Teachers across Canada are feeling the strain caused by teacher shortages and a lack of resources.
In November, the Canadian Teachers’ Federation compiled the results of a survey of the issues faced by its member teacher organizations across the country. The top issues affecting teacher welfare identified by member organizations were teacher workload, retention, and recruitment and education funding.
Every organization reported that their jurisdiction is experiencing teacher shortages, and 100 per cent also reported that teaching positions were being held by non-certified individuals.
Nearly 70 per cent of member organizations (11 respondents) reported that the negotiation climate in their jurisdiction was “contentious or difficult.” Two organizations reported a “satisfactory” negotiating climate, and another three reported that they had not bargained recently. The “positive and productive” option garnered zero responses.
Respondents also reported that teacher mental health was a growing concern.
Here are additional summaries of some of the pressing issues teachers are experiencing across the country, compiled from news reports and teacher organization websites.
In November, B.C. teachers hosted a round of sessions that enabled provincial politicians to experience the realities of working in public schools, where the number one issue is teacher workload due to a shortage of certified teachers.
The British Columbia Teachers Federation (BCTF) is calling for a fully funded, co-ordinated workforce strategy that addresses recruitment, retention and increased training opportunities.
“The problem of the teacher shortage is complex, but the solution isn’t. Put simply, we need money, people and time,” said BCTF president Clint Johnston.
In Saskatchewan, teachers and the province have been involved in contract negotiations since the fall. Teachers have been without a contract since August, and in October they voted overwhelmingly in favour of possible sanctions.
Five days of conciliation took place between Dec. 5 and 12. The conciliation board, a neutral third party, has since concluded that negotiations remain at an impasse.
Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation president Samantha Becotte said the government has refused to move from their opening positions or entertain negotiating about issues like class size and classroom violence.
In response, the government stated in a released statement that it remains committed to working on issues like classroom composition outside of the bargaining process.
Teacher discipline in Manitoba is undergoing an overhaul as an online teacher registry and independent commissioner are in the works and scheduled for implementation in 12 months.
The new disciplinary measures are the result of legislation that passed last spring. The initiative is proceeding despite a fall election that saw the NDP take over government from the Progressive Conservatives, who initiated the legislation.
The registry will provide public access to information about a teacher’s teaching certificate, including the current status and date of issue, as well as the teacher’s educational background.
In December, elementary teachers in Ontario voted 90 per cent in favour of a new contract that will run until Aug. 31, 2026. The deal includes funding for 401 new specialist teaching positions, measures to address violence in schools and a decision about potential compensation increases referred to arbitration.
In November, Ontario’s top court upheld the validity of a mandatory math test for new teachers. Introduced in 2021 by the government of premier Doug Ford, the test is an initiative aimed at improving student scores on standardized math tests.
On Jan. 9, students returned to school following the end of a five-week strike that shut down about 800 schools in November and December. On that same date, the education minister announced a $300 million plan to help students catch up. The plan will involve hiring retired and student teachers to provide tutoring outside of school hours. Provincial exams will be delayed but not cancelled, and the school year will end when originally scheduled.
The New Brunswick Teachers’ Association is implementing an information campaign called “Refocus on the classroom.” Aimed at informing politicians of the realities being experienced in schools, the plan is focused on the recruitment and retention of certified teachers and reducing distractions like student abuse of teachers, inadequate prep time and poor student mental health.
Prince Edward Island
Based on a survey of its members conducted in the fall, the Prince Edward Island Teachers’ Federation declared that island teachers are in crisis due to increased class size and complexity, excessive administrative tasks, lack of resources and supports for students, and negativity and misinformation being spread via social media.
The survey found that 78 per cent of teachers report experiencing burnout in their career, and 64 per cent of teachers report contemplating leaving the profession during their first five years.
The federation is implementing an information campaign called Course Correction, which aims to increase the public’s understanding of the realities of teaching, and create channels for healthy parent involvement and respectful communication.
Newfoundland and Labrador
In early December, teachers in Newfoundland and Labrador accepted a new collective agreement that includes a two per cent wage increase each year for four years, along with a one-time $2,000 bonus.
The Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers’ Association (NLTA) says it pushed during contract negotiations to include class size and composition as part of their agreement, but this did not transpire.
As teacher workload continues to be an issue in the province, the NLTA and education minister announced in December that they would hold a “teachers think tank” in the new year to address retention and recruitment challenges in the K–12 public education system. ❚
The Association encourages all members who have had a complaint filed against them to immediately call 780-447-9400, explain their situation and ask to speak with an intake officer with RAMS.