Halifax high schools will have fewer teachers in September

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Dozens of teachers are finding out they will no longer be needed in Halifax high schools come September.

The Halifax Regional Centre for Education (HRCE) says because of declining enrolment and a change in policy surrounding unassigned instructional time (UIT), there will be about 60 teaching positions eliminated from high schools in the area.

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“There’s been some narrative around people being laid off and losing their jobs. Everybody’s going to have a job,” said Derek Mombourquette, Nova Scotia’s Minister of Education.

Affected teachers will instead be moved to other roles, likely to address needs in junior high schools.

But the teachers union says eliminating high school positions will have wide-ranging impacts on both staff and students.

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“We’re deeply concerned HRCE has eliminated the most important resource it has to support safe and sustainable in person learning,” said union president Paul Wozney.

Each year around this time, it’s normal for teaching positions to get shuffled as regional education centres determine the number of students that will be attending each school in the fall, but Wozney says the bigger impact this year is the reduction of unassigned instructional time.

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High school teachers across the province work with eight blocks of time. In Halifax high schools, teachers spend six out of eight blocks teaching, with another block designated for prep and marking. The last block was unassigned instructional time. How that time is spent varies from school to school, but can be anything from mentoring or supervising students, to organizing extra curricular activities.

“Unassigned instructional time is a tremendous benefit to students and communities in Nova Scotia,” said Wozney.

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But that extra block of unassigned instructional time is being cut as of September, so teachers will now be in the classroom for seven of the eight blocks.

Mombourquette says high school teachers in Halifax were the only ones afforded this extra time, and that the change makes things consistent across the province.

“We have amazing teachers across the province and we want them teaching as much as possible in front of our children,” he said.

Wozney says without the extra unassigned time, it will mean that that teachers have less time to work with students one on one outside of class time, or help out with extracurriculars.

Teachers are also saying this will increase their workload. With more students to teach and less unassigned time, this will force them to spend more time outside of work grading and prepping.

“Work-life balance is already a concern for teachers and this is going to complicate that,” said Wozney.

“The answer to this problem isn’t to get rid of UIT, it’s to maintain it in Halifax because it matters and to implement it in other places as well.”

When asked why the decision was made to eliminate UIT in Halifax schools, Mombourquette would only say that it makes things consistent across the province.

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Mombourquette also says the province will ensure that staff and students have the resources they need to succeed.

In a statement, the Department of Education reiterated that no one would be losing a job over the changes.

“We will be adding 70 more teachers to our system next year. There will also be more inclusive supports, with $15 million added to the budget creating more than 260 new staff positions — 22 of these new positions will be additional Guidance Counsellors in Halifax.”

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