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School leaders call for protection of education budgets and workers’ rights

School leaders and representatives of EI member organisations have expressed serious concerns about the impact of the financial and economic crisis on education budgets, trade union and labour rights.

These concerns were raised during a school leadership seminar organised by EI in Paris, from 19 to 20 October, 2010. The seminar, whose theme was, ‘Empowering School leaders to meet present and future challenges’, was attended by almost 50 participants from different parts of the world. The seminar discussed challenges faced by schools and school leaders, particularly the shrinking of school budgets as a result of austerity measures being adopted by many governments. The narrowing of the curriculum was also highlighted, caused by international assessments, standardised testing and the publication of league tables. Participants noted with concern that the growing trend of using the economic crisis as an excuse for eroding trade union and labour rights and undermining quality education. They urged EI and its member organisations to intensify the campaign against the regressive measures being adopted by many governments in dealing with the crisis. EI’s Deputy General Secretary, Monique Fouilhoux, briefed the participants about various measures being taken by EI in its campaign on the crisis, including data gathering through surveys and organising conferences and training programmes for union leaders. Speaking at the same meeting, UNSA-Education General Secretary and EI Executive Board member, Patrick Gonthier, expressed serious concern about the French government’s decision to raise the retirement age with full benefits to 67, without consulting with the workers. He described this as another austerity measure being adopted by the French government that would have a profoundly negative impact on educational quality and equity. Petros Pashiardis, a Professor of Educational Leadership with the Open University of Cyprus, addressed the theme of the seminar, noting that we were living in the “golden era of educational leadership”, with more recognition being given to the role of school leadership in achieving quality education. He went on to share research findings indicating that effective school leaders often use a combination of 5 leadership styles: instructional, participative, personnel development, entrepreneurial and structuring styles. The EI seminar’s main conclusions and recommendations were as follows:
  1. The significant role of school leadership in achieving quality education continues to receive more and more attention in many countries and in international organisations. R1. EI and teachers’ unions should take advantage of the current momentum to move the school leadership agenda forward through continued advocacy activities, involvement in research, policy development and sharing of information through workshops, seminars, conferences, networking etc.
  2. New issues and challenges that have a significant impact on educational leadership and education in general continue to emerge in many parts of the world. Some of these include ICT related opportunities and challenges, the aging teaching population, narrowing of the curriculum through standardised testing and publication of league tables and mobility and migration. R2. EI and teachers’ unions should continue to monitor these and other emerging developments in education and to engage with public authorities and international organisations in order to influence school leadership policy and practice, locally and globally.
  3. The 2007 Congress Resolution calls for the employment of principals on the basis of a benchmark of skills (school leadership profile). R3. The seminar reaffirms that pedagogy is at the centre of school leadership and recommends that school leaders are guided by values which include a shared vision, trust, cooperation and equal opportunities for all, and that these values should be further developed into specific competencies and complemented by staff management, technical and pedagogical skills.
  4. The financial and economic crisis is a threat to trade unionism and quality education. R4. The seminar asserts that the economic crisis should not be used as an excuse for threatening trade union and labour rights and for undermining quality education and urges EI and teachers’ unions to develop effective strategies for protecting workers’ rights and education budgets and to continue to campaign against regressive measures that have been adopted by many governments in response to the crisis, while requesting that the EI Secretariat disseminates information on what is going on across the world.

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