felt like she was struggling to keep up with everyone else – a feeling familiar from her schooldays. With the encouragement of USDAW ULR Ann Seagriff, Susan talked to the tutor about the root of the problem – the dyslexia she had never spoken about to anyone before. Her tutor introduced Susan to specialist software for people with dyslexia that helped her successfully complete the course, and she now uses the same software on a new laptop that has become an integral part of her life.

"What I've learned with the support of my union has completely changed my life,” Susan says. “For years, I had to rely on my husband or my son to read something for me; now I just scan my mail into the computer and can deal with it myself – it's so much nicer not to have to rely on anyone else.” She admits she was shocked to hear that she was going to be named Learner of the Year, and hopes her story will encourage others to follow in her footsteps. “I just hope that other learners out there are encouraged to take a chance like I did – it's worth it!" she says.

Susan collects her learner of the year award from STUC General Secretary Grahame Smith

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» News

Keith is top Wales ULR Unite learning rep Keith Moore has been named Wales ULR of the Year for helping his colleagues at Magnox Limited’s Wylfa nuclear power station prepare for life once the reactors are shut down in the next two years. Since training as a ULR in 2009, Keith has dedicated vast amounts of his own time to helping workers take a wide variety of courses, including digital photography, Welsh language and bicycle maintenance. With the help of a local software firm, he has also set up an online hub that allows workers to access online learning from work or at home. “I was absolutely elated when I found out I was ULR of the Year: on a personal level, it was nice to be recognised for the work, but first of all the award is another tool in your kitbag you can use to open doors,” he says. Keith says that what has made him happiest is establishing the learning rep role in the company (there’s now also a ULR at the Trawsfyndd nuclear power station in Gwynedd). Keith’s high profile means his company’s head of human resources has recently asked him to help set up new key skills courses for the whole organisation. “There are several power stations at different stages of de-fuelling and de-commissioning, and one that’s a couple of years from closing, so there’s an urgent need to get this up and running,” he says.

Chester project builds council culture Unions at Cheshire West and Chester Council have trained a 14-strong team of learning reps to embed a learning culture across the authority through a project backed by unionlearn’s ULF regional Learning and Skills For All Fund (L&SFAF). After opening eight Learning Zones linked to adult and community learning teams across all the areas of the council, the project has since launched its own UK online centre, where more than 50 learners took literacy and numeracy courses in the autumn.

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Photo: Chris Cleave

Barbara Griffiths (left) and Daliah Roslan from Cheshire West and Cheshire Council collect their community champion award from unionlearn North-West's Dave Eva

UNISON, the GMB and Unite have now signed a learning agreement with the council, which has provided the Learning Zones and given ULRs release to undertake their duties, including time to attend the monthly ULR forums. As a result of the project, the council has a more confident and flexible workforce that has acquired a wide range of skills: ❚ 33 staff completed Level 2 Literacy/Numeracy qualifications in the first half of 2011 ❚ 21 staff have completed the Train the Trainer course ❚ four people have completed Preparing to Teach in the Lifelong Learning Sector (PTLLS) courses. In addition, the project has launched a rolling programme of Skills for Life training. “We have more than exceeded our objectives and outcomes and have helped to establish a learning culture that hopefully can be enjoyed for many years to come,” says UNISON Project Coordinator Dawn Sweeney. “We are now looking at creating a more sustainable approach and are negotiating to establish a Collective Learning Fund (CLF).”

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News «

Plymouth posties take the learning plunge More than 150 Royal Mail workers at Plymouth’s Manual Data Entry Centre (MDEC) took part in a learning fair in the autumn, a ground-breaking event described as “an allround fab day” by CWU lead ULR Leo Haynes. There was so much interest in the learning opportunities on offer at the fair that Leo was able to fill two Spanish classes immediately, and he will be launching further courses based on the ‘expressions of interest’ forms completed by everyone who attended. “This is a real boost for Leo and his colleagues, Mark Oram and Mandy Dewdney, who have been fighting what seemed an uphill battle for sometime to kit out their own Discovery learning centre on the site,” said CWU SouthWest Region Learning Project Worker Phil Sutton. “Their enthusiasm seems to have been rewarded with the knowledge that, despite the time it has taken to bring these plans to fruition, there is a great interest in their workplace.” A range of organisations ran stalls at the event, including Achievement Training, the Plymouth Adult Community Learning Services and unionlearn. CWU rep Chris Newby sold cakes he’d baked to raise money for Plymouth Highbury Trust, which supports people with learning disabilities. Achievement Training’s Steve Kerswill said the provider was delighted to support the ULRs in promoting learning.

“It was great to see such an excellent turnout and the high level of interest: clearly this was a reflection of all the hard work put in by the ULRs, and we look forward to meeting the learning aspirations of their colleagues in the near future,” he said.

Employers must invest in skills for the future Persuading employers to invest in skills for the future is crucial, according to the unionlearn Skills Investment Seminar late last year. UK Commission for Employment and Skills Chief Executive Michael Davis summed up the productive event in Congress House. One of the key challenges of the next decade would be convincing employers to invest enough in skills to ensure the UK could compete internationally, he said.“The seminar began the debate, but there is much more thinking to be done about the role of trade unions in securing investment in the skills of tomorrow’s workforce,” commented unionlearn Director Tom Wilson. Professor David Ashton argued a skills investment had to be sector-based in order to be effective. In the Netherlands, the sector-based skills councils brought together

employers and unions to identify needs and design qualificaitons, which created a system aligned to the needs of the economy, he explained. “It’s not rocket science, it seems common sense to me: it defies belief that we can’t come up with something like this,” he said. Howard Reed from Landman Economics revealed that tax relief on training was currently worth a total of £4.9bn, a huge figure when compared to the apprenticeships programme, which was worth £1.5bn. He said there was a strong case for focusing tax relief on training that delivered high returns, and reforming the system to help low-skilled/poor people more than high-skilled/rich people.

>> To see the presentations from the seminar, visit initiatives/learn-4374-f0.cfm

A learning fair for Plymouth postal workers stirred huge interest among the 150 staff who took part

Improve your swing with Aslef Ramsgate Aslef learning rep Andy Bull has secured a 10 per cent discount on golf lessons for Aslef members and their family and friends at the Stonelees Golf Course in Sandwich, Kent. The lessons are with fully qualified PGA professional Joe Jezzard, who coaches everyone from beginners to elite players. The scheme means members of the rail union can have a half-hour lesson for £22.50 while a course of six half-hour lessons costs £112.50. To claim the discount, Aslef members simply have to show their membership card and complete the equality sheet at the start of each lesson.

>> For further information, please contact Andy Bull. Email: andybull.aslef@

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» News

Redcar wins quality award Redcar & Cleveland Borough Council (RCBC) has won unionlearn’s Quality Award in recognition of the excellence of the delivery and co-ordination of the apprenticeship programme at the northern authority. Unionlearn Regional Manager and Northern TUC Regional Secretary Kevin Rowan presented the award to RCBC Young Peoples’ Employment Programme Coordinator Paul Healy at Eston Town Hall in October. Joining the celebration were the council’s Chief Executive Officer Amanda Skelton, the mayor Olwyn Peters and Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland MP Tom Blenkinsop, as well as council employees, training providers, trade unions and some of the apprentices themselves. “We’re extremely proud to be a part of the burgeoning apprenticeship programme at RCBC and are always looking for ways to increase our contribution to its support and development, and that of the apprentices themselves,” said Eve Cole, branch secretary of UNISON and secretary of the joint trades union committee for Redcar & Cleveland. “The unions recognise the importance of giving people who do not choose the academic route to work the opportunity to get hands-on experience while getting further education, and the apprentice scheme is an excellent way of doing this.” Tom Blenkinsop said the apprenticeship programme was testament to the work of Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council as a progressive local authority. “A proper apprenticeship is an essential building block in a young person’s career development and will allow

for the continuing transmission of skills needed in a large local authority where the delivery of proper services to the public has to be the council’s keystone,” he said. In the last two years, RCBC has taken on 105 apprentices across a wide range of council departments, including business administration, community development, IT, environmental services, countryside, childcare and vehicle maintenance. Unions and management at the authority are now considering a formal agreement to cement apprentices’ positions at the council. Kevin Rowan argued that investing in good-quality apprenticeships required time, effort and partnership by all involved. “Redcar & Cleveland Borough Council have proven that they are more than willing to go the extra mile and reap the benefits in return with the cultivation of topnotch home-grown talent,” he said. Council Leader Councillor George Dunning said everyone involved was proud to be part of the programme. “Everyone works together to create a family atmosphere for new and existing recruits, making them feel nurtured and supported into achieving their potential.”

Redcar & Cleveland Borough Council has taken on 150 apprentices in the past two years, including (from left) Paul, Laura, Jon, Chelsea and Kaylum

Supporting apprentices in the east of England UNISON is aiming to sign a formal apprenticeship agreement with two neighbouring councils in the east of England during National Apprenticeship Week. The agreement would create a working partnership on apprentices between the union and St Edmundsbury Borough Council and Forest Heath District Council. The original elements of the plan began to fall into place when the UNISON branch at St Edmundsbury hosted a set of talks on the key issues in the summer. Council Chief Executive Geoff Rivers and HR Manager Karen Points both took part in the talks, as well as the

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branch secretary and chair and UNISON officials. The discussions focused on a number of issues, including reaching out to young people not in employment, education or training (NEETs) and to members of Black and minority ethnic (BME) communities. Over the lunch break, council apprentices took the chance to meet young employees who have recently completed apprenticeships to discuss how the programme worked for them. “The apprentices could see that UNISON and unionlearn were working for them in partnership with St Edmundsbury,” UNISON Apprenticeships Project Worker Craig Young explained.

While talks with St Edmundsbury continued through the second half of last year, UNISON also began working with Forest Heath, and the joint partnership agreement began to take shape to move the agenda forward.

People from BME communities must be able to access apprenticeships

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News «

Hospital staff boost their skills Nearly 250 staff at the Aintree University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust have joined apprenticeship programmes thanks to a UNISON-led project at the Trust, funded by unionlearn’s ULF regional Learning and Skills For All Fund (L&SFAF) since 2008.

Photo: Chris Cleave

”We have almost 250 apprenticeships going through frameworks in healthcare, ITQ, business and administration, hospitality and catering, customer service, clinical healthcare support and team leading,” says Fiona Chapman, head of learning and development at the trust. “Unionlearn and the ULRs have been critical in helping to recruit apprentices and also in providing support and mentoring so that apprentices can complete their training successfully.” Lead ULR Marie Reece works closely with the corporate learning and development team to help engage and recruit learners. “All the learners have been out of the classroom for decades, and not surprisingly feel worried about going back – but they all eventually blossom and achieve,” she says. Marie was named Apprenticeship Champion at the unionlearn North-

West annual conference in the autumn in recognition of all the work she has put in to making a success of the hospital’s programme. There was more success for the programme when UNISON member Nicola Johnson, who works in the domestic department at the hospital and has recently completed her apprenticeship in Supporting Healthcare, won the Student of the Year award from West Cheshire College in December. Liverpool MP and Shadow Secretary of State for Education Stephen Twigg presented apprentices with certificates to mark their achievements at a successful event in the autumn. “It is great to see so many people furthering their education and developing their skills: the knockon effect of this is that patients receive an improved service, so I hope other hospitals will follow Aintree's lead,” he said. Aintree Hospital lead ULR Marie Reece (left) and Sefton council counterpart Amanda McNally collect their apprenticeship champion awards from unionlearn North West’s Dave Eva.

National Apprenticeship Week 6 - 10 February 2012

Make a date for Apprenticeship Week The fifth National Apprenticeship Week runs from Monday 6 to Friday 10 February this year.

>> Find out more at: ship-Week-2012.aspx

Nominate your favourite learner! Nominations are open for the 2012 Adult Learners’ Week Awards, which recognise outstanding adult learners and inspiring learning projects. Union learning reps can use the awards to ❚ celebrate the achievements of inspirational students, colleagues, family and friends ❚ recognise outstanding individuals or projects ❚ highlight their union’s commitment to learning. Award-winners receive between £200 and £1,000 to contribute towards the next stops on their learning journey and have the chance to take part in regional and national ceremonies. The closing date is 5pm on Friday 27 January 2012. Awards are open only to learners and projects in England. Please read the Guidance Notes and Eligibility Criteria before nominating to make sure your learner is eligible.

>> To find out more, visit, email, tel 0116 204 4200.

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» Briefing » Celebration of Learning


have a go

Unionlearn’s Celebration of Learning saw two weeks of fun and informal activities designed to encourage new people into giving learning a go. Here’s a taster of what was on offer.

Online is child’s play Youngsters Niamh Hunter and brothers Edward and William Tripp showed the grown-ups how it’s done when they joined the Celebration of Learning at Merseylearn. The unionlearn project at Merseytravel decided to call the experts to a U-Net learning centre to show staff what 6 to 11-yearolds can do safely online. Niamh, the 6-year-old daughter of ULR and Merseylearn ICT tutor Norman Hunter, worked alongside 11-year-old Edward and 7-year-old William, nephews of Merseylearn’s Project Manager Stephanie Hague. “It was epic showing people all the cool stuff you can do online,” William said. Showing off their skills, knowledge and confidence, all

three showed the grown-ups how to access educational games and websites used by most primary schools. Children’s sites were also demonstrated alongside internet safety tips for parents and carers. “The confidence and digital skills shown demonstrate that young people, particularly family members, can help older people get online,” commented Niamh’s dad, Norman Hunter.

“Learning reps are already working hard to help union members and other staff in the workplace and the wider community obtain the skills and confidence to use the internet.”

Easy-peasy (from left): William (in red), Edward and Niamh (obscured) help the grownups get to grips with the online world in Liverpool

Big cities do their bit for digital inclusion Newcastle, Leicester, Liverpool and Leeds city councils were among the local authorities whose unions joined in partnerships with Race Online to encourage greater digital inclusion in their cities during the Celebration of Learning. Liverpool City Council, Liverpool Vision, local businesses, community organisations, unions and charities launched an ambitious campaign to inspire 25,000 Liverpool residents who have never been on the internet to take their first steps online by June 2012. And it got off to a flying start with 1,000 people signed up as Digital Champions as part of an ambitious

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5,000 recruitment drive to provide one-to-one support to the offline community across the City. “Digital know-how is now a fundamental life-skill – arguably as vital as knowing how to read and write,” commented UK Digital Champion Martha Lane Fox. Laura Robertson-Collins, senior union support officer from North-West unionlearn, said ULRs were ideally placed to work as Digital Champions. “Learning reps are already working hard to help union members and other staff in the workplace and the wider community obtain the skills and confidence to use the internet – to

enhance their employment prospects, make the most of learning opportunities and improve their communications with family and friends.” The Go ON Leeds campaign kicked off with a range of free training events across the city, which has set out to recruit 4,000 Digital Champions. Leeds City Council, the Post Office, Mecca Bingo, O2, BT, Asda, Comet, libraries, UK online centres, Finerday’s Go ON Adopt A Care Home, Home Group, Wetherspoon’s, the Department of Work and Pensions, Jobcentre Plus, Citizens Online, unionlearn and learndirect all backed the campaign.

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Celebration of Learning « Briefing «

Swindon gets all steamed up Tim Justice (centre) and RMT Learning’s John Dougherty (right) with course tutors

Tim puts depot in top gear RMT ULR Tim Justice, a bus driver with Stagecoach East Midlands, decided that the Celebration of Learning was an ideal time to tackle some of the barriers preventing members from returning to learning.

Workshops ULRs took place at Bristol, Bodmin Workshops forfor ULRs took place at Bristol, Bodmin andand Bournemouth promoting digital inclusion, Higher Bournemouth promoting digital inclusion, Higher Education Education Apprenticeships andLearning. Community Learning. Apprenticeships and Community

Photo: David Morrison

Tim organised an event encouraging members to learn how to set up an email address, save money by shopping online and develop communication skills via the internet. “For some of our members, this is the first time they have had the chance to get online with the support of the local tutors,” said Tim, a successful Skills for Life learner and Digital Champion himself. “Already a number of drivers have signed up to basic IT courses.”

A World of Work (WoW) art event organised by ULRs and learning organisers, with support from unionlearn staff, drew in around 1,000 people to Swindon’s world-famous Steam Museum. The exhibition was an opportunity for the public to experience a wide variety of art, poetry, songs and photographs produced by workers from across Swindon and Wiltshire. There were also craft activities for kids and adults, stalls from local colleges, trade unions and history groups, various workshops including songwriting and poetry and the launch of a book on Wiltshire’s industrial history by White Horse TUC. “I loved the art,” commented visitor Dawn Sparkes “All the stalls were brilliant, and I finally joined a union!” Unionlearn’s Ros Etheridge signs up 11-year-old Ritik Chamala as a Digital Champion

Combined Universities Cornwall workshops ledKate by Kate Combined Universities Cornwall heldheld workshops led by Poole of Poole of Cornwall College launch its to new projectworkers’ to increase Cornwall College to launch itsto new project increase take-up take-up HE opportunities HE workers’ opportunities withofEuropean funding. with European funding.

Opportunity Knocks with unionlearn

Fun with jewellery at the Leicester event

ULRs from Leicester City Council workplaces worked with partner organisations to create an ‘Opportunity Knocks’ event in the city centre. Reps from UNISON, Unite, PCS, GMB, UCATT, ATL and NASUWT contributed ideas and contacts for a wide range of learning tasters. These included sign language, Italian, Skills for Life, numeracy, family history, jewellery making, cake decorating, Mendhi, meditation, Alexander technique, astronomy and archaeology. People were also encouraged to Get Online as well as become Digital Champions.

Making common cause in Clapham PCS ULRs from across London and the South-East joined an event in Clapham to promote and encourage learning. More than 65 members and providers from Ruskin and Birkbeck colleges, Nescot, Epsom Business centre and the Open University attended the event. Sessions and activities throughout the day covered issues of redundancy, dyslexia, learning and organising and equality impact assessments.

Dream come true Every child’s dream of becoming a train driver was granted when East Coast Trains, in partnership with Aslef, TSSA and the RMT unions held an open day at Central Station in Newcastle. The event, for rail employees and their families to try a range of fun activities, included a driver simulator offering the chance to have a go at being in charge of your own East Coast mainline service, as well as a number of taster sessions.

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» Case study » Dyslexia awareness What is dyslexia? Dyslexia is a Specific Learning Difference (SpLD) that primarily affects the way people process, store and retrieve information.

Photos: Martin Jenkinson

Dyslexia is estimated to affect around 10 per cent of the population, occurs in people of all races, backgrounds and abilities, and varies from one person to another, sometimes quite widely. While people with dyslexia often struggle with analysing information, literacy, numeracy and organisational skills, and time-management, they also display many strengths, such as creativity, intuition, problem-solving and ‘big-picture’ vision.

Breaking down When he was seriously injured at work 20 years ago, UNISON member Stephen Craven was worried that his dyslexia would make it very tough to find alternative work. But things have turned out much better than he originally feared. By Martin Moriarty

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the barrie

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Dyslexia awareness « Case study « Stephen Craven had been a glazier for 18 years when he shattered both ankles in a fall while working on a job at East Midlands Airport in the early 1990s. He couldn’t walk for a year after the accident, and needed another six months’ rehab before he was back on his feet. But it was the psychological impact that was more difficult to cope with than the physical pain: he worried that his severe dyslexia would make it very difficult to find alternative work. “Glazing was the only work I’d really known since leaving school, and I was very worried about how hard it would be to find another job,” he recalls. With help from his GP to combat anxiety and depression, Stephen was able to return to glazing when he recovered. But after six months it became clear to him that he simply couldn’t continue. Two things made a difference at that time. First, the disability employment officer at his local Jobcentre explained that he’d be entitled to material help through the Access To Work programme when he did find a new job. And second, he spent 18 months studying basic English and maths at Wilmorton College in Derby, where the educational psychologist had formally diagnosed his dyslexia.

iers After that, he started volunteering at a day centre for adults with learning difficulties where he lives in Ashbourne; then applied to become a residential social care worker on a relief basis; and secured a permanent post with regular hours two years later. Stephen says his dyslexia is severe. “I can’t put things into order properly, I find cross-referencing things very difficult, and I have trouble retaining information – my short-term memory really is bad,” he says.

“I’ve got my laptop now with my Dragon speech recognition software and I try and do as much as possible on that, but some of the work gets lost on the computer – that can happen at times.” With the backing of his union UNISON, Stephen has taken both the union learning rep course and the Stage 1 health and safety course, with the help of a scribe funded through the college. “Taking notes on courses has always been a barrier before: without the help of the scribe, I wouldn’t have been able to do either of those courses,” he explains. UNISON has been supportive throughout, he says. “The help I have had from UNISON and the opportunities I’ve had from being a member have given me a more positive outlook on life,” he says. “UNISON has also given me the confidence to challenge bad work practice within my workplace.” Stephen’s advice to anyone who thinks they might have dyslexia is to see an educational psychologist for assessment and diagnosis: once you have a diagnosis, you (or your ULR/union rep) can ask your employer to make the reasonable adjustments required by law. Stephen says he now thinks differently about his accident at the airport. “When I had my accident 20 years ago, I really didn’t know what to do, and I never thought I’d be able to do the job I do now,” he says. “But it goes to show that however severe the barriers are, you can overcome them if you know where to go for help.”

Challenging the myths Dyslexia continues to be widely misunderstood within the workplace, according to an online survey of ULRs unionlearn conducted in the autumn. Eight out of ten reps said they were aware of colleagues with dyslexia, and more than half reported workers with dyslexia experienced barriers to training at work. While only one in three reps had had training in how to support workers with dyslexia, two in three said their employers were prepared to make adjustments for workers with dyslexia. “Often, dyslexia isn't recognised for what it is,” commented one rep. “Managers seem to think that it’s purely a difficulty with reading, when it can also lead to organisational difficulties. It’s often misidentified as an attitude problem – as being deliberately disobedient – plus colleagues think workers with dyslexia are lazy.” Union reps can play a vital role in making workplaces less daunting for adults with dyslexia, says unionlearn Union Development Officer Judith Swift. “They can negotiate simple changes that will make a world of difference for those with this specific learning difficulty.” People should not be afraid of admitting they have dyslexia and should not fear discrimination at work, Judith says. “The good news is that many employers are open to making adjustments that will help.” Stephen uses speech recognition software on his laptop

Find out more >>

UNISON has published Dyslexia In Our Own Words, a booklet that includes tips on making union communication dyslexic-friendly, suggestions on organising around dyslexia, and interviews with members with dyslexia news_view.asp?did=7301

>> British Dyslexia Association >> Dyslexia Action >> Independent Dyslexia Consultants spring 2012 «


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» Feature » Six Book Challenge

Former SAS soldier Andy McNab proved that ‘who reads wins’ when he turned up at the Learn4U centre at McVitie’s Manchester factory in the autumn.

Former SAS man Andy McNab, who still has to protect his identity 20 years after leaving the Forces, emerged from the shadows to visit the Learn4U centre at McVitie’s Manchester factory in the autumn. To help celebrate their success in this year’s Six Book Challenge, Andy talked to learners about his second career as a writer of best-sellers such as Bravo Two Zero.

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The best-selling author was on a literacy-related mission to help the centre celebrate winning the Six Book Challenge workplace prize in the popular Reading Agency scheme. The initiative has proved a resounding success at the factory, where 50 people last year stuck to their promise to finish six books of their own choice and keep a reading diary of their experiences. “It was a coup to have both a real life hero and successful author visit the Learn4U centre at McVitie’s,” says ULR Coordinator Jonathan Waterhouse, himself the recipient of last year’s TUC ULR of the Year award. “The event with Andy McNab resulted in a real buzz within the factory,” he said, “and It was great to have Paddy Lillis, deputy general secretary of USDAW, in attendance to see what’s been achieved.” Jonathan has helped run the Reading Agency scheme for the past three years at the factory, as part of a range of campaigns to promote learning at the workplace. “The Six Book Challenge is another great example of how USDAW ULRs at McVitie’s have engaged with our union members, allowing us to reinvigorate or start a reading culture with the support of both the Reading Agency and Stockport libraries,” he says. McVitie’s is one of around 90 workplaces that ran the Six Book Challenge last year, and a total of 18,000 adults and young people registered to take part not only in workplaces but also through libraries, colleges, adult education providers and prisons. Impact research into the Six Book Challenge has found that 94 per cent of respondents feel a sense of achievement, 88 per cent say they gain from the experience and 60 per cent report an improvement in their skills.

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Six Book Challenge « Feature «

Make this the year of the Challenge Unionlearn is working with te Reading Agency to encourage more workplaces to get involved in the Six Book Challenge this year. The main activity for the Six Book Challenge 2012 will run from January to September, but learning centres and learning projects are welcome to run it at any time that suits them during the year. Workplaces that run the Six Book Challenge can: ❚ engage people in the enjoyment of reading – often for the first time Photo: Mike Corrie

The Reading Agency was very glad to see Learn4U’s hard work rewarded with the Andy McNab visit. “McVitie’s have been fantastic supporters of the Six Book Challenge together with Stockport Council’s library services,” says the Reading Agency’s adult literacy specialist Genevieve Clarke. “We’re thrilled that they won this annual draw that we run with the Campaign for Learning, and we’re very grateful to Transworld Publishers for bringing Andy McNab to meet McVitie’s staff who have taken part in the challenge – it’s been a real boost for everyone.” As well as taking part in a question and answer session, Andy signed copies of his new book, Dead Centre, the latest in his popular series of thrillers featuring former SAS operative Nick Stone – this time on the trail of a Russian oligarch’s son who has been kidnapped by Somali pirates. “Reading and literacy changed my life,” Andy says, “so it’s wonderful to see partnerships such as the one at McVitie’s working so successfully to promote and encourage reading through programmes like the Six Book Challenge.” McVitie’s management is very happy to see the scheme expand to involve more and more workers every year. “The Six Book Challenge has gone from strength to strength here at McVitie’s Manchester,” says factory general manager Helen Day. “It’s great to see so many employees not only enjoying this challenge but also generally expanding their learning through the support of the Learn4U Centre and everyone here who is committed to making this a success.” The local authority is also glad to see its library service credited for the part it has played in helping learners from Mcvitie’s achieve their reading goals. “I’m delighted that the council’s library service has been able to support this scheme to help local people discover the joy of reading and promote the many facilities that Stockport Council’s excellent libraries offer,” says Councillor Dave Goddard, Leader of Stockport Council.

Andy McNab (centre) helps USDAW reps and officials celebrate Six Book success (from left): ULRs Sharon Louth and Jonathan Waterhouse, Deputy General Secretary Paddy Lillis and Lifelong Learning Project Worker Julia Baldwin

❚ support skills development and encourage employees at all levels to take up learning ❚ inject creativity into the workplace and lead to other activity such as book swaps, reading groups and creative writing ❚ raise awareness and membership of public and workplace libraries ❚ provide a common goal for different levels of staff and break down barriers ❚ offer a practical tool for partnership working in support of learning. The Reading Agency offers packs for purchase, including reading diaries, certificates and publicity material and incentives to encourage participants. Downloadable guidance, email support and practical training sessions are also available.

>> To find out more, please visit: or contact Genevieve Clarke, email: tel: 0871 750 2104

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» Feature » Quick Reads

Have a break, have a Quick Read ULRs can help reach out to reluctant readers in their workplace by organising a Reading Break on Tuesday 7 February. It’s now common knowledge that literacy in the workplace improves all aspects of working life. Productivity, attendance and morale are all boosted by literacy initiatives, which also help workers feel more confident in their jobs and more positive about their future careers. That’s why adult learning organisation NIACE is joining with Quick Reads to encourage workplaces to organise Reading Breaks on Tuesday 7 February, with the help of this year’s batch of eight new Quick Reads. By holding a Quick Reads Reading Break in their workplace, union learning reps can help create a buzz about reading that will encourage even the most reluctant readers to pick up a good book.

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Because this year’s Quick Reads are being published a little earlier than usual, ULRs will be able to use the new batch of short, gripping and exciting new books by best-selling authors and celebrities including Maeve Binchy, Alexander McCall Smith, James Caan and Tony Parsons. “Businesses have identified that literacy initiatives in the workplace improve productivity, attendance and morale, and help workers feel more confident in their jobs and more positive about their future careers,” says Emma Cliffe, Quick Reads project manager at NIACE. “Quick Reads have been an integral part of helping many thousands of people to read, complete and enjoy a book for the first time in their lives – something they thought would never happen.

“They then go on to read more and more and pass on their love of reading to their friends and family.” Organising a Reading Break on 7 February will allow ULRs to make the most of the high profile Quick Reads will be generating around that time with the big public promotion of the new titles across the media. Quick Reads has produced a wide range of resources to help ULRs organise Reading Breaks in February. You can pre-order a Quick Reads Workplace Pack, download the Quick Reads Reading Break Toolkit to inspire you with ideas and use the Quick Reads 2012 posters to advertise your event (see ‘Want to get involved?’).

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World Book Night « Feature «

Want to get involved? >>

Comprehensive packs for workplaces, complete with copies of the new titles (and a display stand) and the poster (below) can be ordered online at quick-reads-readingbreaks/reading-breaks


A range of free resources will also be available to download from the Quick Reads site in the run-up to the publication of the new Quick Reads.

>> Maureen Lee interview:

pp 16–18

A night to remember If you love books and are keen to spread the message of how much fun they are, why not join World Book Night, a celebration on Monday 23 April designed to spread a love of reading and books?

Take your pick

At the heart of World Book Night lies the simplest of ideas – that of putting a book into another person’s hand and saying: “This one’s amazing, you have to read it.” World Book Night will see tens of thousands of people gift books within their communities to spread the joy and love of reading. The 25 books that will be part of WBN 2012 in the UK have now been announced and applications are open to become one of the 20,000 givers. This year givers will be distributing 24 copies each (480,000 books), with more books distributed directly to prisons and libraries through charitable partners.

Notes From A Small Island by Bill Bryson

To be a giver you must be: ❚ aged 16 or over and resident in the UK ❚ able to collect 24 copies of your book from your local bookshop or library ❚ committed to giving your books away on or around World Book Night to non- or light readers. Givers will be chosen based on where, to whom and why they want to give books away.

>> To apply to be a giver

log onto the site at and click on Sign Up To Be A Giver.

Pride And Prejudice by Jane Austen The Player Of Games by Iain M Banks Sleepyhead by Mark Billingham The Alchemist by Paul Coelho The Take by Martina Cole Harlequin by Bernard Cornwell Someone Like You by Roald Dahl A Tale Of Two Cities by Charles Dickens Room by Emma Donoghue Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier The Remains Of The Day by Kazuo Ishiguro Misery by Stephen King The Secret Dreamworld Of A Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella Small Island by Andrea Levy Let The Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist The Road by Cormac McCarthy The Time Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger The Vanishing Act Of Esme Lennox by Maggie O'Farrell The Damned United by David Peace Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff Touching The Void by Joe Simpson I Capture The Castle by Dodie Smith The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

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» Interview » Maureen Lee

Helping everyone get a Maureen Lee is so keen to give other people the chance to enjoy a good read that she gives away many books once she’s finished them. Now she’s hoping the new novel she has written for Quick Reads will reach a wide new audience. By Martin Moriarty Quick Reads author Maureen Lee loves reading so much that she often gives books away as soon as she’s finished them. She casts her eye over the pile she’s put together for her local charity shop: Robert Goddard, Marion Keyes, two Ruth Rendells, Victoria Hislop, Kate Morton – she’s enjoyed them all, but now wants to give other people the chance. Indeed, she’s so keen on the redistribution of reading that she has been known to play the book fairy and leave a novel that she’s finished on the bus in the hope that whoever picks it up next will love it as much as she has. “Reading has played an enormous part in my life. I’m always reading books; I couldn’t even think of the number of books I’ve read over my life,” she says. The eldest of two children, Maureen was born in a tiny terraced house by the docks in Bootle, on Merseyside, during the second world war. Money was scarce because her father had fallen on hard times and was working as a barman – he later found a job in a munitions factory in Kirby and the family moved to a modern house on a new estate there. Taught to read by her mother before she went to school, Maureen remembers the thrill of discovering her first grown-up book when she was around seven years old. It was a biography of John Lee, nicknamed ‘the man they couldn’t hang’ because he survived three botched executions for the murder of his employer Emma Keyse in the 1880s (he continued to protest his innocence when he was eventually released from prison in 1907). “I sat under my grandmother’s table and I read the book from beginning to end,” she says. The rest of her girlhood reading was considerably less grisly and sensational. “I loved the Katy books by Susan Coolidge and the Little Women books by Louisa May Alcott: one of my favourites was Beyond The Blue Mountains by Jean Plaidy, which I read over

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and over, and The Coral Island by RM Ballantyne,” she recalls. “My mother and father didn’t go out and buy books for me but somehow or other I managed to get a small collection.” (Perhaps some earlier incarnation of the book fairy she has become was leaving them around for her to find.) Although she loved reading, Maureen didn’t particularly enjoy school. “I went to a convent school on the outskirts of Liverpool: I was in the middle form and in the exams at the end of the year I came about 15th out of a class of 30, so I was absolutely average, in the middle of the middle!” She made lots of friends but doesn’t have especially fond memories of the teachers. “Some of the nuns were nice and some of them were very weird, but none of them were inspiring – I can’t remember being inspired by anyone when I was young except film stars or singers, and they were obviously people I never knew.” Maureen left school when she was 14 because her father became seriously ill with emphysema and she wanted to work and earn some money. She trained as a shorthand typist at commercial college for nine months and found a job as soon as her course finished. She didn’t like office work, but stuck it out until she and her husband Richard started a family in their early 20s. She began writing around the same time, initially inspired by American writer Ernest Hemingway, author of the semi-autobiographical first world war novel A Farewell To Arms and For Whom The Bell Tolls, based on his own experiences in the Spanish civil war. “I was reading his short stories, which are terribly miserable, and I wanted to write too, so I wrote some very miserable short stories: I had three or four published but I didn’t really get anywhere,” she recalls. It was a literary agent who suggested a change of direction. “She told me that you mainly sell short stories to women’s magazines, that’s the biggest market, so I started to write more cheerful, down-toearth stories, and over the years I had around 150 published in different magazines.” But it was not until her three boys had all left home and her husband had taken early retirement that she started writing full-time, when she was already in her 40s. “I was working as a temp but I hated it so much that one day in 1990 I decided to stop,” she says. “I was a member of the Labour Party at the time, so I asked them if I could have a room to write in at their offices in Colchester. I was determined to succeed as a writer, and I would go there every day

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Maureen Lee « Interview «

t a taste for reading

Amy’s Diary It’s 3 September 1939, and Amy Browning has started to write a diary on her 18th birthday – which is also the day she’s heard the news on the radio that Britain is at war with Germany. Living with her family in Liverpool, nothing much changes until the bombs began to fall and Amy’s fears grow. Her brother is fighting in France, her boyfriend has joined the RAF and they all now live in a very dangerous world…

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» Interview » Maureen Lee from midday to six o’clock and I wrote and I wrote and I wrote.” It took her four years of hard graft but in 1994 the publisher Orion not only accepted her novel but also asked her to write a trilogy set in wartime Liverpool – and she’s had another saga published every year ever since. Although she’d written two unpublished novels before having children, and a third that was picked up in America in 1981, Stepping Stones was the first to hit the bookshelves since she started writing full-time. “It felt really wonderful to see it on the shelves in bookshops and libraries – it felt absolutely marvellous,” she says. “All my books are in print, which is wonderful: I can’t believe it’s happened to me!”

“Quick Reads is first class, you can’t fault it: reading is something that creates so much happiness in people.” Like most of her novels, Stepping Stones is set in Liverpool during the second world war (it even opens in Chaucer Street where Maureen herself was born). But since she was a child at the time, she still has to do a lot of research to make sure all the period details are right. One of her friends sends her a copy of every Liverpool history book as soon as it’s published, and another, who’s a nurse, helps her out with any detailed medical knowledge she needs. But she can’t rely on friends for everything. When she wanted to know if there were any launderettes open in Liverpool after the war (for Stepping Stones), she got in touch with the National Association of the Launderette Industry. “They had just celebrated the 50th anniversary of the first one opening and sent me a booklet they had recently printed,” she says. Of course, these days the internet is invaluable to a historical writer. “I used to use the library – my husband Richard used to fetch books for me, because that was about the only way you could research,” she says.

“But now of course there’s the internet, which is absolutely fantastic – you can find out the most amazing things within a minute, I use it a lot.” But there are one or two things you can’t find out online or indeed anywhere else – such as whether a 1920s shipping company would have used the 12- or the 24-hour clock. “I wanted to know if they would have said a ship was sailing at four o’clock in the afternoon or 16:00 hours, so I took a chance and put 16:00 hours, and nobody’s ever written to say that wouldn’t have happened then.” For this year’s Quick Reads, Maureen has written Amy’s Diary, published with the other seven titles in February. “I really enjoyed it – I could write noting but Quick Reads, they’re so satisfying,” she says. The book follows the story of 18-year-old Amy Browning, who begins her diary on the day the second world war breaks out, and records her growing fears for her brother and her boyfriend who have both joined up. “I particularly enjoyed writing it because it’s in the first person and I really did feel I was Amy, I got right into her head and I felt young again!” Maureen is a big supporter of the Quick Reads campaign to encourage the nation to fall in love with reading, with its line-up of short, gripping and exciting new books by best-selling authors and celebrities: 3.5 million Quick Reads have been distributed and more than 2.5 million loaned through libraries, helping bring the pleasure of reading to people across the UK and Ireland. “Quick Reads is first class, you can’t fault it: reading is something that creates so much happiness in people,” she says. Immersing yourself in a novel is a wonderful experience, Maureen reckons: “You get lost in a novel far more than in a television programme, and you’re always so impatient to get back to your book,” she says. “I’m absolutely 100 per cent in favour of the entire world reading!”

What Maureen is reading Anybody Out There? by Marian Keyes

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The Island by Victoria Hislop

The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

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Louis de Bernières « Feature «

Waste not, want not He was the writer of a runaway best-seller. They were the council refuse workers. But when Louis de Bernières met GMB members at Brighton Cityclean, they discovered they had something important in common: recycling. By Astrid Stubbs He had no writing routine, he said: he worked when he felt like it. “An idea will niggle me, until I have to write it,” he said. The author, a keen musician, also heard a rendition of Irish folk tunes on guitar by Declan D’Arcy, a member of the streets crew. Also listening were Brighton’s former mayor Carol Theobald and Julie Cowell, mother of pop impresario Simon. City Infrastructure Learning and Development Officer Elaine Sweetman, who runs the learning centre with ULR support, said that having Louis visit was a great boost for everyone working at the depot. “We are running a creative writing course and this visit really inspired staff on the course,” she said.

“One of our ULRs, Wes Lee Emond, organises some great visitors and we all really enjoy the support from them: it helps to raise the profile of the centre too.” Over a quarter of the staff responsible for refuse, recycling, street cleaning and the parks services for the city have used the learning centre. Since it opened five years ago, more than 220 members of staff have achieved national qualifications in Skills for Life (literacy and numeracy), computer skills, ESOL and NVQs up to Level 3.

Photo: Rod Leon

Louis de Bernières (centre) with Cityclean staff and visitors (that’s Simon Cowell’s mum on his right)

Louis de Bernières, the author of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, often re-uses his own experiences in his fiction, he revealed when he visited the GMB learning centre at Hollingdean in the autumn. “I used my short experience in the army and time spent in South America as the basis for plots,” he said. “And the tales told me by a Yugoslav retired prostitute, who was my flatmate, eventually became A Partisan's Daughter.” Louis offered writing tips to the refuse, recycling, streets crew and parks staff: if you want to write a book, go ahead and do it; if you can’t think of a good beginning, go back to it when you can; and treat every chapter as if it were a short story.

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» Feature » Learning centre

Dedicated staff who treat everyone as individuals have led to the huge success of the nuclear plant’s learning centre. By Astrid Stubbs

The learning nucleus at S Sellafield cleaners Deborah Allan and Irene Simpson both enjoyed social networking but had little idea that computers could mean more to them until they discovered the union learning centre. Irene uses eBay and Deborah uses Facebook but both admit they had no more than basic knowledge until they completed their first IT course with support of the onsite union learning centre and its staff. “At first it was hard going but we came on in a few weeks,” says Irene. Deborah is even more keen and now wants to use IT learning to pursue her interest in health and safety. “I didn’t even know how to do a password when I started: my family set me up on the computer at home,” says Irene. Both women put their progress down to the support of centre manager Dave Riley and ULR and coordinator Deborah Hanlon.

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“With their help I have come on in leaps and bounds,” says Irene. “They are very patient and they had their work cut out with us but they were always on hand if we needed them. The atmosphere is relaxed and there is no pressure whatsoever.” “If the teachers we have had are anything to go by we’d recommend it fully to anyone,” the women agree. Little wonder then that an Ofsted inspection in 2009 placed U-Net among the best providers in the country and awarded a grade 2 for all aspects of learning provision. Overall success rates were above national average and support for learners was judged to be outstanding. Inspectors were particularly impressed with the ‘outstanding peer support’ provided by ULRs. Deborah Hanlon typifies this support, explaining that empathy is a major quality for working with learners. “People have different experiences because of school or other courses they’ve been on and it takes a lot of courage to come,” she says.

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Learning centre « Feature « “We are trying to draw that confidence out – some people have few skills or social skills – and we have to understand that everyone is an individual, which means we need to tailor what we are offering to draw them out. “It takes time and patience and we need to listen rather than talk. E-learning means people can do it in their own time, when they need it and learn at their own pace,” she says.

Irene Simpson (centre) and Deborah Allan (far right) have thrived with the support of learning centre coordinator Deborah Hanlon (far left) and manager Dave Riley

“Only through learning can we gain new skills and help our members stay in employment.”

t Sellafield Centre manager Dave Riley and coordinator Deborah Hanlon help staff progress through learning

ULR Tony McCarron (left) shows learner Paul Taylor the range of IT courses on offer

“As a tutor, I like meeting people and want to help them. This is a vocation and I’m doing it because I want to help people. It’s personal, working one-to-one and getting to know people outside work. Showing them how learning can relate to their everyday life can make the learning easier.” The Sellafield Union Learning project got underway in 2002 with just a handful of ULRs after a survey revealed an almost unanimous desire for learning outside of workbased training. The centre itself opened in 2003, with money from the Learning & Skills Council funding the manager’s wages while Sellafield Sites Ltd provided the room and five computers. To date, it has built on that early demand for learning, providing more than 6,000 courses, including numeracy and literacy, management and business and IT, to 3,000-plus learners. “We now have 60 ULRs on site, who help employees get back into learning by giving them good Information, advice and guidance,” says Dave Riley. The main centre has also expanded and now grown to occupy three rooms with six satellite centres and a link centre at Risley in Warrington. It has been awarded the matrix Quality Standard for Information, Advice and Guidance and is a National Test Centre for Numeracy and Literacy, and a test centre for the new NVQ IT Level 2. Since becoming a test centre, the centre has delivered 90 National Test passes in Numeracy and Literacy and 50 IT Level 2 qualifications, with a further 100 at IT Level 1. It has also delivered 64 NVQs in IT and Business and Administration. “The Sellafield Union Learning Centre represents a great example of partnership between Sellafield Ltd and the unions: the success of the centre has been a joint effort from management and ULRs on site,” says Dave. “The centre has provided a high-quality service that has enabled us to constantly adapt and change the way we deliver our e-learning courses. “This has helped our ULRs, the centre, the company and, most importantly, our learners: only through learning can we gain new skills and help our members stay in employment.”

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» ULR profile » Waseem Tahir As a ULR and a Continuous Improvement Officer, Waseem Tahir works hard to make life better for staff at Mosscare Housing in Manchester.

“My satisfaction is twofold: helping someone to grow, and helping me grow as well” I started my career as a cinema projectionist and worked in the cinema trade for six years before I was made redundant. I used this as an opportunity to develop my skills, initially working in a customer services role at Trafford Metropolitan Borough Council. I moved on to coordinate several different projects during my two-and-a-half years with the council, including delivering telephone advice on council tax and housing benefit, and also took part in equality and diversity training. I’m a Unite member, but I wasn’t aware of the ULR role I until came to work at Mosscare Housing in Manchester in 2007.

Waseem helps colleagues fill in learning needs assessments and job application forms

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Now I combine my ULR role with my job as a Continuous Improvement Officer, which involves looking at how the organisation uses information and communicates it. This includes a whole range of things and I basically work on anything that improves the organisation: for instance, recently fundraising to run hate crime awareness events. Mosscare offers a different challenge as a ULR because so many roles have specialised people with specialised qualifications. The challenge for me over the years has been to see how people can grow further. We now have a learning recognition agreement and in my ULR role I have helped many staff and community members with their learning and development, working with both the Unite ULF teams and unionlearn in the north-west to organise courses and events and to signpost people to individual programmes. I sit on the Mosscare Training and Consultation Forum and I advise staff who want to further their ongoing development through Mosscare’s vocational and professional development programme, which covers everything from apprenticeships to higher education. My role as a ULR has included facilitating sessions in partnership with unionlearn for Mosscare staff, including using role-playing; identifying learning styles for individual staff members to help improve learning; and using learning at work activities to enable learners to deliver training to one another on health and well-being. I’ve also loaned out laptops to staff who are on vocational courses. The six laptops were obtained from Unite and Mosscare agreed to coordinate the scheme. On a day-to-day basis, if staff want a learning needs assessment or help with application forms, I’m there supporting them. My satisfaction is twofold; helping someone to grow and helping me grow as well. In this role you get to meet people in a different capacity but my ULR role complements the work I do.

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Waseem Tahir « ULR profile «

Photos: Paul Herrmann

As ULR at Mosscare, Waseem faces a different challenge because so many roles have specialised people with specialised qualifications

As part of my own development, I completed an Information Management Degree at Manchester Metropolitan University. I graduated with First Class Honours and was awarded the Chartered Institute of Library & Information Professionals (CILIP) NW Branch Award for achieving the top score across the Manchester Metropolitan University’s Information and Communications Undergraduate degree routes. I’ve used the skills to provide several benefits for my employer. I got time off and financial support from Mosscare Housing towards my degree. I felt awkward prior to starting the course but, five minutes into it, that disappeared and I found that, because the course was made up of people from a variety of different age groups, I fitted in really well. We all did well, not just because we had more life or work experience but because, as mature students, we were more aware of why we were undertaking a vocational and professional qualification. I have since gained a place to study MSc Management and Information Systems: Change and Development at the University of Manchester on a part-time basis. I am developing my skills further to enable me to pursue a career in business analysis or organisational development.

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» Round up » Regional conferences

Promoting learning in the regions

Union learning reps in the north-west and the southern and eastern regions have continued to spread the learning message despite the difficulties in the wider economy in the past 12 months.


Going strong down south

Learning zumba gave people the chance to enjoy acquiring a new skill Photo: Jess Hurd/

Regional Manager Barry Francis thanked ULRs across the southern and eastern region for working hard through a difficult year, at the unionlearn SERTUC sixth annual conference in the autumn.

Photo: Jess Hurd/

“It has been a tough year in many ways: there has been the restructuring of unionlearn SERTUC and the economic situation has made it tough for all our reps,” he said. “But I am proud to be able to stand up here today to say that we are still strong, and we’re here to support the excellent work that many of you delegates have been pioneering over the past year.” Unionlearn Director Tom Wilson, who chaired the event at Congress House in London, said that unions believed that investing in the workforce was the way to escape from austerity. “Hand in hand with our opposition to government cuts goes the affirmation of the good things that we stand for, learning above all,” he argued. Unite Regional Learning Organiser John Barr and

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Quick Reads author Lucy Cavendish signed books for participants

Southampton cab section chair Perry McMillan offered an insight into organising the self-employed with their account of the union’s learning and organising efforts in the taxi and private hire sector. The union had been able to nip racism in the bud when some Southampton cab drivers began displaying ‘English-speaking driver’ stickers and flying the St George flag after large numbers of Afghan and Somali migrants joined the taxi trade in Southampton, Perry revealed. Conference participants took the opportunity to improve their understanding of 10 key areas of

ULR work: health and well-being at work; equality and diversity; accessing higher education; social media; apprenticeships; Skills for Life; Collective Learning Funds; community learning; green skills; and working with Macmillan. And before the conference drew to a close, they also had the chance to take part in five different informal learning activities: creative writing, family history, BBC First Click, zumba and tai chi.

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Regional conferences « Round up « NORTH-WEST

Celebrating quality up north At its annual conference in the autumn, unionlearn North-West presented Quality Awards to four organisations that have been working with unions to provide inclusive and innovative learning programmes and quality information, advice and guidance (IAG).

The learning champions were Liverpool City Council lead ULR Helen Duerden (UNISON); Manchester firefighter Paul Smith (FBU); and USDAW members Annette Bott and Drew Welborne. The apprenticeship champions were Sefton Metropolitan Borough Council lead ULR Amanda McNally (UNISON); and Aintree hospital lead ULR Marie Reece (UNISON). The community champions were Daliah Roslan and Barbara Griffiths from Cheshire West and Cheshire council; and the age champion was CWU member Graham Kingston. Photos: Chris Cleave

The awards went to: ❚ the Unite learning centre at First Bus Manchester Queen’s Road depot for its work on ESOL ❚ South Cheshire College for its trade union studies provision ❚ Liverpool Community College for a range of work including Skills for Life, sign language and taxi drivers’ qualifications ❚ the CWU learning centre in Stockport for its work on Skills for Life and IAG. “It is always a great privilege to hand out the Quality Awards to our partners around the region,” commented North West regional manager Dave Eva, who presented the awards at the event, in Liverpool.

“These awards are well deserved and recognise some hard work and great practice that is taking place across the North West to ensure high-quality skills are being delivered to the region’s workforce.” Attended by more than 170 participants, the conference also recognised a number of champions who have gone the extra mile to promote learning in a variety of different ways. The three digital champions were Merseyside Fire Service regional education rep Mark Dunne (FBU); Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council lead ULR Steve Hewitt (Unite); and Salford City Council worker Jackie Saville (UNISON).

Dave Eva (centre) presents Liverpool Community College with its Quality Award at the successful northwest conference (main picture)


Tackling barriers Yorkshire and the Humber’s annual ULR conference in December opened with everyone learning the ancestral war dance that the New Zealand rugby team performs at all its matches. New Zealand internationals Robbie Hunter-Paul and Kylie Leuluai divided the participants into two teams, taught them all the Haka, and then led a dance-off to bring the workshop to a rousing close. The rest of the agenda featured speeches from local MP Hilary Benn and skills expert Professor Mike Campbell, plus workshops on health & wellbeing, digital inclusion, green skills and ULR networks and apprenticeships. Mohammed Ilyas (RMT) won the Regional Learning Award, Susan Harber (Unite) won the new Ian McDonald Award for Learning Achievement, and Gareth Evans (PCS) won the regional annual writing competition.

Mohammed Ilyas collects his Regional Learning Award from Leeds Central MP Hilary Benn

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» Roundup » TUC Education with unionlearn Photos: Jim Tomlinson

Green is good

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Other speakers included Graham Petersen of the Greener Jobs Alliance; Tim Balcon, who chairs the Skills for a Green Economy Group; Mike Peverill of Climate East Midlands; and unionlearn Regional Manager Mary Alys. Participants also explored the cost-benefit analysis of environmental awareness and the economic payback; options for low-carbon technology and sustainable energy technology; and the trade union approach to greening workplaces.

Participants explored green solutions (above and top left) and listened to expert contributors (top right, from left) Keith Marshall, Tim Balcon, Tom Wilson, Nigel Leigh and Mary Alys

Unions are focusing on encouraging employers to work together with staff to engage with the challenge of energy efficiency, which can make a significant contribution to saving costs in an increasingly expensive energy market as well as helping to reduce the burning of fossil fuels.

Campaigning for fairer fruit Ghanaian banana worker and trade unionist Richard Beccles showed how power is unfairly distributed along the supply chain when he visited a number of different courses in London this autumn. Sponsored by Banana Link, the fairtrade campaign that works closely with the Southern and Eastern Region TUC, Richard’s visit took in TUC Education courses in north London and Workers’ Educational Association (WEA) sessions in central London. Richard kicked off the sessions with a Ghanaian style warm-up to get students and staff up and moving before beginning the interactive Banana Game (downloadable at

The aim of the activity is to explore how power is shared along the banana supply chain from producer to consumer, and how international solidarity can challenge its inequalities. Students also watched video testimony from banana plantation workers in Cameroon describing the impact of routine exposure to toxic agrochemicals in the workplace. Richard Beccles shared his first-hand experience of the banana trade with union learners in London Photo: Jan Nimmo

Trade unionists can become green pioneers, according to the Midlands unionlearn Skills for Greener Industries conference in the autumn. Participants were invited to embrace the spirit of George Stephenson, who pioneered new solutions to the challenges of the early industrial revolution. Fittingly, it was Stephenson College in Coalville, Leicestershire that provided the venue for the event. The college is also the regional hub for the National Skills Academy for Environmental Technologies and delegates took part in a tour of the college’s superb Renewable Energies Centre. Energy efficiency expert Rick Greenough of De Montfort University highlighted the importance of energy-intensive industries shifting towards the use of renewable energies, pointing to the success of the nearby Toyota plant. There was also an impassioned plea to enthuse our youth about science, technology and engineering to ensure a greener future. Summit Skills Chief Executive Keith Marshall said that transforming the energy efficiency of the national housing stock was an incredible challenge. Having skilled domestic energy efficiency advisers and tradespeople who could command the confidence of the consumer was also important, he argued.

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TUC Education with unionlearn « Roundup «

Linking up with social media

Ask your father! The rights of fathers to take additional paternity leave are detailed in one of a series of new short e-Notes produced by TUC Education. The series of informative and interactive learning modules is part of the Developing e-Learning Tools for Trade Union Education (DeLTTUE) project to help reps develop and update their knowledge of key issues that may impact upon their workplace. Future e-Notes include: ❚ ‘fit’ Notes ❚ vulnerable workers ❚ building a stronger workplace union ❚ union reps and the environment. Each e-Note has been jointly developed by TUC policy experts and TUC Education tutors, and includes short videos, quizzes and links to supporting information.

>> To take a look at the Additional Paternity Leave e-Note, visit

>> For further information about the

project and e-Notes, contact TUC Education Online Learning Officer Craig Hawkins. Email:

All about EWCs

ULR Mike Anderton (right) offers CWU member Paul Turner a little help with getting online

It was only after he retired that CWU member Paul Turner decided that enough was enough – he needed help to improve his IT skills. After 10 years with the Royal Artillery, Paul worked for Royal Mail for 36 years as a professional driver and was an active CWU member. Paul was having difficulties typing up a document for the Tredworth Tigers’ under-10s football club, which he manages. He’d also just attended a reunion of his Royal Artillery mates and discovered that they had been trying unsuccessfully to contact him online. So Paul jumped at the offer when he received a letter from his ULR inviting all retired members to an online open day at the G@tehouse Learning Centre at the Royal Mail sorting office in Gloucester.

He’s now completed the online basics course through MyGuide. “I can email my friends and contact them through Facebook and share old photos,” he says. He’s also looking forward to trying other courses, perhaps history or geography, and thinking of doing an IT qualification with learndirect. “At the G@tehouse Learning Centre we aim to help our members and their families with their learning aspirations, from using a computer for the first time to finding higher education courses,” says the centre’s lead ULR Katy Harland. “People of all ages and skill levels benefit from lifelong learning and it's never too late to start!”

Union education officers from across Europe met in Brussels to launch a rapid e-learning module that introduces the role and function of European Works Councils through interactive quizzes, games and videos. The ETUI’s European Education Conference was designed to share the work of the European Commission-financed project Developing e-Learning Tools for Trade Union Education (DeLTTUE). Led by TUC Education, DeLTTUE aims to produce innovative tools and strategies to support the development of online learning within European trade union education. The project draws upon the expertise of partners in Sweden, Finland, Bulgaria, Greece and the UK. The project has created a new e-learning platform for European trade union confederations, TUC tutors from Stow College also demonstrated OpenMeetings, a live web chat facility used with learners to bring more social interaction into online learning. Mika Ukkonen of the SAK Finnish trade union confederation demonstrated social media sites, which he suggested might well replace Facebook in the future. Presenting the Google+ site, he showed how these tools can be used for online education purposes in order to create a collaborative social environment for learners.

spring 2012 «


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» Roundup » TUC Education with unionlearn It’s a regular meeting that brings together ULRs and reps from training providers colleges, universities, Wales Union Learning Fund (WULF) project managers, Union Education Officers, TU tutors, Wales TUC development officers and other organisations that support learning in the workplace, such as NIACE Dysgu Cymru, the Six Book Challenge, Quick Reads, and more. It’s a long list: just one of the factors that makes the Network work.

What else works? Making sure the Network is useful to those who attend. The people contacts are massively important, as is the information exchange, briefings and skills updates for ULRs. Learning in the workplace is, of course, the main focus but we do include items on health and safety, equality and changes to the law that have a learning aspect to them. Getting facility time to attend a meeting is a struggle for many ULRs so it’s vital that the meeting is really worth it. ULRs often pass me suggestions of speakers to invite. Sometimes they have seen them elsewhere; sometimes it’s a subject they’d like to know more about. I’ve regularly gone to learning days in workplaces only to meet some of the speakers and attendees who were at previous Network meetings: I think that shows the Network works. What started as an exchange of news and items of interest after the meetings has expanded to the monthly (and more often) Net News. It includes learning news from across Wales and the UK and is sent out in a format that makes it easy for ULRs to cut and paste for their own workplace newsletters. Another crucial factor is that we take the Network to members. We meet three times a year in 12 different places in Wales.

So: not a single Network, but lots across Wales? Yes, from Caernarfon to Cardiff and Milford Haven to Machynlleth and towns and cities in between. It means that the Network brings together ULRs and organisations that are local with relevant local information alongside the Wales and UK information and best practice.

28 » spring 2012

All photos: Philip Rees

What is the Network of Excellence?

Each year we go to one or two towns that we have not been to before: in February we are going to Brecon, and in June to Rhyl for the first time.

How did the Network of Excellence start? ULRs wanted it! Back in 2007, the Wales TUC received European Funding from a TUC project. Wales TUC asked ULRs at meetings in the north and south what would help them to be more effective. The Network was born with just three meetings – north, south and midWales – and a total of 34 people. It expanded almost immediately to include a fourth meeting in west Wales. Our last round of meetings in September had just short of 90 people attending.

Have you had any setbacks in the last four years? ULRs have had to sharpen their negotiating skills and be very persistent to get facility time to attend meetings.

How do ULRs join? Initially picking up contact details from meetings and ULR training courses: it still works that way but there are a lot more people who contact me with their email address and union on the recommendation of others. The Network works!

How do you see the Network of Excellence developing? We have plans for an additional mid-Wales meeting. It’s a big area and the meetings here are small, possibly as there is less of a union tradition among the scattered communities. There are union members out there, and to encourage learning in the workplace we need to be there. That’s where computer skills could help. We’ve not touched social media in a big way – yet. It’s an area that some members get really enthusiastic about so their views and talents will be essential to point us in the right direction. I’m sure we will be having skills sessions for everyone (me included) at a future Network meeting very soon.

Networking Wales! Bernice Waugh, project officer for the Network of Excellence, Y Rhydwaith Rhagoriaeth, tells us how it works.

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TUC Education with unionlearn « Roundup «

English with a union accent Norwegian students at the Yorkshire School improve their English and learn about international union issues

Norwegian trade unionists are a regular feature of life in Bradford Trade Union Study Centre (TUSC), Wortley Hall and workplaces in the Yorkshire region. The reason? A scheme set up in 1993 to establish a regular language course for Norwegian trade unionists

in England to help them in negotiations with foreign management, in conversations with their own members or in connection with international trade union projects. Bente Gyp Wilhelmsen and Mike Barker from AOF Norway, the training wing of the Norwegian

Confederation of Trade Unions (LO) set up the scheme with unionlearn REO Trevor Sargison and Gill Jennison at the TUSC in Bradford and Derek Utley at York Associates, an English language school. The result was the Yorkshire School, which has been held every year since. This year, AOF trained the first batch of Norwegian ULRs in the county of Oppland and in September this group visited York and Leeds to start a new type of international network. “This excellent international exchange benefits trade unionists in both countries,” says Trevor Sargison.

Roll up your sleeves

Short and sweet

A new TUC Education handbook offers practical advice for union reps on a wide range of issues in the workplace.

Successful learners collected their course certificates after completing an introductory training course at Stow College, Glasgow on the role of a learning representative.

Photo: Mark Jackson

The TUC Workplace Manual is an invaluable tool for stewards and anyone who represents, advises or supports members in the workplace, including learning, equality, green and health and safety representatives. The book is not only a guide to dealing with problems but is also intended to help trade union activists recruit and organise, and build a strong, effective trade union in their workplace. Using checklists and practical examples, it guides reps through the process of dealing with most issues in the workplace before they become issues for the courts or tribunals.

“Every single day, in workplaces up and down the country, union reps are dealing with the everyday problems that arise, such as safety issues, cases of harassment, fears over redundancies and difficulties getting time off for childcare,” says TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber. “Organised workplaces are safer, fairer and better because of the role that trade union representatives play. “This book will help give trade union representatives the information they need to be more effective and confident so that they can continue to make our workplaces better places for everyone.”

TUC Education in Scotland organised the short, online course for the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS).

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» Contacts

unionlearn contacts All TUC email addresses are first initial followed by

» Unionlearn Tel: 020 7079 6920 Fax: 020 7079 6921 Director Tom Wilson Tel: 020 7079 6922

» National unionlearn managers Standards and Quality Ian Borkett Tel: 020 7079 6940 Research and Strategy Bert Clough Tel: 020 7079 6925 Communications James Asser Tel: 020 7079 6942 Trade Union Education Liz Rees Tel: 020 7079 6923 Union Development Judith Swift Tel: 0151 243 2568 Business and Finance Catherine McClennan Tel: 07795 606 982 Informal Adult Learning Joe Fearnehough Tel: 0151 236 7678

» U-Net centres Helen Gagliasso Tel: 0191 227 5567

» Website Ben Furber Tel: 020 7079 6943

30 » spring 2012

» Southern and Eastern Tel: 020 7467 1251 Regional Manager Barry Francis Union Development Coordinator Jon Tennison Regional Education Officers Rob Hancock Theresa Daly

» Midlands Tel: 0121 236 4454 Regional Manager Mary Alys Union Development Coordinator Gary O’Donnell Regional Education Officer Pete Try

» Northern Regional Manager Kevin Rowan Tel: 0191 227 5565 Union Development Coordinator Beth Farhat Tel: 0191 227 5576 Regional Education Officer Ian West Tel: 0191 227 5572

» North West Regional Manager Dave Eva Tel: 0151 236 2321 Union Development Coordinator Tony Saunders Liverpool office Tel: 0151 236 2321 Manchester office Tel: 0161 445 0077 Regional Education Officer Peter Holland Tel: 0151 243 2564

» South West

» Union contacts

Regional Manager Helen Cole Tel: 0117 947 0521 Union Development Coordinator Ros Etheridge Regional Development Worker Alan Shearn Tel: 0117 947 0521 Regional Education Officer Marie Hughes Tel: 0117 933 4443

Aslef Shirley Handsley Tel: 07739 473 174 Aspect Nelly Tackla-Wright Tel: 01226 383 428 ATL Kate Quigley Tel: 020 7782 1558 BECTU Brian Kelly Tel: 020 7346 0900 BFAWU John Vickers Tel: 01132 565 925 BSU Vikki Botham Tel: 07717 805 521 Community Tom Davis Tel: 01562 749 170 CSP Penny Bromley Tel: 020 7306 6666 CWU Trish Lavelle Tel: 020 8971 7340 Equity Louise Grainger Tel: 020 7670 0214 FBU Trevor Shanahan Tel: 07917 759 473 FDA Neil Rider Tel: 020 7401 5575 NAPO Jonathan Ledger Tel: 020 7223 4887 NASUWT Stephen Smith Tel: 0121 453 6150 NUJ Linda King Tel: 020 7843 3717 NUM Chris Skidmore Tel: 01226 215 555 NUT Andrew Parry Williams Tel: 020 7380 4800/4780 PCS David McEvoy Tel: 020 7801 2727 ext 2360

» Yorkshire and the Humber Tel: 0113 245 4909 Regional Manager Alan Roe Union Development Coordinator Sharon Burke Regional Education Officer Trevor Sargison Tel: 0113 200 1071

7797.1_LR SPR1_all_prf5_Layout 1 13/12/2011 18:19 Page 31

Calendar «

Forthcoming events PFA Alan Irwin Tel: 07717 467 718 POA Phil Kelly Tel: 020 8803 1761 Prospect Rachel Bennett Tel: 020 7902 6687 RCM Denise Linay Tel: 020 7312 3422 RCN Linda McBride Tel: 020 7647 3855 RMT Teresa Williams Tel: 07881 812 244 SCP Liz Salem Tel: 01625 829 396 TSSA Sal Morawetz Tel: 020 7529 8049 UCATT Jeff Hopewell Tel: 01302 360 725 UFS Patricia Mayo Tel: 01242 253 259 UNISON Joanna Cain Tel: 020 7551 1700 Unite Jim Mowatt Tel: 020 7611 2780 Unite Jim Telford Tel: 07980 874 662 Unity Gerald Crookes Tel: 01782 280 588 URTU Graham Cooper Tel: 07795 562 874 USDAW Ann Murphy Tel: 0161 224 2804

For full details of the events and details of events arranged after we went to press, go to the unionlearn website

January 17 25

Unions 21 skills policy event Greening the Workplace (Northern)

February 1 6–10 9 15 22 28 29

Learning & equality (national) National Apprenticeships Week National apprenticeships conference Hampshire network meeting Social media training day (Northern) South East regional ULR network meeting Oxford local network meeting

March 1 6 9 16 22 23 26 30

World Book Day* Bedfordshire & Cambridgeshire unionlearn forum Gatwick local network meeting Herts & Essex unionlearn forum Norfolk & Suffolk unionlearn forum East of England regional ULR network meeting Sussex ULRs network meeting London ULR network meeting

April 23 23–27

World Book Night* Spring Online with Silver Surfers’ Day

May 12–18 17

Adult Learners’ Week Learning At Work Day

June 25

Unionlearn annual conference

* Please note there was an error with dates for these events in our previous edition spring 2012 «


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Resources « Roundup «


Order now from And postage and packing is also free new Making informed choices – supporting learners at 50+ Learners of all ages can benefit from information gathered in this guide, which explores the sources of support and advice available especially for older workers during change at the workplace when choices need to be made on future paths and directions. The guide includes a large number of referral points to advice on learning, job search, career advice and moving on from work to retirement and complements the unionlearn supporting learners guide series.

Literacy, language and numeracy These six new Skills for Life publications are essential reading for ULRs. The six booklets come in a handy folder. They include: ❚ General guide ❚ Reading and writing ❚ English for speakers of other languages (ESOL)

❚ Dyslexia ❚ Speaking and listening ❚ Maths4Us

Working for learners This handbook is one of the resources unionlearn has designed to help unions and their ULRs in England negotiate and broker learning opportunities and to support their members in that learning. This third edition has been revised to include new developments in union learning as well as changes in government policy resulting from the election of the coalition government and also new case studies.


Supporting learners (2011 revised version) The popular toolkit of Supporting Learners Guides for all union reps has been updated and is now available to download or as a printed copy. If you have any of the older versions please order the new ones because things have changed quite a lot. All new reps will get a copy as part of their basic training. If you are a ULR or other union rep and are involved in supporting union learners in the workplace then these guides will be a useful additional resource.

Progression pathways for all trade union reps This guide is about progression in the work that you do to support union learners. It will help you to think about gaining skills and knowledge in advice and guidance and coaching, mentoring and facilitating learning.

Union professional development programme 2011–12 Now in its eighth year, the union professional development programme is regularly reviewed and evaluated to ensure its relevance to union professionals. As a result, the entire programme has been updated by TUC tutors for 2011–12.

new Making the most of your money Making the most of your money is a free booklet for working people designed to help them manage their money better, and can be ordered in any quantity for network events, Learning At Work Days and individual workplaces.

Spread the word about the work of ULRs and learning project workers by ordering more copies of The Learning Rep. Give them to colleagues at work, learners and anyone interested in union learning.

Scan this code to go straight to the link for The Learning Rep mailing list or to order additional copies.

The learning rep - Spring 2012  

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