As BC’s teacher shortage continues to
worsen, the BC Teachers’ Federation launched a new province-wide radio ad
exposing the consequences of the provincial government’s failure to address
recruitment and retention problems. A social media version of the ad is
available on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.
BCTF President Teri Mooring said the ad
highlights the unacceptable practice of children with special needs being sent
home when there aren’t teachers to support them as well as the unprecedented
number of uncertified and unqualified adults currently teaching in BC schools.
Mooring said teachers’ low wages pose one of the biggest challenges to
“BC has the second lowest starting salary
for teachers in the entire country and the lowest salary for experienced
teachers west of Quebec,” said Mooring. “With BC’s high cost of living, school
districts have a very tough time convincing teachers from Ontario or the
Prairies to move west when they’re going to be paid up to 20% less. The
government has been slow to act on this growing crisis and their current
positions at the bargaining table will only make the shortage worse.”
Mooring, a teacher originally from
Quesnel, explained that the shortage has been a problem in rural and northern
communities for many years, though it has worsened dramatically in the last
couple of years, and has now arrived in the Fraser Valley, the Lower Mainland,
and on Vancouver Island.
“It used to be that rural districts had a
hard time filling positions in remote locations or for specialized positions
like French immersion, music or technical education, but now it’s classroom
teachers, counsellors, and other specialists all over the province. As of
November 18, there are still close to 400 teaching jobs open across BC. Every
one of those unfilled positions represents students not getting support or
access to specialists. The problem is also growing rapidly in BC’s francophone
Mooring said the consequence of the
growing shortage is something called “failure to fill.” In some cases, jobs are
simply left vacant. In other cases, there are not enough on-call teachers to
cover off sick days. That “failure to fill” means some teachers like special
education teachers or resource teachers are pulled away from their work with
students to cover a vacancy in a classroom. The students that teacher works
with then lose out on their important support. In some cases, students with
special needs end up getting sent home.
A parent group called BCEdAccess has been
collecting parents’ reports of their children with special needs being sent
home. You can read their report from 2018–19 here. One of the main reasons for this unacceptable practice is teachers
being pulled away from their work because of the shortage and failure to fill
“All parents should be very concerned
about the teacher shortage as all students are impacted when needed supports for
students are not available,” said Mooring. “BC now has an unprecedented number
of people in classrooms who are not trained teachers. That’s unacceptable. We
wouldn’t stand for it in any other profession and parents should be concerned.”
Examples, as of early November, of
communities with high number of uncertified and unqualified adults in
classrooms are below.
Letters of Permission
Letters of Permission (LOPs) allow people
who do not hold a teaching certificate to teach for up to one school year if
the district cannot find a qualified and certified person for the position.
These are typically done for people who have some kind of degree, but have not
completed a Bachelor of Education.
Uncertified and unqualified
Districts can place a member of the
community into a classroom as a teacher even if they have no formal training or
post-secondary education. Section 19 (2) of the School Act allows school boards to appoint these people for a short period of
Teachers Teaching on Call
In BC, what some people remember as
“substitute teachers” are now called Teachers Teaching on Call, often shortened
Here are some examples highlighting the
impact of BC’s teacher shortage, as of November 4, 2019 when the BCTF surveyed
its local associations.
15 unfilled positions, 7 LOPs, and 10
11 LOPs and 15 uncertified TTOCs.
11 unfilled positions.
Peace River North
14 unfilled positions and 12 uncertified
adults in teaching positions.
Peace River South
5 full-time and 5 part-time unfilled
positions as well as 15 uncertified adults in teaching positions.
8 unfilled positions, 5 LOPs, and 10
Kitimat, Terrace, and Upper Skeena
24 unfilled positions, 24 LOPs, and 34
Sea to Sky (Squamish, Whistler, and Pemberton)
1 unfilled position, 10 LOPs, and 2
uncertified adults in teaching positions.
2 unfilled positions and 4 uncertified
adults in teaching positions.
3 unfilled positions and 3 LOPs
8 unfilled positions and a significant TTOC shortage. The district is
averaging over 110 unfilled days per week of TTOC coverage. Districts like Vancouver and Surrey are
experiencing similar problems.
15 unfilled positions, 2 LOPs, and 5
21 unfilled positions.
des enseignantes et enseignants du programme francophone de
positions and 29 LOPs. The number of uncertified and unqualified is not known.
SEPF is the BCTF local association that represents teachers in BC’s francophone