Working on networking


It is a truth universally acknowledged that trade unions’ learning projects and union learning reps work hard to develop English and maths skills in the workplace. Unions engage, encourage and support learners and people in the workplace build skills, use their skills at work and move on to take up even more learning opportunities.

It has also been recognised that unions are very effective in the work they do. It is exceptionally difficult to pinpoint another model that reaches adult learners like unions do.

Not only are these statements backed by research and evaluation but they were also once again highlighted in the recent networking event unionlearn organised in Congress House. The English and maths: making skills count union network gathered together people who are passionate about supporting English and maths learning, want to share their experiences and learn from others.

Various partners from external partner organisations were included in this first English and maths count network event and this spiced things up.

Therefore, I would be happy to describe the discussion as lively. It was boosted by presentations:

  • The Education and Training Foundation (ETF) has help and online resources for literacy and numeracy learning delivery
  • Natecla has put together a draft ESOL strategy and they were seeking for thoughts on how to get employers excited in supporting language learning for those whose first language is not English
  • National Numeracy shared daunting statistics of low maths skills levels in England but also gave examples of good practice on how employers and unions have embraced maths learning
  • The TUC Education colleagues also popped over for a show and tell about their new online courses and eNotes

What I learnt was:

  • There is appetite in the unions to look at maths in context of pensions although both topics may sound a bit scary
  • For employers to support ESOL evidence of benefits from similar organisations or sectors is needed in black and white
  • There is a lot of helpful learning resource online
  • A large part of our unwillingness to update our maths skills is down to our attitude towards maths which at times has its roots in our school days
  • Complex sentences are not that complex to understand after all

To wrap up the event we had a go on using a slow writing activity to give feedback. Not only have I learnt all the things listed above but I have also now learnt what slow writing is.

Oh, the wonders of sharing and learning with others!

If you want to know the dates of the next English and maths network events keep an eye on unionlearn’s Events page.


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Kirsi Kekki

Kirsi Kekki is a unionlearn policy officer working in the Strategy team. She has worked in a number of trade unions in the UK and Finland with a variety of roles from tutoring to organising and project management.

Kirsi is currently looking after English and maths, adult learning and apprentice policy and support to unions.