Students head into a portable classroom in Chilliwack. Some urban centres are seeing rising enrolment. (Greg Laychak/Black Press)

No more teacher shortage, B.C. education ministry says

‘Further action considered’ on rural, specialty school jobs

Staffing rural schools and recruiting specialty teachers continues as B.C.’s school year gets underway, but the “vast majority” of vacant positions have been filled and job vacancies have returned to normal levels, the education ministry says.

“We have contacted all 60 school districts and there is no overall teacher shortage in B.C.,” the ministry said in a statement Wednesday. “The vast majority have now been hired, including 390 special education teachers and 140 more teacher psychologists and counsellors. As well, districts have hired an additional 1,000 education assistants over the last year.

“Overall job postings have generally resumed to normal levels, but there are some acute pressures that are long-standing, such as French immersion, indigenous education and special education.”

The ministry is “considering if any further action is required to support specialized positions as well as rural and remote” districts, the statement says.

Nechako Lakes school district began the year with about 10 full and part-time positions vacant, one of a number of B.C.’s 60 school districts still looking to fill jobs. Teacher-on-call positions are a key shortage in that and other districts, as many of the substitute teachers have taken full-time positions and aren’t available to cover for illness and other absences.

More than 3,700 teaching positions were funded last year in the wake of the Supreme Court of Canada decision reinstating class size and special needs formulas removed from the teacher contract in 2002.

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Enrolment is up in 35 out of 60 B.C. school districts as more than 530,000 students head back. The net increase province-wide is about 1,700 additional full-time equivalents, including adult education students. The other 25 districts are predicting declines, but many are seeing small fluctuations in a stable student population.

The B.C. Teachers’ Federation filed grievances in the spring over the hiring of non-certified staff to fill the gaps. In the Quesnel district, the union says there were nine full-time teaching jobs filled by non-certified people, and in urban areas, classrooms with four or more students identified as having special needs continued due to a shortage of special education teachers.

Education Minister Rob Fleming says the previous government wasn’t interested in hiring special education teachers, and those with qualifications who are not teaching are being recruited.

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