Global News has learned parents that took part in the province’s education consultations overwhelmingly rejected an increase in class sizes.
According to sources with knowledge of the survey results, approximately 70 per cent of parents felt an increase in class sizes would negatively impact students’ learning. Global News has also learned the results show a majority of parents were opposed to the government moving towards more e-learning for students.
“I think it shows that parents know what’s good for their kids, and they know a significant increase in class size, especially for kids that are struggling, will make it very difficult to learn,” a source not authorized to speak publicly told Global News on Saturday.
The Ministry of Education has withheld the results of the survey despite multiple attempts by numerous groups to gain access to the information.
In September, Global News reported the ministry had blocked a freedom-of-information request from advocacy groups, including Ontario Families for Public Education.
When contacted Friday for comment on the results of the class size survey, Education Minister Stephen Lecce’s office refused to provide a clear answer as to why the critical information continues to be withheld.
Sources with the ministry, who are not authorized to speak publicly, say the survey was conducted when the government planned to move forward increasing the average class size ratio in grades 9-12 from 22:1 to 28:1 and that there is a “sky-is-falling” narrative by certain voices. In October Lecce announced the government had tabled an offer to the high school teacher’s union to reduce that ratio to 25:1.
Minutes before publication Sunday, Alexandra Adamo, press secretary to Lecce, responded with a statement saying in part: “Our government is firmly committed to keeping students in class. That is why, as a result of listening to families and students across Ontario, the government has made a significant move to reduce class sizes from a provincial average of 28 to 25. We have maintained the lowest classroom sizes in the early years (kindergarten to grade 3) in the country.”
Adamo also wrote: “Our government’s priority is investing more in our students and in our classrooms. We will continue to listen to parents as we have done by reducing the online learning credits from 4 to 2. This is all part of our mission to be reasonable, student-centric, and focused on keeping the children of this province in class.”
Releasing the results could damage the government’s case for increasing class sizes, a source with knowledge of the results said, adding: “What’s the use in having a public consultation if you don’t put out the results? You have them to find out what people think. It’s incumbent upon governments to be transparent.”
The government is currently in negotiations with the province’s teachers, and increased class sizes are a major issue at the bargaining table.
Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation President Harvey Bischof told Global News “I’m not at all surprised by the results of the consultation. OSSTF’s polling and the polling reported by OPSBA Monday entirely support that parents are overwhelmingly opposed to class size increases. It would appear that the government consultations have told them exactly the same thing.”
Bischof also said the union has called for the release of the information at the bargaining table “The government has refused to release it and now we see why. This ‘government for the people’ is not at all interested in following the advice that people are giving them. I have to ask whose agenda they are serving. Their secrecy serves only their own political interests.”
Sunday, NDP education critic Marit Stiles weighed in saying “Ford’s been misleading Ontarians … this is another indictment of his cuts to classrooms agenda. It’s more clear than ever that parents and students don’t want increased class sizes and fewer supports.”
The opposition have also requested the full results of the survey says Stiles “We have been asking the Ford Government to release these results for months and they refused repeatedly. I have yet to meet one parent, educator or student who agrees with the government’s plan to cut 10,000 teachers, impose mandatory e-learning, and increase class sizes. Ontarians never asked for this and they don’t want it. That’s more clear than ever. They need to reverse their cuts immediately.”
Former Education Minister Mitzie Hunter, reacted to the story Sunday saying “This comes as no surprise and confirms what we have been hearing from Ontario parents, and students, for months: They do not support an increase to class sizes as it will negatively impact students. This will result in thousands of teaching jobs being cut and the remaining teachers will not be able to provide students with the level of attention they need. Students who require additional assistance and those with special needs will not get the support they need to excel. These changes are not only not supported but are destructive to the world-class education system we have built in Ontario.”
Hunter also raised concerns about the results of the survey when it comes to e-learning.
“The Ford government has not provided any evidence to support their decision to move to e-learning.”
“They flip-flopped for months on this announcement and moved from the originally announced four required classes down to two required classes.”
She also says the government needs to release the results. “If they are withholding the results from the public, this once again shows their lack of transparency. Their decisions have thrown our education system into chaos so it would be remiss on their part to delay sharing the results of a survey they conducted months ago when our students are in turmoil.”
Liz Stuart, President of the Ontario English Catholic Teacher’s Association released a statement after the story was published saying “It has always been obvious why the Ford government was trying so hard to hide these results. Ontarians clearly reject the government’s education agenda, and with good reason. While the government claims to be listening to parents and the public, almost every decision they have made regarding our world-class publicly funded education system has been driven by an ideological agenda to cut spending and demonize educators.”
Liberal leadership candidate Steven Del Duca said Sunday “Today, Global News revealed what we’ve known all along: parents overwhelmingly reject larger class sizes in Ontario. Everyone wants class sizes to remain as they are. We must hold the line against larger classes and mandatory online courses because we know what comes next will be cuts to full day kindergarten. We must fight to ensure that every kindergarten class keeps its teacher and its early childhood educator.”