Schools Protecting ES staff in a year like no other

At the end of last year, we planned a different and exciting ESP Day campaign for 2020. We were positive that it would be our best yet.

We planned a whole series of online meetings for ES staff in Term 2 to shine a spotlight on their entitlements. The irony is that the current crisis has moved everything online. We certainly didn’t expect our world to change so dramatically and have the majority of ES staff working at home and becoming overnight experts in online meetings!

In the last few weeks of Term 1, the calls and emails were mostly about the uncertainty around getting paid if schools closed. We were able to get clarification quickly and ensure ES wages were not at risk. The AEU was also able to make sure ES staff would receive the working from home allowance secured for members.

Next were the concerns around access to ICT and devices for ES staff to work from home. Again, we received guarantees that ES staff would be provided with the tools they needed, although we know that many schools have struggled to make this happen.

Then came the cries for help from our casual ES staff employed by school councils. This was more difficult, but we were ultimately able to negotiate a good outcome. It was greatly satisfying to work with some of our courageous ES reps to secure work for quite a number of ES casuals. Although they were generally required to work on-site, they were grateful to maintain their employment.

The coronavirus has kept us physically distant and isolated in our homes but, in a way, we have been more connected than ever.

This term has presented one hurdle after another, but together we have overcome them. No doubt there will be more as we return to on-site education and learning. However, I urge our members to continue communicating with us, so we can keep advocating for as smooth a return as possible.

The coronavirus has kept us physically distant and isolated in our homes but, in a way, we have been more connected than ever. Even though I have not been visiting schools, I feel I have been communicating more often than ever with ES staff, and across greater distances, about broader issues and with better outcomes.

The ESP Day campaign that was planned for a different world has coped well in the crisis. If anything, the coronavirus increased the opportunities for ES staff to engage in the campaign and our ES Entitlement Spotlight gave members a greater insight into their working conditions.

This all puts education support staff in a much better place as we return to the workplace and enhance the valuable contribution they make to schools.

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