Category Archives: Learning, Skills, and Young People

Adult Learner Week

Today’s guest blog is from Matt Gillett, Regional Education Officer at UNITE South West.

Matt Gillett

Unions have always played a key role in the learning agenda. From the education of our Union Representatives through to negotiating with employers to provide access to training for millions of employees through workplace learning agreements. Union education programmes have ensured that our Reps gain the knowledge and skills to effectively represent their members and operate effectively with employers to ensure positive industrial relations outcomes. Through these courses, for example, Health and Safety Reps acquire the expertise essential to their roles in helping in the prevention of accidents and incidents, instigating good practices and keeping workers safe in their jobs with fewer accidents and less sick absence. 

Trade unions have also been at the forefront of promoting lifelong learning. Engaging with companies and education providers we have established learning agreements giving workers the opportunity to access courses such as English, maths, digital skills, English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) and vocational qualifications, including adult apprenticeships. Many of these workers have been out of formal education for a long periods, and indeed may not have had the most positive experiences when they were at school. Through the provision of on-site learning centres and by working with companies to make sure courses take place at times that minimise their operational disruption we have been able to open up opportunities to countless individuals. Numerous employers across the city, including Bristol City Council itself, have been examples of the success of unions and businesses working together to the mutual benefit of the workforce and the employers themselves. Union Learning Reps who promote training and encourage their colleagues to take part are pivotal to the reach and success of these projects.

We remain heavily involved in the area of redundancy support, ensuring that those at risk of losing their jobs receive training in CV writing, interview techniques and job searching skills, as well as accessing those key qualifications listed above, to give them the best chance of securing new positions.  

Photo credit: Chris Montgomery – “Zoom call with coffee”

During the pandemic of course, classroom delivery of both Reps education and lifelong learning had to cease. However, thanks to the hard work and adaptability of tutors and providers, we were able to quickly move to online and ‘virtual classroom’ learning through Zoom and similar platforms. Many individuals have accessed online learning during the last 15 months and my own union Unite has long had an extensive online offer which has even more come into it’s own during this period. Meanwhile, activists have been able to continue to work with tutors and each other to share knowledge, experience and solidarity through our Reps education programmes. I want to pay tribute to the flexibility of those who have taken part in all these aspects of learning and training over the last year or so. 

Adult Learner Week reminds us that as the economy reshapes the need to have access to learning, upskilling and retraining has never been greater. Trade unions will continue to play a vital part in making this possible.

Bristol’s Anne Frank Tree

Today’s guest blog is from Elinor Beard, a nine-year old pupil from Fishponds. Elinor spoke at Tuesday’s unveiling of the new plaque at the Anne Frank Tree on Brandon Hill.

On June 8th I was invited to Brandon Hill park to speak at the unveiling ceremony of a plaque for a tree planted in Anne Frank’s memory. It was a great experience and there were so many wonderful speeches.

When I was six years old, my grandma bought me Anne Frank’s Diary. I was too young to understand what it meant at the time, but since then I have read it three times. It inspires me and she is like an imaginary friend. She is in my head telling me to hang in there when I find something difficult. I feel like we are connected in some way. 

Anne Frank is my heroine. She always found the positive. Even at the end of her life she still wrote about her dreams and hoped that she would come out of the war alive. When I have Anne by my side, I am not afraid. If she lasted through her terrifying experience for as long as she did, then what I am scared of looks easy.

Every day in the annex got worse for Anne and her family and they feared any knock on the door. Every day she lived in fear. What I find most horrific is how she almost made it to the end of the war. If she would have lived just a few more weeks, she would have survived and seen the world she longed for.

“In spite of everything, I still believe people are really good at heart.” That’s what Anne Frank believed. She also believed people should be treated equally. During her life in hiding, her writing showed her faith in humanity even though her situation was very dark. She kept on writing and she kept making her family happy. One of the most amazing things about her was her ability to keep going when everything was falling apart. She was one of the many children in the Holocaust who lost their lives. Jewish children like me and even children who weren’t Jewish. 

During the ceremony on June 8th, there were some moving speeches. I was especially moved by the words of Edward Crowson (above) from the Holocaust Educational Trust when he described his guilt of being cold at Auschwitz and the depths of “how far human-kind could hate.” Edward continued, “How could I possibly complain of feeling cold… compared to those who were previously imprisoned in the camps.” This touches me because it shows how lucky we are to have the things we take for granted. Just as Edward said, they were freezing cold with nowhere to turn at Auschwitz. What’s also inspiring is what the Holocaust Educational Trust is trying to teach. Their aim is to share the testimonies of those who suffered during the Holocaust with as many young people as possible. It is very important that we share stories like Anne’s. Soon the people who lived those terrifying experiences won’t be able to tell their stories anymore. It is up to people like me to do it. I urge you to share their stories with as many young people as you can so it never happens again.

Anne said, “I don’t want to have lived in vain like most people. I want to be useful or bring enjoyment to all people. Even those I have never met. I want to go on living even after my death.” And she did. This tree proves it. This tree will outlive all of us and so will Anne’s spirit.

Carers Week 2021: Visible and Valued

Today’s guest blog, in recognition of Carers Week, comes from Councillor Helen Holland, Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care and Labour Councillor for Hartcliffe and Withywood.

Last year, with applause and cheers (and on some streets even fireworks!) on Thursday evenings, Bristol celebrated the value of care like never before. And yet within that crucial national recognition of the importance of care, thousands of people who carry out invaluable care work were perhaps still too hidden from our collective view. Specifically, those who look after family members or friends – unpaid – every day in our city.

The theme of this year’s Carers Week is “Make Caring Visible and Valued” – a challenge to us all to acknowledge and support the contribution unpaid carers make not only to their families, but to the whole of Bristol.

Few people will be aware of the sheer scale of carers’ contribution. The census in 2011 revealed that there are at least 40,138 unpaid carers in Bristol – and it is likely that this year’s census will show that this number has grown.

We know that Covid has had a significant impact both on the numbers of people who undertake caring responsibilities and in the amount of care they have provided for their loved ones and neighbours. The country has been heavily reliant on carers’ efforts: Carers UK estimate that unpaid carers’ work has saved the country over £135 billion during the pandemic.

This effort has, for too many, come at significant personal time and cost. Carers across the UK now provide a staggering 65 hours per week of care, and 64% have said their mental health has worsened during the pandemic. 58% have seen an impact too on their physical health.

We know, therefore, that clapping for our carers is not enough. We need to make sure Bristol’s unpaid carers are visible and valued for everything that they do.

In our One City Plan, we have the goal of identifying, assessing, supporting and valuing all unpaid carers in Bristol by 2022, and recognising and respecting them as expert partners in care who contribute their skills, experience and dedication to our city’s care sector. We know many people who undertake care for relatives want to have the opportunity to use those skills by becoming professional care workers. Our Proud to Care website has advice and local job opportunities for anyone wanting to develop a career in care in Bristol. You can also read stories from people like Lindsey, who works as a Support Outreach Worker for Headway Bristol, having cared for her own partner who has a brain injury.

We also want to continue to offer a diverse network of support services for carers that reaches people in all communities. This includes working with organisations such as Bristol Young Carers, Bristol Black Carers, Bristol and Avon Chinese Women’s Group and the Dhek Bhal support group for carers of South Asian Elders to support those undertaking care responsibilities who may face particular barriers in having their status as carers recognised and supported.

Independent and trusted advice is also crucial in order that those in need of care and their families can make informed decisions about how their care needs can be best met. In the coming months we will begin the recommissioning process for our advocacy services to make sure that carers have access to the right support at the right time.

I want Bristol to be a city that supports and values everyone who cares for a loved one. If you are currently providing care for a parent, relative or friend, information about the support available to you is available on our website.

Unlock your potential with an internship in the Mayor’s office

Hi, I’m Paige. I’m a Policy Assistant to the Mayor of Bristol and former Policy Intern, and an internship in the Mayor’s Office helped me to unlock my potential and it can do the same for you!

Applications are open now and offer a unique learning opportunity which will allow you to gain amazing exposure to Bristol’s city leadership, partner organisations and the huge programme of work which is taking place in the city right now. You will learn transferrable skills around time management, stakeholder engagement and communication which will support your next step on the career ladder. Former interns have gone on to secure jobs in a variety of sectors such as the City Office, the Inclusive Growth Network and Channel 4.

We’re a friendly, hard-working team who will support you to explore your personal interests. As a south Bristol resident, my interests were widening participation initiatives and young people and this led to my involvement in some fantastic schemes such as Kickstart, the West of England Black Interns Pilot and the south Bristol Youth Zone.

The Mayor’s Office would really benefit from more diversity and youth voices so if you hold A-Level or equivalent qualifications (which don’t have to be in Politics – I studied English!) and would love the opportunity to support the Mayor in delivering their vision for Bristol, then send us your application today and unlock your potential with an internship in the Mayor’s Office.

Apply to be the Mayor’s Communications and Engagement Intern

Apply to be the Mayor’s Policy Intern

International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Intersexphobia and Transphobia

Today’s blog has been written in partnership with Bristol City Council’s LGBT+ Employee Group

If you go past City Hall today, you may notice the Progress Pride Flag flying over College Green. This is to mark the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Intersexphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT), which since 2004 has commemorated and coordinated global action to promote LGBT+ rights on 17 May.

We want to make sure our commitment to making Bristol a safe city for LGBT people is visible, from lighting up City Hall for LGBT History Month to the forthcoming rainbow crossing we’re installing on Wine Street for Bristol Pride. But, as important as these visible symbols are, we also want to deliver real action. As a local authority, we’ve been working to put equality and inclusion at the heart of everything we do: from making sure LGBT staff have a meaningful voice in how the council operates, to improving representation and improving the city-wide response to hate crime.

We know that the pandemic has had specific effects on Bristol’s LGBT+ community. Loneliness and isolation have been particularly difficult for those cut off from their social spaces and contacts during lockdown. We also know that lockdown for many people – particularly young people – meant sharing their home with people who don’t know, or don’t support, their sexuality or gender identity.

The LGBT+ Employee Group have therefore made supporting colleagues through the process of easing restrictions a priority in the coming months. More broadly, I’ve pledged to commission a Mayoral Equalities report to look into and address anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination in Bristol. We’ll work across the city to make sure Bristol is a city where everyone can thrive.

It’s not only through local action that we achieve equality. As a global city, we work with city networks across the world to promote human rights. In this spirit, we’re joining with our twin city Hannover in flying the flag to show our solidarity with cities who also want to make their cities safe and welcoming for LGBT+ people.

Talking Heads

Today my Cabinet Lead for Education, Claire Hiscott, and I met today with head teachers from secondary and primary schools from across Bristol.

I have made a clear commitment to giving every child the best possible start in life and schools are key to this.  So it was essential to hear from them about how they think the city must work to enable our schools to flourish.

Funding is a key issue.  That goes without saying. The Government’s National Funding Formula sets out the budgets schools have and in total 92 city schools would lose out financially.  The figures show that while support for secondary schools has increased on average by £2,524, primary schools have lost £9,940 on averageWe are writing to Justine Greening, Secretary of State for Education, to ask how her commitment to ensuring no Bristol school loses out financially will be made real. We’ll share our approach with the Core Cities network and ask them to join us in lobbying government. Our new MPs will play a key role in ensuring Westminster understands that education is an investment, not a cost.

We must also get the health service in the city working in a more joined up way with schools, especially around mental health. I am going to take this challenge on, working through the Learning City Partnership and the Health and Wellbeing Boards.

We also discussed the need for better internal communications between schools to share support and best practice. At the moment there are pockets of connected schools but the whole city remains fragmented.