This is a legacy provincial website of the ATA. Visit our new website here.

Cross-Canada Snapshot

January 12, 2021 ATA News Staff

Education workers converge on Ontario legislature to demand more support for families

Education workers converged on Queen’s Park in their cars on Saturday (January 2), honking their horns and driving around the legislative grounds as part of a caravan that demanded more pandemic support for families.

Ontario Education Workers United, a grassroots group that says it is determined to fight for a strong, publicly funded education system from kindergarten to Grade 12, organized the afternoon demonstration.

The group wants the province to provide financial help to parents, students and workers who will be struggling when public schools close as part of the provincial lockdown starting on Monday.

“The only way this lockdown will keep us all safe is if families and workers throughout the province get paid sick leave, easy-to-access rent and income support for caregivers, a ban on evictions and status for all migrant workers,” said Melanie Wilson, a teacher at Bloor Collegiate in Toronto.

The group noted that school closures will also mean significant layoffs for occasional teachers who are already some of the most precariously employed education workers. ❚

– CBC News, Jan. 2

Study highlights need for better STEM prep in northern B.C.

A new study urges northern and remote Indigenous high schools to better prepare their students to carry on to their post-secondary science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) studies.

Indigenous people make up more than 4% of adults in Canada, but only fewer than 2% of Indigenous people are working in STEM-related jobs.

The report from the Conference Board of Canada in partnership with the Future Skills Centre found that these Indigenous high schools do not prepare their students to transfer into post-secondary education (PSE) in STEM.

Unfortunately, Indigenous learners are still constrained by the lack of broader education system reforms in K–12 schools,” said Jane Cooper, senior research associate at the Conference Board of Canada in a news release.

The report believes that having Indigenous people guide the learning process can lead to powerful educational outcomes for Indigenous learners as well as make science courses more relevant and meaningful for all learners.

The study concluded that it is the responsibility of governments and school boards to find ways to deliver better STEM programs to northern and remote schools if more Indigenous students are to succeed in these fields. ❚

– Winnipeg Sun, Nicole Wong, Jan. 3

ETFO asking for extension of remote learning

ETFO (Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario) president Sam Hammond says they have issued a request to all of the medical officers of health in the province to do what they have been entrusted to do, to prioritize community health and safety over politics.

“Despite repeated calls for adequate safety measures, the government has refused to implement them in a misguided effort to save money, jeopardizing the health and safety of students, educators and their families,” said Hammond.

Hammond says we must do what we can to protect those who are most vulnerable.

The ETFO is calling for the at-home learning to continue unless urgent and immediate actions are taken to implement a safety plan. They want that plan to include smaller class sizes, improved ventilation and asymptomatic testing when in-person attendance resumes. ❚

– 104.7 Heart FM News, Ontario, Jan. 6

Parents worry as Quebec considers extending school closures past Jan. 11

As Quebec COVID-19 cases continue to soar, the government is weighing new measures to slow contagion. Among them, keeping schools closed for a week longer than planned this holiday break, according to Radio-Canada.

Infectious diseases specialist Dr. Matthew Oughton says inconsistent health guidelines, such as the different rules about masks in schools — a vivid example of how policies have shifted — have contributed to the spread of the virus.

On Monday evening, the English Parents’ Committee Association (EPCA) of Quebec launched an online survey to assess whether parents preferred their kids to continue distance learning.

Out of the more than 5,000 responses, 62 per cent were in favour of extending online learning beyond Jan. 11, according to EPCA president Katherine Korakakis. ❚

– CBC News, Jan. 5

BCTF blasts ‘one size fits all’ school COVID plan

On the heels of a series of new outbreaks and exposures announced in schools provincewide, the B.C. teachers’ union has asked the government to increase COVID protection measures in schools.

In a letter sent to staff Monday (Jan. 4), B.C. Teachers’ Federation president Teri Mooring said she had met with newly appointed education minister Jennifer Whiteside over the winter break to brief her on teachers’ concerns.

Although public health officials have repeatedly said that the risk of in-school transmission is low, Mooring said that the current strategy doesn’t allow teachers, support staff or parents to assess their own personal risk and safety levels.

“Withholding data has also created a sense of mistrust and a great deal of online speculation that doesn’t help keep anyone safe,” Mooring said.

The province does not currently release data on the number of school students who have been infected with the virus.

In a 12-page brief prepared for Whiteside, the BCTF brought forward 30 recommendations largely stemming from transparency issues, the need for more protective measures and how to make sure that no students are left behind. ❚

– Goldstream News Gazette, Katya Slepian, Jan. 5

Teacher shortages leave Regina divisions uncertain as classes resume

After the first four months of classes showed that the name of the education game during a pandemic is flexibility, Regina’s school divisions are looking ahead to the second half of the year with few answers to the challenges posed by the first half.

Ongoing challenges with high numbers of staff and students self-isolating and a shortage of substitute teachers continue to make daily operations difficult. Between Nov. 16 and Dec. 10, Regina Catholic School Division was averaging 3,500 students missing from in-person classes each day, approximately 30 per cent of its 12,000 students.

To help address these teacher shortages, the Saskatchewan Professional Teachers Regulatory Board (SPTRB) has begun issuing temporary teaching permits to fourth-year bachelor of education students who have already completed their internship, but not yet convocated.

With teacher shortages and the large number of students missing each day, Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation (STF) president Patrick Maze said the quality of education might be suffering somewhat, but he stressed that safety is key. ❚

– Leader Post, Lynn Giesbrecht, Jan. 6

Chilliwack Teachers’ Association wants foundation skills assessment scrapped

Chilliwack – The president of the Chilliwack Teachers’ Association, Ed Klettke, and the BC Teachers’ Federation are calling on Education Minister Jennifer Whiteside to end the Foundation Skills Assessment (FSA).

Since 2000, the FSA has been a required assessment by the Ministry of Education. The results have been misused by the Fraser Institute to rank schools on a very narrow measure. The data does not result in additional funding or support for students, and rankings are published in newspapers. The ongoing practice of ranking schools is harmful to students and staff.

Ed Klettke says, “This test adds additional, unwarranted stress and anxiety to students who are already feeling the pressures of the COVID-19 pandemic.” Understanding that parents want to know how well their students are performing in school, Ed Klettke adds, “The best source of information about your child’s progress is their classroom teacher and not the FSA results.” ❚

– Fraser Valley News, Don Lehn, Jan. 4


Also In This Issue