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NS schools fail small fraction of Primary to Grade 9 students: minister

Nova Scotia's education minister says 259 students were failed last year from Primary to Grade 9 across the province.
Nova Scotia's education minister says 259 students were failed last year from Primary to Grade 9 across the province. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

Nova Scotia’s education minister says 259 students were failed last year from Primary to Grade 9 across the province.

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Karen Casey revealed the number Thursday after being asked again to clarify whether or not there is a no-fail policy as part of the province’s education system.

The issue was one of those raised by teachers as part of their recent contract dispute with the province.

Casey again reiterated that her department does not have a no-fail policy, and decisions on whether to pass or retain students rests with individual teachers in consultation with parents and principals.

“We sent a letter of clarification to the boards hoping that would dispel that myth, but it is there and it’s real,” said Casey. “We have to make sure that teachers understand that students can be retained.”

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Casey said the numbers clearly show that some retentions do occur, although she admitted it is a small fraction in a system with upwards of 115,000 students.

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As to why the misconception was allowed to develop, Casey said there was a “movement” within the system over the last 15 years to move students along with their peers. She said that may have been interpreted as no failing students.

“Every teacher makes every effort to work with every student to ensure they get the skill set they need to move on,” Casey said. “And there should be rare occasions when a student has to be retained at a particular grade level.”

The Nova Scotia Teachers Union was adamant during the contract dispute that its members were feeling pressure not to fail students.

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