Welcome to the learning representatives' community

Learning representatives play a vital role in supporting an important element of the Royal College of Nursing's (RCN) work: helping health care workers to develop their skills and knowledge - thus, ultimately, improving standards of care.

As a RCN learning representative, you:

  • support members in the workplace by offering them informatioin, advice and signposting them to relevant resources
  • work in partnership with your employer to protect and promote learning in the workplace
  • work in partnership with your RCN colleagues to ensure that relevant learning opportunities are available to support high quality patient care.   

There are many RCN, as well as external resources which can support you in carrying out your role as a learning representative. The ULF project mapped out for you the key resources and produced Supporting learners: a quick guide to learning resources for RCN learning representatives. 

While providing support and guidance, communication with your colleagues and with the RCN is very important.

We know you are doing great work and we would love to hear more about your activities and what support you need from us in order to enhance your role. We also want you to be fully informed about what the RCN and the Union Learning Fund team are doing.

The Learning Representatives community, together with the Discussion Zone are your areas where you can find news and access useful learning resources. We hope you will use the Discussion Zone to give us feedback, comments or suggestions you might have on any area of your role as an RCN activist. 

The Union Learning Fund (ULF) project team has been working closely with the UK Learning Representatives Committee to raise the profile of learning representatives (LRs) and - most importantly - get their voices heard!

You may have already received emails from the RCN ULF team requesting updates on your learning representative activities, and not always have the time to respond. We understand that recording all your activities is time consuming and we don’t want to add to your workload.  On the other hand, we are keen to capture as much information about LRs as possible so that we can raise awareness about the value of your role within the workplace as well as the region. So please do use this opportunity to give us any feedback or ideas!

The current priority areas for the ULF team work are: negotiating learning agreements, supporting learners in improving functional skills, and poviding learning resources for apprenticeships in the workplace.

Learning agreements

A learning agreement is a partnership arrangement between unions and an employer that formally recognises the union role in lifelong learning and skills development within the organisation. The learning agreement sets out the rights and roles of learning representatives, and the rights of employees to receive paid time off to undertake learning within the organisation. The ULF team has been working with many employers to negotiate and develop learning agreements. To date the RCN has successfully signed learning agreements with a number of employers within the NHS as well as the independent sector.

The ULF team in co-operation with LRs and other stakeholders have produced a number of publications which will give you the insight into learning agreements, their benefits and what role LRs can play in negotiations with your employer.

For assistance in opening the following files see how to access PDF files

The learning agreement online resource was developed to assist you with negotiations and producing an action plan.

Functional skills

Some of you might be aware that in September 2012 Skills for Life and Basic Skills were replaced by Functional skills. Functional Skills are the fundamental, applied skills in English, maths and ICT which help people to gain the most from  life, learning and work. The development of Functional Skills is seen by the Government as essential to address employers' concerns that young people and adults are not achieving a firm enough grounding in the basics.

Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) in co-operation with Tribal developed distance travelled online assessment resource called GoLearn. It provides a discreet, learner-led approach that may suit health care staff. It is an interactive tool which allows learners to assess their existing knowledge in English or maths and provides a range of learning material to develop or refresh knowledge if required.

For more information please contact: Emily Spencer-Rigby, emily.spencer-rigby@rcn.org.uk.   


The RCN is working in partnership with employers to support the creation of high quality apprenticeship programmes that could provide an alternative route into nursing. Supporting apprenticeship learning is a key priority for the RCN ULF Project team in 2013-14; this includes working in partnership with Trusts to deliver learning for apprentices. The team is currently delivering workshops on Equality and Diversity to apprentices in a number of Trusts, as well as signposting them to RCN's learning offer for HCAs, including online resources such as First Steps and Principles of Nursing Practice.  One of the challenges is that we don't  have a map of where these apprenticeship schemes are! It would be really helpful if learning representatives could inform us if there is a scheme running in their Trust so that we can make contact and look at how we can best support the apprentices there. If  you have information, please contact ULF Project Administrator.  Moira.O'Shaughnessy@rcn.org.uk

The May issue of Activate has an interesting article on Supporting Apprentices highlighting the work RCN is doing with University College London Hospital NHS Foundation Trust  to achieve the best deal for their apprentices.

The ULF Project Team, together with Tanis Hand, HCA Adviser and Gary Kirwan, Employment Relations Adviser, has produced a guide Supporting Apprentices in the Workplace.


We hope you enjoy and benefit from this online learning representatives' community!

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