Unite in Schools is a national Unite programme which brings experienced activists into our schools, colleges and universities to inspire the next generation of the union movement.

"What a great session we had, the learners really engaged with Matt and discussed some fantastic issues - we even (finally!) got a Student Union Rep for our centre. Matt left us with some posters, resources and some information packs, which were also very informative. More of this please!"
Clare Kirk, Community Voice, Nacro, Middlesborough

"Both staff and students enjoyed the presentation, of course they all remember the role play element which was helped by the student. I felt it was very informative, but at the same time it wasn’t an information overload, to the point and easily understood. Presentation was excellent and engaging."
Chris Wilson, Head of Year 12 & 13 & Football Academy Co-Ordinator

The main message of our fun, interactive, student centred sessions is that we are stronger together.

Unite in Schools Sessions

In our standard sessions, students work on a campaign plan for an issue that matters to them, as well as learning about what the union movement has achieved in the past, and the campaigns we are working on today – why trade unions are a vital part of changing the world for the better.

Unite in Schools session leaders run a wide variety of activities, including classroom sessions for secondary school students, ‘health and safety and your union’ for vocational college students, careers events and fairs, university seminars, anti-racist workshops, coaching for school council reps and much more.

Our Unite Session Leaders

Our session leaders consist of volunteer activists (often workplace representatives) who receive training – and then go on to run our sessions in pairs, in the classroom. These trained worker volunteers present very potent, tangible and inspiring living examples of why young people might need union protection at work. Many of our session leaders are not long out of school themselves, which speaks to the students and all serves to ground the sessions in the students’ own experiences.

Our Resources

During the Covid-19 pandemic we developed some online resources, including a 30 minute film to be used by teachers until our Unite speakers can visit schools again. Back in the classroom, depending on time and context, we use a range of resources - blending short videos, group discussions, class quizzes and role play activities into hour long sessions.

We have also divided this film up into 6 x 5 minute films on subjects such as: What is a Trade Union?; Zero Hour Contracts and the Gig Economy; Schools Protests and Strikes, with discussion questions at the end of each session.

In terms of inspiring and encouraging young people to identify inequality and act collectively to try to change things, there has never been a better time to be running these sessions. We are hoping to return to schools, colleges and universities in September.

To find out more, contact Mary.
Tel: 07799 114243 / Email: [email protected].

“After talking to some of the students, they all said they enjoyed the session. Things they picked out was how interactive the session was, your humour and friendliness and how the Sports Direct story grabbed their attention.”
Chestnut Grove 6th Form

“A big thanks to you both for the brilliant talk today...it was much appreciated...many people carried on discussing it throughout the day. An excellent reception and hopefully it means we will see a surge in Unite members in Bedfordshire!"
Cedars Upper School

"Thank you so much for coming to speak to two of our classes about the work of Trade Unions. The sessions were very impressive and perfectly delivered with just the right amount of pupil interaction, speaker ‘talk’, paired work and video clips. The session was really engaging and the feedback from the pupils has been extremely positive (they have learnt so much more about Trade Unions than what they would have learnt in a ‘normal lesson’) although 1 pupil was left extremely disappointed because she couldn’t yet join a trade union!"
Lynsey Sturgeon, Head of Humanities, Woodlands School, Basildon, Essex

“Thank you for visiting our school this week. The overall feed-back has been that your session was brilliant! The students and staff have all said how engaging it was and how clearly the role of the union was explained. The role play was a fantastic way to get them involved but at the same time had a purpose. The video regarding the issues at Sports Direct was particularly good as a lot of our students either work for them now or have in the past and are well aware of how they treat staff. We would definitely like to book you next year."
Mrs Cave, Achievement Leader Assistant, John F Kennedy Catholic School, London & Eastern

"Thank you again for coming yesterday.  Students certainly enjoyed your input, with many commenting they had known next to nothing about unions before, let alone the kinds of things they needed to consider such as zero hours contracts.  The Sport Direct actions were equally new to them. Students also praised your delivery and the fact that you made the session quite interactive – they said this helped keep their attention more than has been the case with some other speakers (!)"
Fiona Smith, Head of 6th Form, Billericay School

"Thank you. The session was very engaging and interactive, and well adjusted to the needs of the particular audience. By using questioning you established the knowledge level and information needs of the audience, and responded to these. The role plays and team campaigns ensured everyone got involved. We would certainly recommend the session to other schools. Thanks so much."
Henrietta Barnett School

"The sessions were great and the boys really enjoyed them. ..we would love to make these regular sessions. It will help the Citizenship boys and girls answer any future exam questions about Trade Unions as well as inspiring them to join a Union in future."
Mrs Fiona Finni, Head of  Yr 9 Teacher i/c GCSE Citizenship, Newman Catholic College, London.

"It was a great session – varied and highly relevant."
Alison Barnes Ramsey Academy

“Sessions were interactive, engaging and relevant! Juliette Henry, Assistant Head teacher/Head of Skills Development and Progression." Elizabeth Garrett Anderson School, London and Eastern.

"In the summer of 2017 Nacro embarked on an ambitious plan to roll out Nacro Students’ Union (NSU) across 18 education centres, which involved training Nacro staff teams. Mary and Unite volunteers collaborated in this training at Nacro in Newcastle to great effect. To sustain momentum Mary from Unite has been tasked with delivering education directly to Nacro learners about what being part of a union will mean to them, several iterations of training content have been reviewed, given the difficulty of engaging Nacro cohorts, as they are the most hard to reach young people across the UK. I am delighted with the way Mary has diligently and patiently followed up with each centre to arrange and deliver this very pioneering, creative and successful training. We are keen for Unite to continue to develop sessions to support our centres across the UK. We have received very positive feedback from all centres – both staff and students."
Executive Council - evaluative statement – Nacro Unite alliance - learner training about Unions. Rose Evans, Community Voice

Mary “Sawyer” of Unite in Schools says that educating students about the vital role of unions in an increasingly casualised world of work is essential
A letter outlining Unite in Schools was published in full in the Guardian

"We ask our committee to give us feedback on the citizenship conference, so I thought I’d share this with you:…”I personally felt the organisation I was with was very interesting. We were well informed about the organisation. The group discussions were extremely helpful in allowing us to communicate our ideas confidently. They were small enough to have everybody’s opinion be heard yet large enough for a conversation. So that’s all great, and thank you again for taking part."
Caroline Found, Events and Trips Officer, South Wilts Grammar School

"Thank you so much for taking part in our Citizenship Conference on Friday …..I gather the Trade Unions sessions went particularly well, both from talking to students who attended, and also via Sam from our committee who worked with you.  He writes: “I found the sessions very enjoyable. I particularly enjoyed the last session as we got to come up with our own campaign. Brett was a very entertaining speaker.”.. Another student who attended said – “It was an interesting and involving discussion about union activity and the importance of TU work in the UK. It inspired many group members to consider joining a Union and helped students in organisational disciplines so valued in unions nowadays.” We know it is hard work to put on three workshop sessions, and we are very grateful to you. Once again thanks on behalf of both Bishop Wordsworth's School and South Wilts."
A.J Endersby, Assistant Head of Sixth Form, Bishop Wordsworth’s Church of England Grammar School for Boys

"I am glad that students had the opportunity to engage with Unite and learn about the important role that Trade unions play within society and as part of UK history. As part of our ongoing commitment to work-related learning, students had the chance to question the Unite visitors and share some personal experiences in work, preparing students for working life outside of college in addition to building their awareness of the history of trade unions."
Richard Taunton Sixth Form College, Chris Harrison, Teacher of History and Politics

"A MASSIVE THANK YOU for all your hard work in organising the Student Councillor conference with the Unite representatives today. Our five Baguley Hall ‘councillors’ really enjoyed every minute of it and were enthusing about the content of the meeting all the way back to school. Both the questions posed and discussion that followed were stimulating and relevant. A great and worthwhile afternoon! Thank you very much for all your time and hard work once again. Look forward to seeing you at our School Council Cluster meeting in Spring."
Maria Hayward, Baguely Hall Primary School, Wythenshawe, South Manchester

"Thank you very much for putting on the excellent sessions in school with year 9. The feedback from staff and students have been overwhelmingly very positive. We look forward to running many more of these anti-racism workshops with you in the months to come."
Jonathan Atkinson, Head of PSHE, Whalley Range High School, Manchester

"As it is coming to the end of this academic year, I just wanted to say ‘THANK YOU’ for all your support with the students….and their Careers Education Information Advice and Guidance (CEIAG) sessions. You have given up your time from work to encourage and support them and given valuable feedback - this may have linked to their CV and how to be successful within an interview or even just advice on how to appear more confident and be successful once they leave college.  I look forward to working together again into the next academic year.
Unite in Schools ‘Your Rights at Work’ sessions, developed in the context of student work experience."
Mikala Winder, Head of Newall Green 6th Form College, Wythenshawe, Manchester.

"Many thanks for your inspiring and very interactive sessions on trade unions and your support on Deep Learning Day.  Your input was really appreciated by both students and staff.  We look forward to working with you next year."
Jackie Fahey, Assistant Head, Whalley Range High School, Manchester

"Our students are benefitting enormously from the involvement of Mary and her team. It is fascinating and wonderful to see their journey away from an approach of apathy towards political engagement as they become enthused about the role they can play in bringing about change. This has had an impact on developing knowledge and understanding of students, which they can draw upon in their GCSE Citizenship Studies examinations. But it also has the added impact of improving self-esteem as they see themselves less as ‘cogs in the wheel’ and more of significant forces for change in political decision-making.  Our students are able to articulate ways of becoming involved in democratic processes and as importantly, benefit from the input of Unite in exploring and identifying the issues which matter to them.
Mary and her team deliver a perfect balance of input and discussion-time. They encourage and value student responses and adapt their delivery to suit the nature of responses, so that students always get the most out of sessions. Themes always function around real-life case studies, which assists our students in making sense of the world and de-jargonising the issues. They are helped to make connections between the issues which matter to them and the national picture. It has been great to see ‘lightbulb moments’ from  discussions with students. It is really refreshing to see teaching of Trade Unions in schools no longer being confined to History textbooks! These are immensely valuable, informative, inspirational and potentially life-changing to our young people.  In the words of one of our students: “This is such an important lesson. Unite have helped me see how I can make things better for people, not just here but in the world”.
Jane Leary, Head of PSHE, Prestwich Arts College, Bury, Lancashire

"A really informative session that ignited the children and empowered their own personal viewpoints and voices. Do not underestimate the capacity of primary aged children. More of this work is needed in primary schools. The changes to OFSTED should now mean that schools need to address what they are doing to enable their children to be ‘equipped with the knowledge and cultural capital that they need to succeed in life.’ Whilst this has always been at the heart of CTK’s curriculum other schools may have narrowed their curriculum offer to children because of governmental constraints and accountabilities. Unite should exploit the potential of the new inspection framework further as schools, particularly primary schools, may need to review their curriculum. One of the most beneficial things was the planning meeting. This, I think is essential, in ensuring a bespoke session that best fits each school’s individual needs."
Nicola Potts, Head teacher, Christ the Kings RC Primary, Salford 2019

"The start point was great. Making them think about their personal situation and their future financial opportunities available presented a good introduction to trades unionism. Kate was great at leading them in and making them think. In our session we did have some good Q&A."
John Tootle, Lecturer, W.Lancs FE College, 2019

"I just wanted to drop you a quick email to say thank you for your support on Friday. The day was fantastic and feedback from staff and pupils has been amazing. They really got a lot out of it and I think what they learnt will really stick with them. I hope that we will be able to work together in the future."
Robert Poole, Learning Skills for Life Coordinator, Sharples School, Bolton, December 2019

"Thank you so much Mary and the team at Unite for the work you have done on trade unions and representation with the student council. I feel you have made a real difference in making the pupils know they have a voice. Since your visit ….pupils have started working with the charity MIND to help raise money as that is something they addressed at the last council conference that they would like to do. They have organised assemblies on their own, cake sales and a karaoke afternoon. On the last session pupils really got involved and the next day a few of the pupils came to find me to ask when the next trade union and student council conference was. I asked them why they enjoyed it and they said “…because we get to talk about things that are important to us and they really listen to us.”
Susie Delaney, PSHE and Careers Lead, Newall Green High School, Manchester

"We have worked with Unite the Union on a number of occasions in Social Studies to help deliver really important information about the world of work. The achievements of the trade union movement are often taken for granted by the students but it is the importance of trade unions in their futures that we like to emphasise to the youngsters. They will face a different labour market with zero hour’s contracts and the like and we want to help prepare them for their future. Knowing the role a Trade Union can play seems to be one way of being able to understand working life."
Deb Holland, Assistant Head Teacher and Head of Social Studies, the Pingle School, Swadlincote, E.Mids.

“I’m very pleased to say the students found Dave’s presentation useful. Having spoken to some of them yesterday, they said the talk was pitched just right, was inspiring, and - crucially – galvanised them to seek out their own workplace union. All in all Dave provided a much-needed corrective to the neoliberal employability agenda all courses are required to push.” Derby University
“I enjoyed your session at Spalding High School - it was obvious when you began that the students had little idea of what a Union is or how they function.  I'm sure they left the session much more informed!  The 'votes' and mini-debates were especially effective and the student's confidence in answering was growing as the session went on.” 
Spalding High School

"Good discussion topic. Engaging... Lots of info wasn't previously aware of... Exposed the reality of the workplace … Engaging. Eye catching bright sheets… Learnt a lot about trade unions. Made me curious about my rights… Charismatic speaker... Really good, interactive. Learnt a lot of new things... Eye-opening, shocking at times. Now understand the importance of being informed... Learnt a lot about the advantages of trade unions... Interesting debates and factors of unions. Really interesting, entertaining and knowledgeable... Good use of role play and examples... Gives a better understanding of employment rights... Found out about unions and how to campaign your rights... Showed info I hadn't seen... I learnt about my rights to join unions. Found that I have the right to join a union. Good and interactive... Very interesting, highlighted what is available for me and what I am entitled to... best presentation of the day... Learnt unions are ok... Made me aware of unions and roles in campaigning...How do I join? Which one covers my career?… … Where can we learn more?"
2016: Sample of positive quotes from Bishop Stopford, E.Mids students aged 17 – 18 yrs