Education unionists call for stronger recognition of school leadership function

published 25 May 2012 updated 4 June 2012

Education unionists and school leaders from around the world have called for stronger recognition of the school leadership function and its role in promoting quality education.

This call was made at a school leadership conference organised by EI and its European Region, the European Trade Union Committee for Education (ETUCE), in Dublin, Ireland, from 23-25 May 2012. This important event, which was hosted by Irish teacher unions, was attended by over 70 participants from 28 countries. The conference was opened by the Irish Minister for Education and Skills, Ruairi Quinn, who underlined the importance and contribution of education to development and the critical role of school leaders in creating conditions for effective teaching and learning.

The conference commenced with a European meeting on 23 May. The meeting discussed and reviewed ETUCE’s draft policy on school leadership. “When adopted, this important blue print will guide ETUCE and its members in their advocacy work and other union actions at the European, national and local levels”, said Martin Rømer, ETUCE Director.

The conference addressed a number of pertinent issues, including the financial crisis, its impact on education and union response; school leadership preparation, recruitment and development; strategies for strengthening pedagogical leadership in schools; improving gender balance  in leadership positions and organising in the school leadership sector.

Diana Toledo, a policy analyst with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)’s Education Policy and Implementation Division shared the OECD’s school leadership policy and initiatives, while David Frost, from University of Cambridge, shared strategies on how to empower teachers to exercise leadership.

Dennis Sinyolo, EI Senior Coordinator for Education and Employment, presented findings from ETUCE’s recent survey on school leadership. The survey revealed that there is a general decline in the number of teachers applying for school leadership positions, partly due to excessive workload, accountability demands and salaries that do not often match the demands of the school leadership role. The study also revealed that many leaders spend a significant amount of time performing administrative tasks, instead of pedagogical tasks. Although the study noted a general increase in the number of women applying for school leadership positions, more still needed to be done to improve gender equality and the participation of women in leadership positions, particularly at secondary and higher levels of education.

The participants stressed the need for democratic and collaborative leadership in schools, union mobilisation, recruitment and organising and the need to maintain a balance between administrative and pedagogical tasks. The conference participants also stressed the critical role of education support personnel in ensuring the smooth running of schools and other learning institutions. The participants agreed that EI and its member organisations should continue to advocate for more recognition of the critical role played by school leaders, guided by a more comprehensive policy on school leadership.

In concluding the conference, Charlie Lennon, EI Deputy General Secretary, assured the participants that EI and its member organisations will continue to address school leadership issues, press for the professionalisation of the school leadership sector and the improvement of conditions of service for school leaders, teachers and all education personnel in order to improve teaching and learning.