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‘Getting worse’: Unions worried over possible B.C. teacher shortage ahead of school year

Click to play video: 'B.C. teachers sound alarm over certified instructor shortage'
B.C. teachers sound alarm over certified instructor shortage
WATCH: A shortage of certified teachers in the province is reaching critical levels, according to the BC Teachers' Federation. Cassidy Mosconi reports – Aug 30, 2023

With the start of the school year rapidly approaching, the union representing some 50,000 teachers in B.C. is raising the alarm about a possible shortage of teachers.

Clint Johnston, president of the BC Teachers’ Federation, said the union has been calling on the education ministry to provide data on job vacancies so that they can start to understand how big the problem is before trying to address it.

“If you’re a parent and you’re going into your children’s school, you’re going to want to find out, you know, is this the teacher my child’s going to have all year??” Johnston said.

Is there a teacher for my child’s class, or is it someone who’s backfilling just for a little while? And, sometimes, (asking) is this teacher certified?”

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During the 2022-2023 school year, the Chilliwack Teachers’ Association reported around 70 uncertified teachers worked across 31 sites to help fill vacancies. Many of the district’s on-call teachers were put into classrooms permanently as well, said president Reid Clark.

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“A lot of our teachers were losing their preparation time. Our non-enrolling teachers — so our specialist teachers, our resource teachers, teacher-librarians — they were continuously being pulled,” Clark added.

The situation improved when the uncertified teachers were hired, he said, but there was “a lot of concern” among faculty about the impact, especially on vulnerable learners.

“There was a real loss of service to our students in terms of receiving the various assessments that they need, and so we saw some contracting out of some special services, like our psychologists, to provide some of those really important evaluations.”

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At an unrelated announcement Wednesday, Education Minister Rachna Singh said she’s aware that B.C.’s education sector has been impacted by a labour shortage.

“We are working very closely with our partners on how to resolve this issue. We are strategizing, making sure that more and more people are choosing … this profession,” she told Global News.

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The province has added more than 250 teacher training seats in universities, she added, and is examining the possibility of recognizing the credentials of internationally trained teachers as well.

Singh said she’s not aware of any schools that may not be able to open due to a shortage of teachers, and the ministry is working hard to ensure all children and teachers have “resources on the ground” next week.

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