Over 70 participants to the 2nd Education International (EI) Education Support Personnel (ESP) Conference, held from 17th-18th May in Aveiro, Portugal, adopted a strong statement urging governments to increase funding in education systems and to invest in trained and qualified education support personnel that have good working conditions, to ensure quality education for all.
In her welcome message to participants to the conference co-organised by EI and the Portuguese EI member organisation Federação Nacional da Educação (National Education federation, FNE), EI President Susan Hopgood stated that “education support personnel are the beating heart of education institutions everywhere.”
She went on to criticise that, “today, with austerity measures set to impact 85% of the world’s population by the end of the year, public education is under attack and education support personnel are particularly impacted. Shrinking budgets mean layoffs, increasing privatisation and deteriorating working conditions. It is not only the workers that are affected, but the students too.”
“The global education union movement demands that the labour rights of Education Support Personnel are guaranteed. And we demand that governments take concrete policy steps to enhance their status,” she emphasised.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization, also explained in a recorded message to the conference, that “the COVID19 pandemic highlighted the value of support personnel to ensure schools remained open and accessible to all, and that our children had access to quality education and related health, nutrition and psychosocial support”.
He added that, “too often, education support personnel are undervalued. We owe all essential workers our support. Links between education, health and employment are critical for strong economies.”
In her intervention, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Education Stefania Giannini deplored that, “despite their dedication, the rights and status of education support personnel are not well protected. Today, we call on the global community to invest in decent working conditions for all members of the education workforce.”
She explained in a message to the conference that, following on last year’s Transforming Education Summit, a High Level Panel on the Teaching Profession has been established. It will produce evidence, inform recommendations to support countries to deliver on their commitment to provide every learner with the professionally trained, qualified, well-supported teacher who can flourish in a transformed education system.
“Part of the support that teachers need is actually provided by the very personnel we celebrate today as we mark the fifth anniversary of the Declaration on the Rights and Status of Education Support Personnel, which is firmly aligned with the ILO-UNESCO Recommendation concerning the status of teachers,” she also said.
EI General Secretary David Edwards addressed the conference which included unionists from all over the world.
“Let us continue to collaborate and coordinate across borders, supporting each other to renew our unions, sharpen our strategies, and win our campaigns. EI commits to continuing to build the ESP network and to ensuring that ESP issues remain firmly on the agenda, in our programmes, our policy and at our upcoming Congresses. Let's act together in solidarity to Go Public and fund ESP. We are Education International.”
In tune with these remarks, the adopted Aveiro statement calls on governments, among other, to:
- Urgently increase investment in public education in line with international targets and the Transforming Education Summit Call to Action on Financing;
- Invest in sufficient numbers of trained and qualified education support personnel that have quality working conditions, salaries that enable a life with dignity, and quality career pathways;
- Provide education support personnel with quality training and free professional development opportunities according to their needs;
- Increase the attractiveness of a career as an education support worker;
- Ratify and implement Convention C190 to ensure education support personnel are safe from all forms of violence including gender-based violence in the workplace;
- Ensure a just transition in the education sector by protecting education support personnel’s safety and labour rights in the context of the worsening impacts of the climate crisis;
- Collaborate with education support personnel and their unions to define how information technologies can support their work, and provide high quality training on how to use them effectively;
- Respect trade union rights, including the right to organise, bargain collectively, and strike, as well as engage in meaningful social dialogue with organisations representing education support personnel.
It further encourages education unions to:
- Continue to advocate for the worldwide application of the Education International Declaration on the Rights and Status of Education Support Personnel;
- Call for increased domestic and international public education financing and specific funding for education support personnel as part of Education International’s Go Public: Fund Education campaign;
- Build union power to defend the rights and status of education support personnel by recruiting and organising members;
- Encourage ESP and teacher representatives to support each other and work hand in hand to defend common rights and values to ensure student needs are met.