Calgary public teachers who were surveyed by their union about class sizes in December say class sizes have increased at every grade level.
Frank Bruseker, Alberta Teachers Association (ATA) head of local 38, says about fifty per cent of public school teachers responded to the 2015 Class Size Census report.
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"A lot of teachers are working in a class on their own, and if they have those special needs students they're trying to cope as best as they can," said Bruseker. "And the concern there is, is that really in the best interests of the student?"
Bruseker said the number of students in many cases is far above recommendations made to the Alberta Commission on Learning in 2003. These are the guidelines:
- Kindergarten to Grade 3: 17 students
- Grades 4 to 6: 23 students
- Grades 7 to 9 : 25 students
- Grades 10 to 12: 27 students
The then-Education minister accepted the recommendations and for a time class sizes for kindergarten to Grade 3 did achieve that level. Bruseker says the other grades never did.
"We're no where near those class sizes now," said Bruseker.
He says for example the average class size for a kindergarten class is 21.27 students, although Bruseker notes one class with two teachers has 61 students.
More funding needed, says union
He says the ATA is encouraging the province to give more funding to school boards so they can hire more teachers to reduce class sizes and give more help to special needs students, and those learning English.
"If the funding increase keeps pace with our growth in student numbers at the same level, as we've had, right now I don't see class sizes being reduced at all," said Bruseker.
Bruseker says part of the reason for the census is the teachers' contract expires at the end of August this year.
Starting in March, salaries and the length of the contract will be discussed on a province-wide basis and a second group will look at local issues that are unique to individual school boards.
The current four-year contract gave teachers salary increases of zero for the first three years and a two per cent increase in the final year.
"Teachers are kind of saying, 'Yeah, we heard from a couple of previous premiers ago now that times were tough and we needed to tighten our belts. Well we've done that. And so teachers are kind of feeling that they've made that contribution to the provincial coffers already." said Bruseker.