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Southern and Eastern Region



Get your

skillsup to


Caring for the community Time was when union learning looked like it was very much focused on the workplace, with many Union Learning Fund projects in the region setting up learning centres where workers could most easily access them – at work. Of course, there were always centres that did not adhere to the single workplace model, like the Herts Trade Union Learning Centre in Watford. The staff at the centre have been doing outstanding work for years now to offer learning opportunities to a wide range of unions in the area. It’s been a similar story at the Woolwich TUC Study Centre, which offers training opportunities to all union members (and their families) in the London Borough of Greenwich, as well as to council staff. The partnership between unionlearn SERTUC and the unions at Greenwich Council that is behind the success of the centre has made a major contribution to creating a genuine culture of learning for hundreds of union members in the borough. But it’s in East London where we’ve been creating the broadest constituency for learning, at the Community and Trade Union Learning Centre (CTU) opposite the Olympic Park pass office in East London. On any day there you might see building workers in their high-visibility jackets (members of Unite, UCATT and GMB) improving their computer skills at the end of their shifts; Tesco supermarket staff picking up holiday Spanish, thanks to the Check Out Learning campaign run by their union USDAW; and parents of children at Rokeby secondary school in Newham taking their first steps back into a learning environment – thanks to the initiative of the local branch of teachers’ union NUT. I think we’re going to see much more of this in the years ahead: we’ve proved that bringing learning to people has helped thousands of them overcome their fears of the classroom, and we’re now in a perfect position to help thousands more in the wider community do the same. Barry Francis, Regional Manager


Union promotes learning to BT innovation staff Prospect’s ULF team and onsite ULRs got together to run a union week full of lunchtime activities in November at Adastral Park, BT’s global innovation and development centre near Ipswich. With the Tuesday designated union learning day, The Open University came to provide information about the courses it has on offer, while Lighthouse Financial Advice offered members free one-to-one financial advice. Centre staff snapped up copies of the Redundancy Handbook produced by the Consumer Financial Education Body (CFEB) and said it was great to see Prospect delivering ‘money awareness’ sessions, especially in the current economic climate. “This week of union themed activity allowed Prospect to maintain its profile in the workplace and to demonstrate the breadth of the union offer in terms of learning and skills and international development,” says Prospect ULF Project Development Worker Nikki Simpson. Union learning material remained available on a union market stall run throughout the rest week, which opened with a keynote speaker from Amnesty international on the Monday, and closed on the Friday with Tom Martin from the BT Group energy and carbon team talking about a possible major installation of alternative energy systems onsite. There were door prizes for every event and a draw for new members or members who recruited during the week. Prospect ULF Project Administrator Lin Martin-Haugh talks to committee member Robin Gape during union week at Adastral Park

Final Olympic tally should be jobs and skills © Sarah Turton

Sustainable jobs and skills should be the legacy of 2012, Skills Minister John Hayes told learners at the Olympic Park Community and Trade Union Learning Centre when he presented them with Inspire Awards in recognition of their achievements late last year.

“The Olympics should not only be viewed as a sporting event, but also as a catalyst for more widespread social and economic change,” he said, after meeting site staff, shopworkers, firefighters and community learners at the event. “The most important legacy of the Olympics will be found not just in a shortterm boost in income and publicity, nor even in medals, but in a longer-term legacy of facilities, sustainable jobs and skills.”

TUC Deputy General Secretary Frances O’Grady said the learning centre was not only helping develop the Olympic workforce but giving local people the chance to improve their skills. “When the great spectacle is over and the tourists have gone home, there will be something that is lasting,” she said.

Could you be a digital champion? Unionlearn is hooking up with UK Online, Race Online 2012 and the BBC to play a major part in bridging the nation’s digital divide with a new national campaign called ‘Get online, get a lifeline’. Already a partner in Race Online 2012, the initiative led by the UK’s Digital Champion Martha Lane Fox, unionlearn is launching its own campaign to help reach the 9 million people who have not accessed the internet, especially the 4 million who are both digitally and socially excluded.

ULRs can make a contribution by: ❚ becoming digital champions and encouraging their workmates, friends and family to get online: visit ❚ joining the Race Online 2012 People’s Taskforce, a collection of inspirational people from around the country: visit ❚ encouraging their employer to become a Race Online 2012 partner ❚ get their learning centres registered as UK online centres and start using the popular resources Online basics and Myguide to introduce people to IT: visit


Feature interview You’ve dedicated your whole professional life to learning. What made you become a teacher in the first place? My father was a primary school headteacher and my mother worked as a teacher parttime between having eight children so education was considered to be really important at home. Teachers weren’t well-paid in the 1970s, so my father always said, “I can’t give you any money for your inheritance but I can give you the means to be independent and live a fulfilled life and that’s through education.”

You started out as a teacher and then moved on to train teachers in university education departments. Do you miss the classroom? When I left the classroom after teaching English in London comprehensives for 11 years, I was ready for a new challenge. And when I left the university sector after training teachers for 11 years to become general secretary of ATL, I was ready for that challenge as well. It’s not been my habit in my career to look back with wishful thinking – it’s been to look forward to the new challenges. I feel incredibly privileged that I have been able to have such diverse roles in my career, all to do with education, but in very different sectors.

Did you have any activist roles before you became general secretary? When I was in schools, I was a member of the NUT, and was the local rep in one school, and when I worked in university education departments I joined UCU, but my first real union experience was on the professional side when I was appointed and then elected general secretary of ATL – it was a very unusual route into the job. The advantage was that although I hadn’t had union experience, I’d had management experience and leadership experience for many years and when I came to ATL, we didn’t have enough information about our membership and potential membership and our profile was low in the press: all of that required very clear direct action and I wasn’t afraid of taking it. The difficulty was that sometimes I could be impatient with the proper democratic processes when key decisions had to be made: one of the very good things I’ve learnt over seven years as general secretary is the importance of ensuring that the key elected members understand the rationale for the actions you’re taking – they’re quite right not to take things on trust.


Would you have been interested in becoming a union learning rep if the role had existed earlier?

How do you feel about the Government continuing to fund unionlearn?

Yes, I think I would have been very interested. For ATL, our union learning project has brought a whole new cadre of activists into the union who are more likely to be women and more likely to be from ethnic minorities. Professor Howard Stevenson from the University of Lincoln has done some research to help us evaluate our ULF project and he says that learning is one of the most significant vehicles for getting more members active in the union – more significant than the more traditional ways in which we engage the membership, because people can see its relevance immediately. My view is that learning is one of the key ways in which you organise effectively through a union. In ATL, we have our union learning programme within our organising department, and we’ve also put our money where our mouth is and now have a significant number of permanent learning posts on the books because we really wish to embed the learning agenda for our members.

I think that’s been an absolute triumph. The unionlearn professional staff led by Director Tom Wilson did a fantastic job in getting robust evidence together which showed that union learning was a very important, powerful and effective way of raising the skills of the workforce – and what government wouldn’t want to do that? I don’t congratulate the coalition for many things but I do congratulate them for having the good sense to realise what a powerful and effective tool they have on their hands with unionlearn.

How are ATL members developing themselves through the union’s learning project? What has been neglected with teachers is learning for themselves: they’ve not had good Continuous Professional Development (CPD). The Union Learning Fund (ULF) has enabled us to set up networks of ULRs who work with their school, college or branch and really have got active in brokering CPD for members that members say they want, rather than that which is done to them. And we added a new, interesting strand to our programme last year which is community learning – our ULRs are getting involved in organising learning events in schools which are open to parents and the community, with teachers offering wider learning opportunities to the communities their schools serve.

What’s your personal goal for 2011 as chair of the unionlearn Board? I want to really work with my fellow members on the TUC General Council and the TUC Executive to highlight the role and purpose of unionlearn within the TUC; to highlight the effectiveness of union learning as part of the union offer; and to bring about a more general understanding of the importance of unionlearn to the organising agenda.

Mary Bousted CV Dr Mary Bousted taught English in comprehensive schools in North London before working in higher education at York University, Edge Hill University and at Kingston University, where she was Head of the School of Education. Since becoming general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) in 2003, Mary has become a member of the TUC General Council and the executive committee of the TUC, and is chair of the unionlearn Board. Mary contributes regular articles to newspapers and education journals, and appears frequently on national media. An accomplished public speaker, Mary took part in a 2008 debate at the Oxford Union on the theme ‘With great celebrity comes great responsibility’.


Š Jess Hurd/

The ATL’s learning project is helping members develop themselves and bringing a new type of activist into the union, explains General Secretary and unionlearn Board Chair Mary Bousted.

the teachers 5

Annual conference

Now we have a royal in the family All photos © Jess Hurd/

The ground-breaking learning agreement at Brighton’s Royal Pavilion was one of a number of positives celebrated by unionlearn SERTUC at its annual conference.

Unions don’t usually get very far past the gates of most royal palaces, but that’s all changed since the GMB signed a learning agreement covering staff in the Royal Pavilion and museums in Brighton last year. “It’s not every day a union gets to operate in an office in a royal palace,” GMB Regional Secretary Richard Ascough told the 300-plus participants

at unionlearn SERTUC’s annual conference in November. With three learning centres at different sites run by the city council – in the Royal Pavilion, City Parks and Cityclean – Brighton was ‘the jewel in the crown’ of the union’s learning work, he said. “It’s a win-win situation for us that has allowed us to raise our profile in

Brighton and other workplaces, and it’s a win-win for the employers because learning gets rid of negativity and helps produce a happier and more motivated workforce,” Richard said. Head of Museums & Royal Pavilion Janita Bagshawe told participants that the city’s museums had always prided themselves on the learning they offered, but hadn’t engaged with their own staff on education until signing the learning agreement with the GMB. “Now we run the only learning centre in the UK with a royal palace attached,” she explained. It was open to 120 fulltime staff, many of them shiftworkers, she added.

Watch an eight-minute video snapshot of the conference at learn-3710-f0.cfm?regional=7

Negative voices: who needs them?

Clearing up the confusion The employment and skills system in the capital is complex and confusing, and should be simplified so both employers and employees can access learning and job opportunities, argued London Development Agency’s (LDA) Head of Skills Development Stella Okeahialam. London employment is expected to rise, with 500,000 jobs created over the next 10 years in retail, hospitality, creative industries and the low-carbon sector. “We need to identify what skills will be needed to help Londoners maximise those opportunities,” she said.


Lola Jaye left school with two GCSEs because she thought learning was pointless – before changing her mind, going to college and eventually completing a Masters degree. “There were a lot of challenges but if you have motivation and self-belief, you can do anything,” she said. It was self-belief that kept her going when her first novel was rejected 30 times by publishers before it was finally accepted. And motivation requires constant renewal, she said: having recently delivered her fourth novel, she now needed to motivate herself to write her fifth. After reading a section of her self-help Quick Read Reaching for the Stars on how we can all be our harshest critics when we listen to the negative voices in the back of our minds, she finished with a message for all the participants. “Don’t listen to those voices – with hard work and self-belief, anything is possible,” she said.

Beating racism with music Participants took part in a wide range of workshops, from a session on the UCU ULF project ‘Using music to promote equality in learning’ with hip-hop teacher KMT and CONEL’s Dave Smith, to cancer in the workplace with Macmillan Cancer Support. There were also workshops on apprenticeships; community learning; equality and diversity; time to train rights; higher education in the workplace; learning in the economic downturn; and designing union websites. The conference closed with everyone taking part in informal learning activities, which included two different trips to the British Museum, walking tours of Covent Garden/ Theatreland, Bloomsbury and Soho, a genealogy workshop, and a coach tour of some of the capital’s most famous sites.

Providers win prizes The George Brumwell Learning Centre in partnership with Lewisham College and Canary Wharf contractors picked up the unionlearn Quality Award for its mobile technology programme, Learning on the Move. Quality Awards recognise providers that keep trade union learners in mind when they design and deliver their courses. “Our union officers need to be out

and about to engage with our members: Learning on the Move has allowed us to keep up with the workload and organise our work to help provide a better service for our members,” said UCATT London and South East Regional Secretary Jerry Swain. Three further awards were made at the conference: ❚ to North East Surrey College of Technology for its Distance Learning Programme with the FBU

Author Lola Jaye (right) presents the Quality Award to (from left) Simone Davies and Rossina Harris (both Lewisham College) and Jerry Swain (UCATT)

❚ to the POA Learning Centre at Bullingdon Prison in Oxfordshire for its Skills for Life courses ❚ to the Community and Trade Union Learning Centre for its European Computer Driving Licence provision.

Welcoming new partners Unionlearn Regional Manager Barry Francis signed two new Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) at the conference. The first was with Next Step South East Partnership Development Coordinator Gennie Mockford. The second was with Birkbeck


in figures

7,000 new ULRs trained

20,000 participants in Adult Learners’ Week


College Master, Professor David Latchman. “These MOUs represent vital partnerships in improving the learning experience and career prospects of all our members in London and the southern and eastern region,” Barry said.

Let’s spread the word Politicians, journalists and ordinary people across the country need to know more about the excellent work carried out by union learning reps, TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber told the conference. “7,000 ULRs have been trained in the region, reaching 50,000 new learners taking courses, plus the 20,000 people who took part in Adult Learners’ Week: you should be very proud,” he said. “The big challenge we face is to make sure that your work is known about – not just in Westminster and the media – but to ordinary people throughout the country.” The need for higher skills had never been greater, he said. “Giving people access to high skills is also about giving them the chance to change their job and their life: we are giving them the tools they need to help themselves.”

new learners on courses



Make a healthy start to 2011 You can get to grips with how unions can play their part promoting health and well-being at work at a workplace health seminar for union learning reps in March.

Unionlearn Southern and Eastern Region Congress House Great Russell Street London WC1B 3LS

020 7467 1251

Regional education office

020 7467 1284

Outreach offices Haywards Heath Harlow London Community and Trade Union Learning Centre

014444 59733 01279 408188 020 7467 1342 020 3288 5520

To find out more and book a place, please contact Sonia Dawson:

Regional manager Barry Francis

Ever won an ALW award?

Regional union development coordinator Jon Tennison

Community and Trade Union Learning Centre Manager Phil Spry

Regional development workers Mick Hadgraft Adrian Ryan Trish Raftery

Recession and Recovery Development Workers Stuart Barber Katie Curtis Colin Lloyd

The cross-government Health, Work and Well-being programme and the London Health Commission are delivering the event in Congress House on Tuesday 15 March. It aims to help ULRs: ❚ understand the relationship between work and health ❚ develop an action plan to help take forward investment in health and well-being in their own organisations ❚ share learning on health, work and well-being with their branches. Keynote speakers are unionlearn Director Tom Wilson and the National Director for Health and Work Dame Carol Black.

To mark the 20th anniversary of Adult Learners’ Week (ALW) in May, the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (NIACE) is keen to track down past regional and national winners to take part in the celebrations. “We want to hear from everyone who has won an Adult Learners’ Week award since 1992 and we’d be really interested to hear about their achievements since winning their award,” explains Richard Crabb, who heads the ALW team at NIACE.

If you have won an ALW regional or national award, please get in touch with NIACE by emailing, by visiting or by phoning the Adult Learners’ Week team on 0116 204 4200.

Field worker Jane Warwick

Update on apprenticeships

Get the latest information about apprenticeships, including funding and the union angle, at a unionlearn SERTUC event during Apprenticeships Week in February.

U-Net support worker Sarah-Louise Lacey Regional education officers Rob Hancock Theresa Daly

Administration Sonia Dawson Johanna Garcia Jaspal Ghtoray Tanya Nelson Natasha Owusu


The keynote speakers will include unionlearn Director Tom Wilson, Skills for Health London Regional Director Kathy Tyler, Olympic Delivery Authority Employment and Skills Manager Robert Noseda, and Jon Thorn from the National Apprenticeships Service. There will also be an opportunity to hear first-hand experiences from apprentices, and there will also be a session on apprenticeship development and planning. The event will be held on the Monday 7 February, 10am to 12.30pm (followed by lunch), in Congress House. To secure your place, please email your contact details to Jon Tennison, Union Development Coordinator, Congress House, London WC1B 3LS by 14 January 2011. Please indicate if you have any special requirements.

Cover photo of hip-hop teacher KMT at the unionlearn SERTUC annual conference by Jess Hurd/

update - Southern and Eastern Region magazine (Winter 2010)  

In this issue: Union promotes learning to BT innovation staff; Final Olympic tally should be jobs and skills; Could you be a digital champio...