Make teaching attractive!

Unity in action

Governments should invest in education and invest in teachers, says ETUCE president Larry Flanagan, who believes this campaign will amplify education trade unions` country-level impact across Europe. An interview.

 What are the most pressing issues teachers in Europe face today?

“Recruitment and retention” is the single most common challenge today. Teacher shortages are very real and teacher turnover is part of the reason for that. Of course, within our 10 demands are many of the reasons for this challenge, for example excessive workload; poor graduate pay; and a lack of respect for the profession.

In your view, what are the steps governments should take to address these issues at national level?

Again – our 10 demands set out the key steps to be taken. If I was to summarise a key action it would be to invest in education and invest in teachers. But I would also say that some areas of improvement, such as enabling professional autonomy and agency, require a change in attitude more than financial investment – teachers need to be trusted.

Education systems differ from country to country, although there are also some well-known joint initiatives in Europe, targeting both education and research. What are the areas of a meaningful European-level cooperation for education trade unions?

Teacher trade unions need to be campaigning bodies – now more than ever. One of the ambitions of our campaign is to link the campaigning work of our member organisations, seeking synergies where possible but also inspiring and motivating where required. We have over 11 million teachers under our umbrella – that’s a huge fighting capacity.

With many unions taking a very active stance at home, how can ETUCE`s campaign help?

We need to act as an amplifying tool, strengthening solidarity actions and messages to support country-based campaigns and facilitating coordination wherever possible. Unity in action should be our motto. We should also provide research to support helpful comparative data around issues such as pay and investment.

How can ETUCE member trade unions join the campaign initiative and why should they do so?

Many member organisations are already campaigning on some, if not all of the 10 demands. Linking their actions with the common objectives provides another layer of solidarity. The activities we have planned will facilitate exchanges of tactics, progress and actions – building solidarity. For other unions, the campaign offers an opportunity to focus on the most relevant demands in their jurisdictions and to develop campaigning strategies to press these home with Governments and employers.

A teacher yourself, how would you persuade a 17-year-old to become a teacher against all odds?

Teaching is a hugely satisfying and rewarding career and I would always recommend it to young people and indeed older people too. Both my children are teachers, facing many of the problems we have been discussing, but both love the interaction with children and that strong sense of making a difference. Yes, there are challenges but ultimately education is the key to the future.