Five things we learnt at Society and Citizenship Zone Conference

Monday 02-11-2015 - 10:28

NUS’ Zone Conferences kicked off on Tuesday 27 October with students and staff from the movement arriving in Bradford for a week of debates, discussions and democratic elections which will steer and shape the policy of NUS’ five Zones over the coming year.

The annual gathering - the second largest democratic event in the UK after our own National Conference - was hosted in the city of Bradford for first time, with the focus turning to our Society and Citizenship Zone Conference for the final two days.

Zone Conferences are a crucial part of the policy formation process and are an important milestone on the road to National Conference. Each Zone is based around a ‘key theme’ allowing a space for students’ unions to really shape NUS’ responses to the challenges each zone faces.

Here are five things we learnt during Society and Citizenship Zone Conference…

1. Piers reflected on the progress made by the Zone

NUS Vice President (Society and Citizenship) Piers Telemacque addressed the delegates on day one of the conference, introducing delegates to the key themes and highlighting the progress Society and Citizenship has made it meeting its objectives. Piers informed delegates of his core areas which included prison education, youth and community services, sustainability and citizenship education. Piers also informed SU staff of a session aimed specifically at SU staff on how to improve and build strong and effective campaigns on their campuses.

2.Learner voice key in prisoner education

One of the key themes for the Zone was prisoner education. Delegates agreed that the NUS and other unions including teacher and lecture unions had a role to play in supporting the prison education system. Learner voice was identified as a key area in which students could support the prison education system by providing support to student councils and prison and also providing a channel by which the voice of learners in prison could reach policy makers. The value of prison education and its role in reducing reoffending was also discussed, however the delegates noted that education in prisons was not a panacea but part of a multi-faceted and holistic approach to reducing reoffending.

3.We want to talk about sex

Citizenship education, although not a key theme at the Zone conference, was a subject that sparked great debate amongst the delegates. They discussed what it meant to be British, the ambiguity surrounding the definition of fundamental British values and also the importance of highlighting and teaching future generations a global, outward facing citizenship education. Sex and relationship education was thought to be inadequate by the delegates of the conference and they resolved to support a more diverse and inclusive SRE education in the key stage three and four curriculum.

4. Students can play a role in calling for action on climate change at COP21

COP21 (the UN climate talks taking place in Paris this December) is an important campaign moment for those working on fossil fuel divestment campaigns. World leaders will be meeting with the intention of agreeing a legally binding and universal agreement on climate for the first time ever. Four fifths of known fossil fuels must stay in the ground to keep global temperatures at a safe level (below two degrees Celsius warming) – students can play a key role in calling for ambitious carbon reduction targets and strong action on climate change. The climate marches on 28 (Cardiff and Edinburgh) and 29 (London) November will bring together thousands of people before the start of the talks and many SUs plan to join them.

5.There’s a potential for community renewables on campuses

Divesting endowments from fossil fuels is step one of the fossil free campaign. The next steps look at cutting ties to the fossil fuel industry across the curriculum, and creating support for renewables and climate solutions. As part of the Society and Citizenship 2015 key theme, student officers discussed some of the trickier issues within the fossil free campaign such as course sponsorship, as well as where to turn next with the campaign. We heard from 10:10 about the potential for community renewables on campus, and discussed what support would be necessary in order to broach on-campus renewable energy cooperative models with our universities and colleges.

Our Society and Citizenship and Welfare Zone Conferences concluded our week residency in Bradford today with the elections for both of their respective Zone Committees.   

Not in Bradford for Zone Conference? Relive the action on social media using the hashtag #NUSzones15



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