UNISON is asking MPs to visit their local colleges tomorrow, 9 February, to celebrate Champions in Our Colleges as part of the ongoing campaign to fully recognise the importance of support staff in education.
On Tuesday, the union held a drop-in event at Westminster, where MPs discussed their local colleges and the funding problems in the sector.
As well as listening to issues which affect the sector nationally, MPs were keen to talk about what they could do to support their local colleges.
There was a particular focus on the apprenticeship system, its importance and how to make it work better – highlighting the benefit, as part of a well-rounded education system, of quality apprenticeships to individuals and to the economy as a whole.
The event also gave UNISON officers the opportunity to tell MPs of the union’s concerns with pay bargaining in England, the outsourcing of support staff jobs on worse pay and conditions, and poor staffing levels.
The MPs who attended included Ben Bradshaw, George Howarth, Kim Johnson, Justin Madders, Toby Perkins, Virenda Sharma, Liz Twist, Beth Winter, Christian Wakeford and Daniel Zeichner (all Labour), Munira Wilson (Lib Dems) and Chris Stephens (SNP).
Champions in Our Colleges celebrates the important role of support staff in colleges and aims to raise awareness of the issues they face.
UNISON encourages all stakeholders, leaders, teachers, other support staff, learners, MPs and the local community to show support staff how much they are valued. The event was run nationally for the first time in February last year.
National officer Leigh Powell said: “It was great to hear from MPs how keen they were to get behind the campaign to recognise the importance of support staff and the importance of the FE and sixth form college sector as a whole.
“We were particularly pleased to be given the opportunity to make MPs aware of the issues around a lack of proper national bargaining (in England) which led to huge differences in funding levels for colleges this year. I’m sure this event will help us make improvements for many staff in the sector, and that’s what we fight for every day.”