Guide for Branch Education Coordinators

Getting Started

UNISON issues a job description for the role of Branch Education Coordinator in a document known as the Code of Good Branch Practice. Your branch may also have a Branch Life Long Learning Coordinator with whom you should work closely.

Tasks relating to the post of branch education coordinator:

  1. Make sure all new stewards and safety representatives receive initial information and guidance about their duties eg. stewards handbook, rulebook, service conditions agreements, etc
  2. Publicise the range of educational and training opportunities available to members and activists
  3. Get untrained stewards, safety representatives and other branch officers onto appropriate training courses
  4. Co-ordinate and support the work of learning representatives (work with the Branch Life Long Learning Coordinator)
  5. 5.   Encourage branch members and activists to make use of the UNISON Open College courses, especially ‘Return to Learn’ and ‘Women’s Lives
  6. Maintain contact with the regional education officer/regional learning and organising committee
  7. Establish a plan of training for activists and to produce an annual budget to meet its costs
  8. Keep records of what training has been undertaken and by whom within the branch
  9. Make sure that activists get paid time off for training where appropriate.

 Key Documents

 You’ll need some key documents to get you started:

  1. A list of all the activists in your branch on RMS (replacement membership system) in A-Z order of surname
  2. A list of all the activists in your branch on RMS in order of RMS Activist Role Code
  3. A List of RMS Activist Role Code numbers and what they mean

 Most of the branches in the North West are ‘live’ on RMS. This means you should be able to get these lists locally.

 Once you have these lists contact the Learning and Organising Services in the Regional Centre and get a copy of the

 AMT (activist and member training system)Training History of the Branch

 Then you need to systematically contact every activist in the branch to check

  • which posts they hold,
  • how long they have been in the post
  • what Trade Union Education they have attended during the last 5 years

 To do this you may need the help of others in the branch, especially Branch Learning Reps. In large branches, you will need help from all the senior stewards and Branch Officers.

 As you make contact with activists you will need to record information to establish your training history records and up date the RMS records. To help you UNISON has a new guide –

Developing and Supporting Workplace Representative – go to our national web site  and put On Line catalogue in the search box – follow the link to order or down load a copy of the document or the separate Trained and Active Plan


Setting up your own Record Keeping Systems:  a model record sheet you may like to use

 Branch: Activist Education Record


Your Details




WORK Telephone

HOME Telephone






Course and dates  Date Authorised Time Off Check Attendance Check Feedback


THIS IS A SIMPLE SYSTEM – FILE IN NAME ORDER – A SHEET FOR EACH ACTIVIST. You may wish to copy this to a spreadsheet but remember you may not always be the Education Coordinator for the Branch. The person taking over from you will need to be able to use your system, so keep it simple and accessible for all. Use this form with the Trained and Active Forms in Key document 5 above



Money Matters

All the courses UNISON provides in its annual programme are listed at  . You will need to authorise each application and regularly report to the Branch Treasurer which of the branch activists have attended what courses – since the branch is charged a registration fee for each place – £20 for participant per course day. (The fee covers around half of the real costs of the course – participants will receive mid morning, lunch and mid afternoon food and refreshments)

 This is why it is important your records are accurate in the Branch. You should encourage all activists to undertake at least the basic training for their role.  As they undertake more duties in the branch, then follow on courses and refresher courses can be considered. There should be no question of the branch funds covering this training – it is a prime duty of a branch to ensure all of its members and activists are offered the opportunity to access UNISON education and branches should therefore, budget accordingly.

 Branches are also responsible for the payment of travelling and other expenses to and from the course and overnight stays should the participant have practical travel difficulties. Also if a participant cannot attend the course because of dependant relative care issues Branches should look into how these could be alleviated.

Budgeting for Learning in the branch

The key fact to bear in mind when considering budgets is that learning comes into UNISON’s objective one – Organising, Recruiting and Steward Training – that is the union’s number one priority.

 There are many ways you could estimate spend on learning in the branch – here are two examples to serve as illustrations. They both include a split between funds spent on educating activists and those spent on member education.

 1.  A Generic budget

 This is an easy way of estimating expenditure if you have not been used to budgeting and aren’t sure how much things will cost and the exact demand over the coming year.

  • You can estimate that of the existing activists around 20% will need to attend a course and that a notional £200 per episode will be required for course fees, travelling and subsistence expenditure. Therefore if you have 100 activists 20 x 200 would give a budget of £4000.
  • You can estimate the branch will want to be involved in 5 Life Long Learning initiatives throughout the year and say that these episodes will cost around £200 giving a budget of £1000
  • A Total Budget of £5000 for a medium sized UNISON branch

Obviously you could experiment by varying the % and the notional amounts until you feel you have it about right for your branch – depending on its size, the number of activists, whether your employer is keen on the learning agenda etc


2. A Targeted budget

 This is a more sophisticated way of budgeting. But,in order for this type of budget to work, you must have information at your finger tips eg – how many of the existing activists need what kind of training and when? – what will be the likely recruitment of new activists and what are the priorities shown in the joint branch assessment? – how much will course registration fees travelling and subsistence actually cost? etc. This type of budget will vary from branch to branch depending on size, number of activists and number of activists needing training etc In the budget below target numbers appear in brackets, fees are £20 per person per day and travelling is estimated at £10 per person per day.



 Activist Training : Initial basic Training Courses Fees Travel
Branch briefings for new contacts (10)  


UNISON Organising Steward Course (5)



UNISON Health and Safety Starter (3)



UNISON Branch Officer Development Programme (3)



Activist Training : Follow on Courses    
UNISON Stewards Refresher (5)



UNISON Representation Skills (3)



UNISON Mentoring (2)



UNISON Organising Skills (4)



TUC stage 2 Health and Safety (1)  





Total for fees and expenses


LRD Employment Law (12)


Case worker ‘Kit’ folder paper pen (12)


Mentor/Mentee ‘kit’ (12)


Total for resources


Life Long Learning    
Learning at work day event


Travelling for (10)places on Saturday learning club events


Local Episode of Women’s lives for (15) branch/employer partnership


Taster for (10) Polish workers in Laundry – Conversational English


Ipad as prize for branch ‘best’ learner award


Total for LLL


Grand Total



 If you are a new Branch Education Coordinator and/or Branch Life Long Learning Coordinator you may need to discuss these ideas with your other branch officers – but – please remember – learning forms part of UNISON first objective and therefore your budget needs to reflect this level of priority.

 Which courses should activists take first

 UNISON is keen to have all reps receive basic training in their role as soon as possible upon their election and certainly within 6 months. Once a rep in the North West has completed one of our 5 day AWARD courses they will be given ERA certified steward status (Employment relations Act 1999)  

For those activists who undertake representative work and handle cases in the Branch UNISON requires that they take appropriate refresher courses at least every 5 years. Once a rep or branch officer in the North West has completed one of our Refresher, CERTIFICATE or DIPLOMA courses they will be reregistered as an ERA certified Steward

 You will be able to find out from your branch RMS (Replacement Membership System) records– who needs to complete basic training to achieve ERA certification status and who needs refresher training.

Organising Courses In the Branch: UNISON protocols

 Most of UNISON’s courses can be run locally. A full list appears on the regional web site

 You should not try to re invent the wheel. Use UNISON materials; there are national course materials available for almost every circumstance which can always be adapted for local use.

 You should make a formal request to your Regional Organiser who will then liaise with the Regional Learning and

Organising service in order to get a course off the ground. Usually the Branch arranges the venue and refreshments, sorts out the time off and makes sure participants know the dates and how to get there etc. The Region provides the appropriate UNISON materials and tutor.

 You may have a Unionlearn centre (TUC Education) close by who can provide courses in the branch, even so please make a

formal request via Regional Organiser first, before making firm arrangements with external providers.

 Following these simple protocols will help us with

  • Ordering, storage and despatch of UNISON materials,
  • The development programme for tutors
  • Our mission to ensure UNISON activists receive appropriate levels of training


A model course request form is set out below



UNISON North West : Branch Course Formal Request

Branch Name


Name of Branch Education Coordinator



I write to formally request the learning provision set out



Course Title or brief description






Number of potential participants and description of target




Suggestions for tutors



Suggestions for venue



Suggestions for dates or time of year



I will be able to supply names and membership numbers

of participants, two weeks prior to the course. I want the

region to issue joining instructions for participants.



I want materials to be despatched to the following





Return completed form to HelenTitherington the Regional Education Officer, Arena Point, Fax 0161 661 6710




Helpful Regional contacts



Regional Learning and Organising Services

Helen Titherington – Regional Education Officer, Steve Swift, Regional Learning Organiser and Kim Scott – Course Administrator, 0161 661 6777

[email protected]


Chair of the Regional Learning and

Organising Committee

 Chair,  Steve Lynch [email protected]



Training for Branch Education Coordinators takes place each year and is at Certificate level over two weeks

 The first in April/May the second in October each year – please check the dates in the course calendar at