15 July 2021

Union Learning is alive and well and goes national

PCS launches its new national learning programme this autumn… and we hear from a regional learning coordinator on how they use union learning to help highlight the breadth of what the union can offer members.

PCS launches its new national learning programme this autumn – our first UK-wide approach for many years. The main elements include: 

  • A package of online workshops and courses for members – now delivered through the PCS Academy. We will continue to offer learning in the core subjects previously run by the Union Learning Fund (ULF) England.
  • Regular updates and resources for Union Learning Reps (ULRs), such as an online forum in September/October, a quarterly e-newsletter and training on supporting apprentices. We’re also launching a campaign to recruit new ULRs and reinvigorate our ULR network as we emerge from the demands of lockdown. ULRs continue to be at the heart of everything we do. (see our interview with one of our PCS regional learning coordinators in ‘Find Out More’ below)

Members still have access to our huge range of free online and distance-learning resources, including:

  • Over 800 courses on a huge range of topics on our main learning platform PCS Litmos (sign-up here using the code PCS2021 or login here). 
  • 17 accredited and informal modules from our partner Wranx including GCSE maths and English.
  • Over 40 vocational level 2 qualifications from leading provider The Skills Network.

The spur for these changes was the government’s politically-hostile decision to end the ULF England fund, forcing PCS to close our long-running project in March. 

PCS’s Wales and Scottish Union Learning projects continue, as they’re funded by the devolved national governments. They will continue to operate as usual, and the following plans do not apply to their operations.

Kim Hendry, who managed the ULF England project, and is now national learning organiser, explains:

“Whilst it was a major blow when we lost our team of wonderful regional learning organisers, the withdrawal of public funds – which came with a lot of strings attached – also offers us real opportunities. 

“Future national learning events will be for PCS members only – it’s a powerful recruitment and organising tool, and gaining access to our learning will hopefully become a major reason to join PCS.

“We were only allowed to offer learning to workers living in England,” explains Kim. 

“Now we can develop a national learning programme, including supporting plans in DWP, HMRC and other PCS groups, reflecting the geographical realities of PCS’s democratic structures.”

One thing no ULR will miss is the time-consuming monthly reporting requirements. This will free up learning reps to spend time with members.

“And finally, being freed from the constraints of public funding will also give us independence to fully determine our learning priorities,” says Kim, including criticising government policy. “So our popular Personal Budgeting workshops are being expanded to cover a range of advice and support links for PCS members struggling on low pay, due to over 10 years of pay cuts and freezes.”


  • Are you interested in knowing more about the ULR role? Contact your branch or group officers for more information. You can also email learning@pcs.org.uk.
  • Courses are available for new Learning Reps. Enter “Learning Reps” in the PCS Academy search bar. 
  • ‘Union learning helps highlight what PCS does’

PCS regional learning coordinator Anne Grier on how hundreds of members benefited from union-run workshops during HMRC’s national Learning at Work Week.