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Jennie Appleyard (Leeds City College)

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I have been a union member all my working life, first in NALGO where I was a steward, then the Community and Youth Workers Union as Chair. I have been in UCU for 17 years since starting at Leeds City College where I am currently Course Leader in Health and Social Care.

I have always been interested in increasing opportunities for young people. In 1987 a group of us set up the Getaway Girls project which is still going strong and where I sit on the Management Committee. I have worked in a range of settings from Womens Aid to Rape Crisis, and community centres to childrens residential care homes. I came into FE after working as a trainer in Leeds and Dublin around equality issues, sexual health, supervision and management committee skills.

I believe FE is an essential part of our society, providing a genuine second chance for so many. For young people who are disaffected and damaged by their school experiences, and for adults who need a chance to develop new skills to improve their choices.

I feel strongly that we must fight to save our service, and to strengthen it. We must defend our members against casualisation and untenable workloads. It's impossible to teach well when you are under-valued and overworked. I am very concerned about the damaging effect poorly carried out observations can have on staff morale and confidence and am pressing for a peer assessment approach.

I have been on the LGBT+ Members Steering Committee for several years and was Viice Chair last year. I have been part of the delegation to the TUC LGBT+ Conference since 2012, speaking on a range of topics relevant to FE. I have supported LGBT+ students and colleagues in many situations, and ensure my teaching methods and materials promote and celebrate diversity.  As a College Equality Champion I sit on the Equality Committee of our college.

I enjoy the international community and range of social classes that our learners represent and encourage students to share their foods, languages and views with each other. As the parent of a child with a serious health condition I have some understanding of the issues facing members who have disabilities, or who are carers. But I know I need to ask and listen to what their needs are, not assume I know.

We have so much to learn from each other. I feel honoured to be working in a sector where people can turn their lives around through education, and by doing so, also help their communities.

Intersectionality is a vital tool in our fight for our rights as workers.

We must ensure that we bring everyone with us: divisions make us weak.

Last updated: 28 July 2020