The Teacher Task Force, UNESCO and the International Labour Organization have developed guidelines to support national authorities in their back-to-school efforts, in particular looking at how best to support teachers and education support staff in return to school planning and processes.
From the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, teachers have been vital to ensure learning continues through distance learning, where feasible, and that learners’ well-being is considered. With the return to school, teachers, school leaders and education support staff will continue to play key roles in creating safe learning spaces, adjusting curricula and assessment, and supporting marginalized learners.
Following on from the Call to Action on Teachers launched by the Teacher Task Force, the joint UNESCO/Teacher Task Force/ILO guidelines present a series of recommendations to policy-makers, while recognising the necessity for countries to identify their own priorities based on national and local contexts. These guidelines highlight how to guarantee that teachers and education support staff receive adequate support in back-to-school efforts. This includes:
- Including teachers and their organisations in return to school planning
Countries should ensure that all perspectives are heard when planning for school safety and developing teaching practices to mitigate post-pandemic learning loss. Teachers, education support staff and their representatives need to be consulted in decision-making and planning, including the timing and processes for the safe reopening of schools.
- Guaranteeing the safety of learners and all education staff in school environments
Measures to ensure safety and health in schools for learners and staff should be adapted to local contexts, with national authorities providing information to teachers on risks in the school environment.
Teachers and their representative organisations should be involved in discussions about how to apply international standards in their classrooms and school-wide, on developing evaluation criteria and on regulations for reorganizing classroom learning. They should also take part in the development of measures to facilitate physical distancing.
- Recognising the importance of psychological and social-emotional well-being of teachers and education support staff
Reopening schools sees teachers having to deal with both health risks and an increased workload to teach in new and challenging ways—often with inadequate training. National authorities need to ensure teachers and education support staff receive ongoing psychosocial support to meet their social-emotional well-being. This will be especially critical for teachers who are tasked with providing the same support to students and families.
- Helping teachers adapt to the new teaching conditions
Including teachers and their representative organisations in discussions about the return to school is also key to ensure teachers and education support staff are given adequate training and resources to resume classroom instruction, while adhering to regulations on physical distancing.
They need to be involved during national consultations to identify key education goals, reorganise curricula, and align assessment based on the revised school calendar. They should be consulted on questions pertaining to classroom reorganisation.
- Ensuring that teachers’ working conditions don’t suffer
The return to school efforts could reveal gaps in human resources and create difficult working schedules and routines. Teachers and their representative organisations should be included in dialogue on the development of rapid recruitment strategies respecting the minimum professional qualifications and protecting teachers’ rights and working conditions.
- Maintaining or increasing financial resources
To ensure learning continuity, education authorities will need to invest in teachers and education support staff, not only to maintain salaries, but also to provide essential training and psycho-social support. It is important that governments resist practices which could harm the teaching profession and education quality, such as increasing teaching hours or recruiting untrained teachers. Governments should also encourage private providers to maintain regular salary payments to teachers and other support staff.
- Giving teachers a say in the monitoring of the return to school situation
Close monitoring and evaluating of the return to school will be critical to adapt strategy and inform decision-making. Teachers and school leaders should be consulted to inform the development of frameworks to measure and benchmark the progress of back-to-school efforts