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Prison educators

Novus prison education branch

29 March 2021

UCU's Novus prison education branch covers 63 prisons across England where Novus, LTE Group's prison education service, delivers education. It is the largest further education branch in UCU.


The Novus UCU branch committee meets regularly with college management to raise issues of concern to members. Health and safety is a key issue and we have negotiated various improvements including establishing local health and safety meetings in each prison and a process for reporting and dealing with incidents. We urge all staff to report all incidents.

A network of reps mean that we keep in touch with what is happening across the prisons where Novus delivers education services. The branch committee deals with collective issues with the college and reports back from meetings via reps to the membership.

Reps and contacts

These play a vital role - and we are always looking for more members to help out. We try to ensure there is a workplace rep and a health & safety rep in each prison who can provide individual support to members (full training and support is provided). We also seek contacts who can distribute information and raise our profile. For further details contact UCU national organiser, Ronnie Kershaw.

Latest news

Novus working conditions poster Conditions claim

Pre-pandemic, Novus UCU and the national union launched a campaign to improve working conditions and safety in all prisons where Novus staff are working.

UCU members employed by Novus report that they feel neglected, ignored, and lacking the appropriate tools and resources to safeguard themselves and their learners. 

Indeed a 2019 survey carried out by the Joint Unions in Prisons Alliance (a grouping of the nine trade unions representing directly employed and contract staff in prisons across healthcare, education, ancillary services, prison and probation officers) found that 78% of respondents had experienced verbal abuse and 26% physical abuse in the preview 12 months. 53% had been exposed to psychoactive substances and 50% had no confidence that the situation would improve over the next 12 months.

UCU responded by submitting a formal working conditions claim [151kb] to Novus via the industrial relations machinery of the Joint Consultative Committee. UCU informed Novus that we reserve the right to declare a trade dispute and ballot for industrial action if their response to our claim does not meet the expectations of UCU members. 

Your local UCU reps will be conducting an audit of conditions in your prison. UCU will then be seeking an agreement with Novus to implement urgent remedial action in all prisons establishments where Novus staff are working to:

tackle violence against staff; prevent exposure to psychoactive substances; prevent exposure to toxic dust in workshops; ensure that no staff are doing the work of prison officers; and ensure that all staff are provided with clean and hygienic toilets, washing facilities, rest and meal facilities, toilet breaks and clean drinking water. 

Important All members are reminded that it is crucial that you report all accidents, incidents and near misses within 24 hours. This includes incidents relating to Novus staff, learners, sub-contractors and visitors. The report form is located on Novus KnowHow under 'People' then 'H+S'. Log all incidents in parallel in the appropriate prison reporting system. Report all incidents to your Health & Safety or UCU rep.

Please note the UCU resources below for resolving or escalating unresolved safety issues.  

We DEMAND that every prison worker is SAFE INSIDE. Support the UCU working conditions claim.

Curriculum changes and job losses

An update following further consultations on the restructuring and redundancy process in London and the West Midlands. 

Novus members should be aware of the following:

  • voluntary severance should have been confirmed by 20 September to all those who have had their applications accepted by Novus. To get VS, you will need to sign a settlement agreement on which you must secure legal advice since you are signing away your legal rights regarding outstanding employment issues. You can get legal advice via the union, by emailing your agreement here and confirming that you are a NOVUS employee, providing your name, address and contact number within the email. Thompsons will then contact you to provide advice
  • selection pools will take place week beginning 23 September. It should be done by interview with a competency based assessment. The interview panel should contain one independent person not from your prison. Please let us know if this isn't the case
  • we had asked Novus to move staff on A4e contracts onto Novus terms and conditions if they are moved into another role or their hours are reduced as a result of this restructure. Novus tell us that no one on an A4e contract should now be at risk, so please get in contact if you find this isn't the case 
  • contrary to any rumours circulating, Novus tell us that they intend to stick to the current timetable for the process.

We will continue talking to Novus as this process continues, so do get in contact with your local or regional reps if you have any questions. We will provide a further update if needed as the consultation progresses.

Resolving health and safety issues

UCU advises all members to ensure that UCU reps/H&S reps are elected in every prison establishment, monthly meetings between reps and local managers are taking place, escalation routes are utilised, incidents are reported and risk assessments are being conducted in consultation with tutors and reps. 

UCU advises all reps that the agreed terms of reference for the monthly meetings must be adhered to by managers. 

UCU advises all reps to record the issues and actions from the monthly meetings and provide a copy to UCU so that we can maintain a record of progress. 

Useful documents:

  1. Checklist for resolving health & safety issues at Novus prisons [167kb]
  2. Local Novus health & safety meeting template [135kb]
  3. Novus health and safety escalation route flow chart [125kb]
  4. Novus local health and safety meeting terms [15kb]
  5. Novus health and safety learning bulletin, Feb 18 [146kb]

Why join UCU?

Spread the word - share with your colleagues:
Why join UCU's Novus branch [340kb]

Why join UCU's Novus branch (1) Why join UCU's Novus branch (2)


Last updated: 8 May 2024