Celebrating learning partnerships: UNISON signs renewed agreements with The Open University and WEA

UNISON assistant general secretary Roger McKenzie has today signed agreements reaffirming two of the union’s most significant learning partnerships, with the Open University and with the WEA. The three organisations share a common goal: to widen access to education and training and to extend learning opportunities to those who have previously been excluded or discouraged from taking them up.

“Our work continues to focus on non traditional learners – workers who have traditionally been excluded from learning, who may have been failed by our education system, and who in the public sector are stuck in low paid, often part time jobs.

“UNISON is committed to helping our members succeed, whatever their goal might be. Renewing our agreements with The Open University and the WEA will enable more people than ever before to boost their learning and widen their opportunities.”

Roger McKenzie, assistant general secretary, UNISON

UNISON and the WEA signed a national agreement in 1996 as a way of recognising and codifying decades of joint work between the two organisations. This work has always focused on non-traditional learners – workers who have traditionally been excluded from learning, who may have been failed by the education system, and who are stuck in low paid, often part time, jobs. Since the Return to Learn courses were introduced in the late 1980s, they, together with Women’s Lives, have encouraged thousands of members to get back into education.

“The partnership with UNISON has long been very precious to the WEA, symbolising the commitment of both organisations to improving the life chances of ordinary working class people through education. Over the years we have worked together to deliver first class learning experiences and outcomes, shared best practice, and represented the interests of adult learners. Signing this agreement is particularly timely as we are committing ourselves to improving access to learning at work through a partnership approach.”

Ruth Spellman, chief executive, WEA

UNISON’s partnership with the Open University was first established in 1997. Since then, over seven thousand members have studied accredited OU courses, with many taking advantage of our bursary scheme, which supports members undertaking study up to and including undergraduate level with the OU. In addition, hundreds of continuing professional development workshops across the country have helped members build their skills and confidence in the workplace.

“The Open University is proud of its long-established links with UNISON, providing work-based learning that empowers and upskills hundreds of people every year. We believe the ability to learn and earn is not just key to tackling the UK’s slow growth and low productivity but is also a vital engine of social mobility. We are delighted to cement our links with UNISON today.”

Peter Horrocks, Vice-Chancellor, The Open University