New year, new opportunities

UNISON learning continues – online

2021 looks to be almost as challenging a year as 2020 – but that doesn’t have to stop us making plans for the future, building on plans we’d already made, or working to make things better.

As new measures are introduced across the UK to combat the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, UNISON’s programme of learning for our members and training for our activists continues in a safe manner.

Most of our core activist training programme is now available online, and we have expanded our online member learning programme massively over the last nine months.

In this post we share some of the opportunities that you can take up as a UNISON member or activist.

If you’re a union learning rep (ULR), branch education co-ordinator or lifelong learning co-ordinator, please do share this page with members in your branch so that they know what’s on offer.

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For our members

If one of your New Year’s resolutions was to learn something new, we can help with that! From maths to mental health awareness to HTML, our suite of online learning opportunities is free to UNISON members.

Remember to look at your region’s education programme. There’s a huge range of exciting member learning taking place across the union this year, including a self-care webinar series in the South East, mindfulness in the East Midlands, and continuing professional development in Cymru/Wales.

Find your regional education team

At this time of year people often like to take stock and consider where the future might take them. Unionlearn’s Value My Skills activity – now available online – is a fun and interactive way to do that.

Value My Skills

Our partnership with the Skills Academy lets us offer our members over 600 free online courses on a huge range of topics. You might choose to study these as part of your continuing professional development (CPD) or just for your own personal interest.

Download a list of all the courses

Email to request an account

Unionlearn have six bite-sized online courses on topics including Safe Video Conferencing and Helping Your Children Learn At Home.

Find them here

If you’re more of a ‘little and often’ learner, you can use Wranx to brush up your knowledge of topics including maths, English, mental health, the menopause, young workers’ rights at work, and much more, in just ten minutes a day.


If you’re ‘not a numbers person’ but know that better maths skills would help you, why not make 2021 the year you take the Numeracy Challenge? You can get started in less than ten minutes, and hear from real people who feel the same way about numbers.

Numeracy Challenge

If you’re undertaking study at your own expense, we may be able to help out with some of the costs. Our 2021 learning grant scheme is now open for applications.

Find out more

The Open University’s OpenLearn project offers literally thousands of free self-guided online courses. And FutureLearn also has a huge range of distance learning courses, with tutors monitoring the community to answer your questions.



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Member learning for specific groups

We have compiled directories of training for members who work in some of the specific groups of workers that UNISON covers. We’ll add to these as the year progresses, so do check back later if yours isn’t shown here at the moment.

Courses for schools workers: TAs and student support

Courses for early years and under 5s workers

Courses for catering staff in schools

Courses for cleaning staff in schools

Courses for schools workers: bursars and finance managers

Courses for schools workers: admin, secretarial, and PAs

Courses for schools workers: caretakers, site managers and janitors

Courses for social care staff

Courses for social workers

Courses for local government workers: bursars and finance managers

Courses for local government workers: caretakers, site managers and janitors

Courses for local government workers: catering staff

Courses for local government workers: cleaning staff

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For our activists

Induction training

Our introductory courses for UNISON workplace reps (stewards) and health and safety reps are now being delivered online across the UK. Now more than ever, it’s vital to have trained, confident UNISON representatives speaking up for our members and their rights and safety at work. The next national new stewards’ course begins on 1 February.

See upcoming national UNISON courses

Find information for your regional education team

Many of our other courses are now also being delivered online. These include training for branch officers and some of our follow-on and advanced training courses. Check with your regional education team to see what’s available near you.

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Self-directed learning

Our e-learning site is always available for UNISON members and activists to undertake some of our quick, interactive learning modules. Learn about the different activist roles that exist in UNISON, how we can support members who have dyslexia, and how we can keep our members’ personal details safe. Simply log in with your My.UNISON account.

UNISON’s e-learning site

The TUC has launched a new education platform for union reps. Self-guided modules include:

  • Talking about the union
  • Universal Credit
  • Supporting non-binary workers
  • The Real Living Wage

Find out more

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Advanced employment law

We’re working on an online version of our advanced employment law programme for experienced reps who already have a basic knowledge of employment law. Full and refresher courses on Disability Discrimination Law were delivered in the autumn, and the first course of this year will be Contracts, Redundancy and TUPE.

All of our advanced employment law courses will be advertised via the national events page. We’ll also contact activists who were on the waiting list for the classroom versions of these courses directly.

National UNISON courses

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The TUC have been running very popular webinars through 2020, and the 2021 series promises to be just as interesting. You can sign up for an upcoming webinar or catch up on topics including:

  • Ways to manage stress in the current climate
  • Delivering digital inclusion
  • Building your rep network

Find them all here

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For union learning reps

As well as all the other resources listed on this page, which you will be able to pass on to your members as appropriate, there are some which will be particularly useful to union learning reps.

If you’re helping someone who isn’t very familiar or confident using digital technology, Learn My Way starts with the very basics, beginning with how to turn a computer on.

Learn My Way

The Inclusive Technology guide compiled for us by Diversity’N’Ability suggests several apps and tools that can make technology a little easier to use, and explains how to get the most out of the inbuilt accessibility features that already exist in the programs and systems that learners may well already be using.

Inclusive Technology guide

And Digital Unite’s technology guides are also really helpful.

Digital Unite guides

During the first lockdown, many people naturally turned to learning as a way to fill the time and keep in touch with other people. This looks likely to happen again, and ULRs can make the most of that.

Here’s our guide to adapting learning activities for use in a socially distanced world.

Delivering learning at a distance

And Unionlearn’s guide to supporting home learners has some really useful tips on how to stay in touch with your learners, give practical support, and support yourself.

Union learning reps: supporting home learners

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