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Still 400 vacant BC teacher positions, over a month into the school year

Last Updated Oct 11, 2018 at 11:24 am PDT

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The head of the BCTF says there is a record number of uncertified teachers working in B.C.

BC Teachers' Federation says BC NDP government is running out of excuses

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Over than a month into the school year, the BC Teachers’ Federation says there are still hundreds of open teaching positions across the province.

Union president Glen Hansman says there are about 400 postings — and that doesn’t include teachers on call, who are also needed.

“We are very concerned. We are in about the same position that we were in this time last year,” said Hansman. “We got into the second month of the school year last year, and then the third one, and then the fourth one — there were still hundreds of positions that were left unfilled.”

He says that led to a domino effect. “As jobs opened up, teachers would move between districts.”

Hansman notes a shortage of teachers on call meant instructors who would otherwise be with students with special needs would have to fill in for absences.

“We were sort of going on faith over the summer that the province would coordinate some sort of plan to make sure that all the positions were filled by the start of the school year. That didn’t happen. Now, we’re in October… there are still 400-ish jobs that are still vacant.”

Hansman says there is a record number of uncertified teachers working. “People who aren’t actually qualified or certified as teachers, but are filling in positions in the Interior and the North in numbers that we’ve never seen before. That’s not okay for students.”

“There is a mechanism under the School Act that does, in exceptional cases, allow for people to get what is called a ‘letter of permission,” he explained. “These are people who didn’t go to teacher training and probably have a university degree — but not necessarily — who are given permission to work for an extended period of time in a school system.”

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He says there are typically 80 to 90 uncertified teachers working in B.C. “But last year, because of the shortages, there were about 450 working around the province in classrooms — and that’s just the ones who were there on an extended period of time.”

School districts are also allowed to use uncertified teachers for shorter periods.

“Less than 21 days,” Hansman explains. “They can just sort of do two weeks, then stop. Then do another two weeks, then stop. We shouldn’t be having that in British Columbia in 2018.”

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He adds even more jobs will be created because of services promised for classrooms where size and composition requirements can’t be met.

“In our collective agreement, there’s a provision whereby if the school districts can’t comply with the class size and class composition language, they provide what is called ‘remedy’ to the classroom teacher to address their workload and get more services into the classroom for students in a different way. That’s going to create more jobs on top of the 400.”

The BCTF is calling for more of a strategy from the province.

“Given that it’s now the second school year for which the BC NDP is responsible for, as government, it is not a sufficient response to point backwards to the previous government and say, ‘Well, they made this mess and it’s going to take a lot of cleaning up.”

He adds there are recommendations that came from a provincial task force last year that still haven’t been brought in.

Education Minister Rob Fleming said last month that 3,700 teachers were hired last year, including 1,500 that recently graduated from BC universities.

 – With files from Marcella Bernardo