Statement | Stand with ESP, protect education communities everywhere

published 15 May 2020 updated 15 May 2020

Today, on the third ever World Education Support Personnel (ESP) Day, Education International celebrates our ESP members and call upon you to stand in solidarity with ESP all over the globe.

World ESP day this year comes at a difficult time. Education support personnel continue to work on the frontlines, supporting education communities in a variety of ways such as delivering food to children who rely on school meals; providing technical support for remote learning; and supporting parents who have children with disabilities. As education institutions gradually reopen, it is ESP such as school nurses, psychologists, cleaners and caretakers who will make it possible by supporting student health, safety and wellbeing.

Yet, a third of member organisations responding to a recent global EI survey on Education and COVID-19 indicated that ESP’s renumeration and/or employment situation had been affected as a result of government measures taken in relation to COVID-19. Many reported that ESP had been either permanently or temporarily dismissed due to school closures. Some ESP with temporary or zero-hour contracts had been left without work and in some cases without access to unemployment benefits and therefore no income.

The impact of the pandemic on ESP jobs and lives has made even clearer the human costs of policies that favour efficiency over strengthening education communities and complying with basic labour rights. Many ESP have precarious contracts, low salaries, no pay during holidays, no sick-leave and no benefits. In recent years, the situation has worsened, as privatisation and cuts to public education have led to many ESP roles being outsourced to private firms hiring ESP on precarious contracts.

The majority of ESP are women. This means that it is women who are disproportionately affected by these poor employment conditions. Gender equality will never be achieved if female-dominated workforces such as ESP continue to be under paid and under-valued.

The pandemic has brought to the fore the crucial importance of strong public services and the devastating results of years of austerity. Governments must learn from their mistakes and invest in and strengthen public education systems.

On World ESP Day, Education International calls on governments to invest in the education workforce and ensure the rights and decent working conditions of all ESP, in line with the EI Declaration on the Rights and Status of ESP. We further call on governments to ratify the ILO Convention 190 and Recommendation 206 on violence and harassment in the world of work, ensuring that all ESP enjoy a safe work environment.

Join us in defending the rights and status of education support personnel everywhere.

David EdwardsGeneral SecretaryEducation International