Case studies

Find out about the benefits of becoming a union learning rep (ULR) by reading the experiences of three ATL members who took the plunge.

Carole Horstead

Meet Carole Horstead, ATL union learning rep and branch secretary for Croydon Branch, London and head of Spanish and second in charge of modern foreign languages at Virgo Fidelis Convent Senior School near Croydon.

Carole tells us: "I trained as a ULR in 2008 because I wanted to get more meaningful training into my workplace. What I like about the ULR role is that I get to meet my members in more pleasant surroundings. Instead of just fire fighting, I am there to help them to do something they want to do, albeit on a Saturday morning.

"With help ( and lots of it!) from my organiser for learning and development, Tim Brooks, we decided to set up a local training programme based around ATL publications. As each new publication comes out, we set up a training session at my own school, run the session and make sure each member has a copy of the publication to take back to their setting."

Carole says her work as a ULR in Croydon is bringing the Croydon members together, giving them a face behind the business card, a forum to meet other members and discuss problems and, above all, offering free or reasonably-priced training on a Saturday morning at a local venue. ATL also allows non-members to attend training events at a slightly higher rate, which encourages new members to join.

Carole feels that everyone should engage in learning and development for their own sense of personal achievement, to meet new people, avoid isolation - and to fill a Saturday morning in a pleasant way! Everyone from students, through NQTs to long standing teachers and even head teachers attend learning events. Carole's own head teacher has attended two sessions, and encourages other staff at her school to do the same.

Geoff Rudge

Geoff became a learning rep in 2005. Having retired from teaching Geoff, wanted to give something back to the union that had helped him for a number of years.

"I wanted to help engage younger members of the union in Solihull - learning had always been important to me," Geoff says. "I feel that, since I first started teaching in 1970, the number of learning opportunities for members has decreased considerably."

Geoff wants to ensure access to high quality, relevant local training, so that members are able to learn about areas of their profession that they are interested in, and continue to develop their skills.

Geoff has been the driving force in bringing together ATL members and Solihull College. Since signing a partnership agreement in 2012, Geoff and the college have organised a range of learning events for members from stress awareness, equality and diversity, questioning techniques and an introduction to social networking. He has taken a roadshow to local schools to promote the partnership, and enjoys encouraging members to get involved in learning and in ATL.

Ali Cohen

ULR Ali Cohen works at Bristol Brunel academy and became a ULR shortly after attending her first ATL event, a day of taster sessions (including pilates, photography and much more) in Bristol. Ali became a ULR because she wanted to help her colleagues develop both professionally and for themselves, and to make sure that the training her colleagues were receiving was relevant and interesting to them.

Ali can see that the work she does as a ULR has an impact both on her colleagues and on herself. She says: "the role enables relevant training sessions and 'fun' events are offered to staff at reduced cost or sometimes at no cost". Her only frustration is a lack of time to organise more for members.

When considering why people should engage in learning, Ali is clear that there are three main reasons:

"Firstly, one can never stop learning. There is always something 'new' to discover or a gap in knowledge that can only be met through training events. Secondly it reflects dedication to your role which always helps especially as being proactive about professional development sends a really positive message to employers."

"Finally learning and development also provides an excellent opportunity for networking with other professionals and the chance to share experience, knowledge and gain support from those in other establishments."

I trained as a ULR in 2008 because I wanted to get more meaningful training into my workplace

Carole Horstead, ULR, Croydon

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