British Columbia

Some students with learning disabilities starting school late, lacking teachers

Shortage of on-call teachers means support teachers are covering class instead

September 20, 2017

Some students in the special needs program are still waiting to start class regularly. (Shutterstock/Syda Productions)

Two weeks after classes started, B.C. is still facing a serious lack of teachers on call and the students most affected by the shortage are those in special needs programs.

Chantelle Morvay-Adams, the mother of two school-aged boys in Mission, B.C., said her oldest son should be starting grade five this year.


So far, he has not been able to attend class regularly. 

The school doesn't have enough staff to support her son for the full five days of class a week, Morvay-Adams told CBC host of The Early Edition Rick Cluff.

"Unfortunately, they thought that it would be better if he started with a gradual entry for the first weeks," she said. "I'm lucky that I stay at home so I was able to pick him up at lunchtime and stuff like that but a lot of parents don't have that option."

She said it is hard because her son is becoming aware that he is being treated differently from his classmates.

Morvay-Adams fears that, next year, her older son might watch his younger brother go off to school without him.

"It makes me very sad," she said.

"He was okay this year but he is starting to really realize that he is doing things different from other kids in the school."

On-call support teachers

The province hired 3500 new teachers this September, after a Supreme Court of Canada decision to restore class and composition, leaving the on-call list depleted.

This means that resource teachers are being called upon to cover other classes in the school, leaving students who need the extra assistance without support.

Jen Mezei, president of B.C. Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils, said this isn't the first year support teachers have been asked to provide coverage from other classrooms but it is more common when there is a smaller on-call list.

"Sometimes a resource teacher would need to cover a classroom instead of supporting the special needs kids that they usually support,"  Mezei said.

Morvay-Adams said she wants to see a better plan in place to include students in the special needs program like her son.

"If we could just have a better plan for these kids, really prioritize that these kids are coming into our school and make a plan that they are not excluded the first week — [exclusion] cannot be the option," she said.  

To hear the full interview with Chantelle Morvay-Adams, click on the audio link below:

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Two weeks after classes are back in session, B.C. is still facing a serious lack of teachers on call and the students most affected by the shortage are those in special needs programs.  8:18

With files from The Early Edition

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