Local teachers and the B.C. Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) are concerned about how high number of special needs students in the classroom are affecting education.
Local BCTF president Karen MacKay said teachers aren’t getting the support they need to make sure all students get the education they deserve.
“Within our district there are 22 elementary classes with three or more special needs students and there are 87 secondary classes with three or more special needs students,” she said. “The amount of time teachers have to spend on paperwork is tremendous.”
Individual education plans for special needs students require extensive documentation and additional work for classroom teachers who have fewer special education teachers to help them, she said.
The number of special education teachers in the Prince George School District dropped 29.5 per cent between the 2001-02 school year and the 2005-06 school year, according to statistics gathered by the BCTF from Ministry of Education documents. The number of English as a second language teachers dropped by 46.3 per cent over the same period.
Student enrolment only declined by 12.6 per cent during the period.
Local learning assistance teacher Bonnie Lamb said she now spends so much time doing paperwork she has less time to be in the classroom to help teachers.
“Classroom teachers just don’t have the time to take care of all the accountability paperwork for the ministry,” she said. “As a learning resource teacher I used to spend a lot more time in the classroom. Now I start in November with students if I’m lucky. There aren’t enough hours in the day to do the job properly. I can’t handle the 12- to 17-hour days anymore.”
Minister of Education Shirley Bond said it has been less than a year since Bill 33 was passed, putting new restrictions on class size and regulating class composition.
“Very shortly I will be making public the data on the effect of Bill 33,” Bond said. “I think it’s a little early to be talking about the success of Bill 33 before the information is available.”
Once the information is made public, people will have an opportunity to see how schools are organizing class sizes and compositions, she said.
“The first feedback should always be to a school district,” she said. “The administration need to justify why the classes are the way they are. We will know why the class is over 30.”
Provincially student enrolment has declined by 4.1 per cent but the number of special education teachers has dropped by 17.1 per cent and English as a second language teachers are down 16.4 per cent since 2001-02.
The overall number of teachers has dropped 6.5 per cent.
“It’s never as simple as straight mathematics,” Bond said. “These are exactly the same arguments we’ve heard from the BCTF since before Bill 33. The BCTF is interested in seeing formulas. We’re saying the school districts have to be flexible to work on a class-to-class basis.”