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Teacher shortage concerns raising alarms in New Brunswick

Click to play video: 'New Brunswick Anglophone East School District fill all teacher vacancies' New Brunswick Anglophone East School District fill all teacher vacancies
Wed, Aug 29: Despite a challenging search to fill teacher vacancies the Anglophone East School District says all spots have now been filled. But as Callum Smith explains, some say the struggle to find teachers is only just beginning – Aug 29, 2018

As a new school year approaches, concerns are being raised about the number of qualified teachers in New Brunswick, both now and in the years to come.

“The concern is growing that we don’t have enough teachers out there to meet the needs that’s going to arise over the next few years,” says New Brunswick Teachers Association president George Daley.

“Certainly with the supply teachers, we’re definitely in it. With the overall shortage of teachers, I think we’re on the cusp of something a little bit more serious.”

READ MORE: New Brunswick education minister says ‘no’ to funding for school in Hanwell

Gregg Ingersoll, superintendent of the Anglophone East School District, says with the implementation of French immersion for Grade 1 students last year and Grade 2 students this year, they’ve been needing to fill more vacancies.

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Ingersoll says that’s been a challenge.

“I think overall we were looking for about 65 French teachers all together to replace both the new classes, maternity leaves, retirements and things like that.”

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Click to play video: 'Increases to education, healthcare highlights of New Brunswick budget' Increases to education, healthcare highlights of New Brunswick budget
Increases to education, healthcare highlights of New Brunswick budget – Feb 7, 2017

Ingersoll says the roles are filled, and teachers hired for the upcoming year have been hired from around the world, including Ontario, Nova Scotia, Louisiana and Europe.

But despite filling all vacancies for permanent roles, finding an adequate number of substitute teachers – especially for extended absences – is expected to be another obstacle.

“This year, it’s going to be challenging for us to maintain that level of proficiency in those replacements,” said Ingersoll.

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Recruiting, in-servicing and working with teachers to upgrade French proficiency are all ways the district is working to beat the challenge.

But the issue is provincial and it’s not just a shortage of French teachers, according to the New Brunswick Teachers Association.

“One of the things I’ve been pitching is a supply teacher contract pool, where each district would have a group of permanent supply teachers who are on contract,” says Daley.

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He says the shortage “snuck up” on them, and upon looking into the issue, the alarms started ringing. Ingersoll has been in touch with education department officials and is trying to work with local universities to possibly grow their capacities for student teachers.

“We can strongly estimate that we’ll have a baseline – 170, upwards of 210 teachers retiring every year for the next five years.”

About 240 students are enrolled in those seats in New Brunswick universities, but with a substantial number of those either from out of province, or choosing not to stay, there’s going to be issues according to Daley.

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