Education trade unions play a key role in meeting teachers’ professional needs


Teachers’ professional needs are important issues to be addressed in social dialogue in the education sector. Education trade unions are key actors in protecting the right of teachers to professional development, concluded the participants of the ETUCE Public Hearing ‘Supporting teachers in the European Education Area 2025: The role of education trade unions in meeting teachers’ professional needs’ in Brussels on 19 September 2018.

Michael Teutsch from DG EAC (European Commission), Tatjana Babrauskiene from the European Economic and Social Committee, and Kurt Nekula from the Austrian Presidency, highlighted the crucial role of education professionals in the design and implementation of the European Education Area 2025.

The public hearing opened the Closing Conference of the ETUCE project ‘Education Trade Unions for the Teaching Profession. Strengthening the capacity of education trade unions to represent teachers’ professional needs in social dialogue’, co-funded by the European Commission. The project seeks to build the capacity of education trade unions to represent teachers’ professional needs in all education sectors and to enhance their professional issues as a crucial matter of social dialogue.

The main findings and outcomes of the project have been collected in a research report by Howard Stevenson from Nottingham University based on the survey conducted among ETUCE member organisations. . The study has found that often teacher initial and continuous professional training is of poor quality, not properly evaluated and resourced, not adequate, and not valued by the employer. Moreover, trade union members reported having little to no control over identifying and meeting their own professional needs.

Supporting the findings of the report, speakers at the public hearing from education trade unions in Germany, Norway and France presented various challenges their members are facing in teachers’ initial and continuous professional development (e.g. use of ICT in teaching, gap between degree requirements and the teaching reality).

The report highlights the importance of education trade unions representing teachers’ professional issues in collective bargaining and beyond. It identifies five key strategies ETUCE member organisations use:

  • Including professional issues in the collective bargaining agenda.
  • Providing professional learning opportunities independently or in partnership with education institutions.
  • Making it easy for their members to self-organise in order to identify and address their own professional needs.
  • Shaping the discourse about quality education and support for the teaching profession.
  • Building alliances and developing partnerships with a wide range of governmental and non-governmental bodies to ensure teachers’ professional needs are addressed.

Illustrating these strategies, speakers at the public hearing from education trade unions in Scotland, Romania, and Italy, presented examples of their work on meeting teachers’ professional needs (e.g. trade union learning representatives in schools, information and training professionals, and trade union teacher training institutes).

European Director Susan Flocken highlighted: “Social dialogue is an essential tool to improve initial and continuous professional development of teachers to ensure high quality education. Teachers’ professional development programmes and opportunities should be discussed and designed together with teachers in order to improve their effective initial education, early career support, and continuous professional development.” She was supported by the General Secretary of the European Federation of Education Employers (EFEE) Daniel Wisniewski who confirmed the key role of European education social partners in enhancing the professional profile of teachers, trainers and school leaders.

You can find the Research Report ‘Strengthening the capacity of education trade unions to represent teachers’ professional needs in social dialogue’ here

You can watch the Public Hearing here:

Speakers' presentations:

Susan Quinn, EIS, Scotland

Alexandra Cornea, FSLI, Romania

Rossella Benedetti, UIL-Scuola, Italy

Ryan Plocher, GEW Youth, Germany

Gunn Gallavara, UEN, Norway