THE BC Teachers’ Federation have launched a new province-wide radio ad exposing the consequences of the provincial government’s failure to address recruitment and retention problems. A social media version of the ad is available on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.
BCTF President Teri Mooring said on Wednesday the ad highlights the unacceptable practice of children with special needs being sent home when there aren’t teachers to support them as well as the unprecedented number of uncertified and unqualified adults currently teaching in BC schools. Mooring said teachers’ low wages pose one of the biggest challenges to recruitment efforts.
“BC has the second lowest starting salary for teachers in the entire country and the lowest salary for experienced teachers west of Quebec,” said Mooring. “With BC’s high cost of living, school districts have a very tough time convincing teachers from Ontario or the Prairies to move west when they’re going to be paid up to 20% less. The government has been slow to act on this growing crisis and their current positions at the bargaining table will only make the shortage worse.”
Mooring, a teacher originally from Quesnel, explained that the shortage has been a problem in rural and northern communities for many years, though it has worsened dramatically in the last couple of years, and has now arrived in the Fraser Valley, the Lower Mainland, and on Vancouver Island.
“It used to be that rural districts had a hard time filling positions in remote locations or for specialized positions like French immersion, music or technical education, but now it’s classroom teachers, counsellors, and other specialists all over the province. As of November 18, there are still close to 400 teaching jobs open across BC. Every one of those unfilled positions represents students not getting support or access to specialists. The problem is also growing rapidly in BC’s francophone school district.”
Mooring said the consequence of the growing shortage is something called “failure to fill.” In some cases, jobs are simply left vacant. In other cases, there are not enough on-call teachers to cover off sick days. That “failure to fill” means some teachers like special education teachers or resource teachers are pulled away from their work with students to cover a vacancy in a classroom. The students that teacher works with then lose out on their important support. In some cases, students with special needs end up getting sent home.
A parent group called BCEdAccess has been collecting parents’ reports of their children with special needs being sent home. You can read their report from 2018–19 here. One of the main reasons for this unacceptable practice is teachers being pulled away from their work because of the shortage and failure to fill vacancies.
“All parents should be very concerned about the teacher shortage as all students are impacted when needed supports for students are not available,” said Mooring. “BC now has an unprecedented number of people in classrooms who are not trained teachers. That’s unacceptable. We wouldn’t stand for it in any other profession and parents should be concerned.”
Examples, as of early November, of communities with high number of uncertified and unqualified adults in classrooms are below.
Letters of Permission
Letters of Permission (LOPs) allow people who do not hold a teaching certificate to teach for up to one school year if the district cannot find a qualified and certified person for the position. These are typically done for people who have some kind of degree, but have not completed a Bachelor of Education.
Uncertified and unqualified
Districts can place a member of the community into a classroom as a teacher even if they have no formal training or post-secondary education. Section 19 (2) of the School Act allows school boards to appoint these people for a short period of time.
Teachers Teaching on Call
In BC, what some people remember as “substitute teachers” are now called Teachers Teaching on Call, often shortened to TTOCs.
Here are some examples highlighting the impact of BC’s teacher shortage, as of November 4, 2019 when the BCTF surveyed its local associations.
15 unfilled positions, 7 LOPs, and 10 uncertified TTOCs.
11 LOPs and 15 uncertified TTOCs.
11 unfilled positions.
Peace River North
14 unfilled positions and 12 uncertified adults in teaching positions.
Peace River South
5 full-time and 5 part-time unfilled positions as well as 15 uncertified adults in teaching positions.
8 unfilled positions, 5 LOPs, and 10 uncertified TTOCs.
Kitimat, Terrace, and Upper Skeena
24 unfilled positions, 24 LOPs, and 34 uncertified TTOCs.
Sea to Sky (Squamish, Whistler, and Pemberton)
1 unfilled position, 10 LOPs, and 2 uncertified adults in teaching positions.
2 unfilled positions and 4 uncertified adults in teaching positions.
3 unfilled positions and 3 LOPs
8 unfilled positions and a significant TTOC shortage. The district is averaging over 110 unfilled days per week of TTOC coverage. Districts like Vancouver and Surrey are experiencing similar problems.
15 unfilled positions, 2 LOPs, and 5 uncertified adults.
21 unfilled positions.
SEPF (Syndicat des enseignantes et enseignants du programme francophone de la C.-B.)
36 unfilled positions and 29 LOPs. The number of uncertified and unqualified is not known. SEPF is the BCTF local association that represents teachers in BC’s francophone school district.