The Power to be You - Manchester Workshop

A group of 10 UNISON members came together last Friday to take part in our workshop 'Power to be You' which looks at members' perceptions of confidence and strategies to appear and feel more confident in a range of scenarios.

All feedback from members was very positive. Members included a new ULR and a new steward, alongside existing members looking to gain new skills to help both in the workplace and in the union.

Further workshops in the region include: a Power to be You taster workshop organised by Bolton women's committee; a Power to be You workshop for employees of Sodexo at South Manchester General Hospital; and a Your skills Your Future workshop organised by Central Lancashire Health branch. Contact Tom at the regional office for further details.


Wirral Lifelong Learning and UNISON - Festival of Learning

Wirral Lifelong Services, in partnership with Wirral UNISON, celebrated the achievements of thousands of adult learners who have taken part in courses and developed skills for the workplace, for potential future careers, or simply for the fun of learning. Awards were given to nominated people including all of our own UNISON learners who have taken part in courses organised by the union.

The day was organised by UNISON lifelong learning coordinator Dave Hardcastle with support from his colleagues in lifelong learning services and the UNISON branch. Cakes and refreshments were supplied courtesy of the Inclusive Learning Project  (Union Learning Fund) which supports lifelong learning through the unions.

Our UNISON courses have helped to develop potential new activists in the union, in particular through development as union learning reps who help to advocate and shape learning in the workplace. New learner rep Carol Munns received a lifetime achievement award for her efforts to progress from a book club attendee through to her appointment in Wirral libraries where she now runs the book groups as a part of her wider role. Carol completed learning rep training alongside 9 other new reps back in March.

Photographs courtesy of Paul Wiggins

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UNISON rep Dave Hardcastle receives an award from the mayor for all his work supporting learners

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UNISON learning organiser Tom talks about how UNISON supports lifelong learning


UNISON officer Paul Wiggins


Some of the learners receiving their awards

UNISON and the WEA Celebrate Members completing the award winning Return to Learn short course



Members from the Manchester and Liverpool areas celebrated their successful completion of 'Return to Learn' with awards presented by UNISON Regional Secretary Kevan Nelson.

Kevan shared a unique story of a Stockport based member who, ten years ago, completed the Return to Learn course which was the start of a learning journey which culminated in her election as an MP. Kevan explained how delighted we are as a union to offer this course in partnership with the WEA and that it's great if members wish to end their journey here. But it also opens up new opportunities to explore further study with lifelong learning services, local colleges and universities.

And, in the case of new UNISON learning reps June and Linda, further possibilities for active union membership. June completed Return to Learn and the stage 1 and 2 ULR course and now plans to go to national conference and become active in the various lay bodies of UNISON.

"I enjoyed Return to Learn from start to finish: all the women in the group bonded and were supportive of each other, particularly early on during a personal descriptive writing session", says June.


To promote Return to Learn in your branch, please let Tom Jenkins at the Regional Centre know and we can discuss promotion of the course.


Makaton for Schools Training

A group of UNISON members working in schools, teaching assistants, came to the Regional Centre over half term and took part in a Makaton training session followed by a 'lunch and learn'.

UNISON in the North West is aiming to improve the 'schools offer' for the Autumn term when we will be looking at hosting further training for our schools members, the biggest section in the union.


Deaf Awareness Training at Merseytravel Liverpool for over 20 UNISON members

Over 20 UNISON members benefitted from this popular taster workshop, promoting deaf awareness in the workplace and up-skilling members with techniques to support deaf customers, service users and staff.

Tutor Dipti from the Manchester Deaf Centre delivered 2 workshops, 3 hours each to members from UNISON branches in the Merseyside area, and from as far afield as Blackpool Hospital - who plan to book the tutor in for a session at the hospital this year.


Reading Changes Lives - UNISON ULRs make a difference

Here are some quotes from members who have taken up the Reading Ahead Challenge, supported by UNISON ULRs. Thank you to Ya Ching and others for supporting Reading Ahead at Merseytravel branch.

Emma Hurst Says: 

Reading gives me a chance to be in a different world on the train on the way to work. It can lift or lower my mood depending on the story. Great Expectations transported me to Victorian England.

I first did the reading challenge 3 years ago and before that I didn’t read at all. So, the challenge has helped me to find out about different genres from colleagues and I have discovered that ‘Medical Thriller’ is my genre.  I would never have even known that ‘Medical Thriller’ was a genre without the challenge.

I still find it quite difficult to read a book if I am not enjoying it, so all of the books that I have completed I have enjoyed. I really love 1984 by George Orwell, though it does leave a hopeless feeling behind. More upbeat was His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman, good is victorious over evil after an epic finale where good forces from every world are pitted against evil from all worlds. It’s a nail biter and some of the greatest good characters don’t make it, but I am still left with a warm glow about these books three years after I read them, thanks to Cathy Elwin for lending them to me!

Another great opportunity to take part in the reading challenge.  Thank you Ya Ching :)”


Lisa Marshall Says:

Reading is something which I am doing to fill time; mainly during my journey to work or whilst the kids are playing. Perhaps if my interest in books grows, so will the importance and significance of reading.

Being able to switch off during my journey to work is definitely more relaxing than reading the Metro or looking out the window wishing the traffic would move faster. I’ve also noticed with a couple of books when I’ve wanted to know what will happen next, that I’ve made time to sit and read at home.

As someone who barely read books, probably one every couple of years, I have definitely started reading more since starting the challenge. I couldn’t say that I am reading different types of books because at the minute I’m just picking out books from the book shelf near the printers; some I enjoy and others I don’t. I guess the more I read the more I will pick books of a type which I’ve previously enjoyed, as opposed to reading different types of books.

It is still very early days in my reading to recommend anything. And, having read a couple of quick reads which were so bad that I can’t believe the author thought they were worthy of writing let alone getting published, it’s clear that peoples’ idea of a good read is a very personal thing.”



“I definitely join the Reading challenge gain. I have continued to read after submitting my reading diary for this year’s challenge so hopefully I will still be reading on a regular basis next year and therefore may as well take part. If my reading has died off, the reading challenge will be a good opportunity for me to start again.”


For help setting up the challenge in your area, take a look at the guide here

And contact us at the regional office for further support.

Britsh Sign Language Schools Taster day



Report from St. Johns Junior School, Bebington

UNISON arranged for a tutor from the Manchester Deaf Centre to deliver an introductory British Sign Language training day for teaching assistants at the school. Members were released from their usual timetables to learn basic sign language techniques and how to communicate with deaf people. Members enjoyed a buffet funded by the Union Learning Fund. A further date is planned at another Wirral Primary.


Quotes from members include:


"Really enjoyed the taster session.  Dipti was very informative and made the session fun.  It left me wanting to continue onto Level 1"


"I thought it was a really interesting day - thoroughly enjoyed it and would like to take it further"


"Dipti was amazing - we all thoroughly enjoyed it and lots of us would like to take it further"


 Contact Tom at the Regional Office to explore opportunities for your schools members.

UNISON members attend deaf awareness training in Manchester

30 UNISON members benefitted from our 2 deaf awareness training sessions at the Manchester deaf centre in April.

Pete from Manchester branch said, "the experience was fascinating how the tutor and the interpreter interacted. It took some getting used to but it was a fun and informative workshop."

A further date is planned for Liverpool on June 2nd at Merseylearn.

Members at St Johns Junior School in Bebington enjoyed a day of British Sign Language this week, see our other learning news for full details.

Contact Tom at the Regional Office to arrange training for your workplace or your branch.


Wirral branch education team plans learning activities for 2016

Our Wirral branch education team met this week to plan activities for members and communities over the coming months. The group was supported by Lorraine Mirhim from UNISON centre who explained the national member learning offer - free workshops available to UNISON members and supporters to aid personal and professional development. Plans include:

- Publicising to branch members the Women's Lives course starting in Liverpool on 19th April

- Promoting the Return to Learn course to gauge interest from members with a view to running the fantastic 12 week course for Wirral members later this year

- Hosting 2 member development 1 day workshops for the branch - 4th June and 18th June - Your skills Your Future and Power to be You. These will help to engage new learners and promote the positive benefits of being in UNISON

- Promoting learning with UNISON at Adult Learners Week and signposting members to lifelong learning and the colleges to develop skills

- Raising the possibility of opening a new learning centre


Lorraine Mirhim - national membership development officer, Paul Wiggins - retired members section and ULR, Dave Hardcastle - lifelong learning coordinator and ULR, Gill Whitfield, Carol Munns, Diane Moore - ULRs. Also present: Amanda Callender - ULR, Tom Jenkins - Learning Organiser, Nick Bower - branch officer and health and safety officer.

20 Union Learning Reps Take Part in our Stage 2 Dyslexia Awareness Programme

A great session took place at the Mechanics Institute last Tuesday as 20 ULRs came together to discuss dyslexia in the workplace.


Our tutor, Julie Mooney, has over 30 years experience working with adults around numeracy and literacy and has learned about dyslexia through coming into contact with people for whom dyslexia has been a barrier to learning – due to poor practices in schools and workplaces.


In particular, we looked at some union literature including some from our beloved regional centre, which it turns out is not always dyslexia friendly.


Reps picked up top tips for workplaces including making reasonable adjustments such as increasing font sizes for text and using sans serif fonts like Ariel. Julie also explained the impact of the 2010 Equality Act and how this can be used to persuade stubborn workplaces. By and large however, simply making the case to employers about the importance of being dyslexia friendly is enough to win the argument, and our ULRs are now much better equipped to tackle employers over these issues.


As Julie explained, it’s important to talk about the many positives that people with dyslexia bring to the table, and a pop quiz where we learned of famous people with dyslexia highlighted this fact. For example, Winston Churchill, Einstein, Agatha Christie (history’s best selling author) and Cher all had dyslexia.


Many groups now plan to host dyslexia awareness sessions of their own in workplaces and branches – to create and instil a dyslexia friendly culture.








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