Climbing frame
19 Aug 2010

Climbing frame website launched

Union Learning Reps (ULR) play an increasingly important role in the workplace, and a new tool has been launched to help them – the web based Climbing Frame. This website combines learning content with a mechanism to manage the progress of learners.

The system replaces a previous version that had to be installed on individual machines.Unionlearn, the TUC body set up to promote learning, found that whilst users recognised the benefits of the Climbing Frame, its potential was undermined by compatibility and accessibility problems. This was particularly noticeable inside company networks.

Being brought in as the technical advisor, I was keen to see development of a web based version of the Climbing Frame, as it would offer a solution to these problems whilst also providing an opportunity to improve other aspects of its functionality. The site is now live, having been launched at the Union Learning Rep conference at the TUC in July by Unionlearn, Prospect and PCS.

The Climbing Frame is aimed at all aspects of learning. This approach recognises that union learners have aspirations, skills and experiences, which relate to every aspect of their lives; their current jobs, possible career routes and their personal situation. The Climbing Frame has been designed to support the interaction and transferability of skills and experience.

A variety of ‘Learning Themes’ are hosted on the system, which are topics of interest to ULRs. These include ‘Skills for Life’, ‘Higher Education’ and ‘Learners with disabilities’. Users of the website can either browse the range of subjects included within the Learning Themes or find specific information of interest to them by using the ‘search’ function. Within the Learning Themes handy onscreen text information can be found, along with hyperlinks to external websites and also documents which can be downloaded and printed.

Some unions, including Prospect, PCS and USDAW have created their own ‘Learning Themes’, based around employers or professions. Access to these themes is restricted, but the core ‘Learning Themes’ are available to all.

The ‘Learner Management’ area of the website is where the ULR can store information about their sessions with learners. This is where the ‘Climbing Frame’ gets its name, with a tool that generates a hexagonal diagram, a visual aid to the learning plan. Working with the learner the ULR can create an individual ‘Climbing Frame’ of actions for them which can help them achieve learning goals. A variety of reports can be produced in a choice of formats for the learners themselves and also for the ULR to show the overall profile of their learners.

Anything that can help ULRs in their role has to be a good thing. Let’s hope the climbing frame can provide a ‘leg up’. The website can be accessed at

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