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Strictly Informal & Adult Community Learning

Report by Nick Bury, Secretary of the London Regional Learning Committee

The London Regional Learning Committee recently sought funding from the CWU sustainability fund to run an informal and community learning networking event for the ULRs in London. The event was held in the unusual surroundings of 86 St James, on the corner of St James's Street and Pall Mall and is overlooked by St James's Palace.

The theme of the event was based around the CWU involvement in providing learning for union members, their family and friends and linking into the local community and voluntary groups to widen participation and involvement in learning.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

Stallholders from a number of different organisations were invited to attend to provide details of the range of services they are able to deliver. These included learning providers who work with the CWU in the London Region, the Reading Agency, UK Online, Westminster and Islington Library Services, Unionlearn Community & Trade Union Learning Centre at the Olympic site and Get Online at Home. A number of other organisations who were not able to attend sent a range of resources and materials.

The delegates attending on the day were mainly CWU ULR's and Officers of the CWU London, Eastern and South East Regions, along with other unions who have ongoing learning projects running.

The event was opened by Lee Wakeman, CWU Policy Assistant to the Head of Education and Training. Lee spoke about the history of union education where unions are able to reach out to the wider community and how the 'revolution in learning', included the formation of schools for workers and education for trade unionists. Lee went on to say that there has always been 'informal learning' and that the CWU is now formulating structures and policies to deliver more community and informal learning. He ended by saying that we should learn from history, be innovative and make autonomous decisions regarding learning.

Paul Dovey, CWU Learning Project Manager (England), was the next speaker. In his contribution Paul referred to a quote by William Morris,

"What I claim is liberal education; opportunity to have my share of whatever knowledge there is in the world, historical or scientific; and also to have my share of skill of hand, either in the industrial handicrafts or in the fine arts: I claim to be taught, if I can be taught, more than one craft to exercise for the benefit of the community."

Paul said how the quote highlights the idea that learning benefits all in the community and that learning is a right not a privilege. Paul referred to some of the CWU projects reaching out to the wider community, such as with the Sikh community in Wolverhampton, participation events in a number of areas including recently in Swindon, and other projects across the country including the Northallerton Learning Centre, Norwich, Stoke on Trent and Port Vale FC in the Midlands, a writing group in Glasgow, community days in Newcastle and at the BT Goonhilly Satellite Earth Station in Cornwall, and a number of CWU Learning Centres working with local libraries. Paul finished by referring to where the CWU are developing Informal Learning Resources. These resources are available for use by individuals and groups with ULR's supporting the learners.

After these two presentations there was an opportunity to visit each of the stalls and speak to and exchange contact details with the stallholders from the various organisations and obtain information as well as the materials and resources they provided. This continued while the lunch buffet was served.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

Continuing after lunch the first speaker was Joanna Lucyszyn who has recently been appointed to theSERTUC unionlearn region after previously working with the GMB. Joanna gave an overview of her role at Unionlearn where the support structure for unions has been changed recently, now offering 2 Senior Support Officers and 3 Union Support Officers working to provide additional support to all unions with workplace learning projects and other broader aspects such as organising events. Further information for ULR's is distributed through regular networking meetings and the Unionlearn website. Joanna can be contacted through the unionlearn office at Congress House.

Melanie Harrison from UK Online was the next to address the event. Melanie gave details of the UK Online organisation that was formed in 2000 to help people to get 'online'. They have a target to help 1 million people to get online by 2013, with an aim of a '100% Networked Nation', showing the advantages and benefits of computers and the internet in daily life. To support these targets UK Online is being delivered in many locations, including libraries and other centres, across England. A new project aims to extend this to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. When signing up to become a UK Online Centre training is available for the staff who work there as well as marketing and resources for promotion of the service. UK Online are also recruiting Digital Champions to support for learners who are taking their first steps with IT. There is an online training course on the Go On website and a new Digital Champions qualification is being developed.

Colin Carter, the Chair of the London Regional Learning Committee, then spoke about his personal involvement with MIND, the mental health charity. Colin recounted how he had received help when learning to fly and obtain a personal pilots licence. When he went to thank the person who had mentored him he was surprised to find that this person suffered from depression, and when Colin visited him he was unable to have a face to face meeting due to the symptoms of his depression. This prompted Colin to look more deeply into what is involved in the effects that mental health problems have on people and he has been involved with his local branch of MIND in Enfield ever since.

Genevieve Clarke from the Reading Agency briefing spoke about the role of the Reading Agency. As well as the information on the stall at the event Genevieve also referred to the Summer Reading Challenge for Children and formal partnerships with Libraries. The yearly Six Book Challenge has been very successful and further work with Unionlearn has lead to the signing of an MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) to encourage more reading. The Six Book Challenge can be held in the workplaces, who can link with local libraries or their own learning centre where possible. Approximately 2,500 took part in events this year. Other reading promotional events include 'Quick Reads', short stories commissioned to be written by well known authors and celebrities, and world Book Day. Quick Reads 2012 will be launched on 14th February and World Book Day 2012 will be March 1st.

The final activity of the days event was a Dancing Class lead by Mike Dawson the Lead ULR at the Greenford Learning Centre. Mike and his partner are regularly competing at dancing events around the country. Mike has a real passion for dancing and gave a short masterclass on how to do a number of popular dance steps. The dancing showed that you can put on an informal learning session at short notice in almost any venue. All that was needed to put this together was floor space, some music and Mike's knowledge and experience of dancing. Strictly Come Dancing will never be the seen in the same light again by those who took to the dance floor!


Additional Information and resources:

Please use the links below to download the following documents;




BIS Review Of Informal Adult and Community Learning - consultation document

MACMILLAN CANCER SUPPORT: If you are organising an event and would like Macmillan Cancer support to attend either to provide details, materials and resources regarding the services they offer or give a presentation please contact Mobile Macmillan by e-mail: mobileinfounit@macmillan.org.ukThey need two months notice to be able to book and confirm any appointments made.

Additional informal learning resources can be found on the Lifelong Learning for CWU Members section of the CWU Education and Training website.







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