Principals should be able to get extracurricular help, PCs say

Ontario school principals should be free to recruit additional help if teachers don't want to resume extracurricular activities, the Progressive Conservatives' education critic said Tuesday.

High school teachers' union suspending protest, but not all will resume activities

Students protest Bill 115 at Queen's Park in Toronto in December, to voice their concerns about the ongoing labour strife at the province's schools. On Tuesday, the PC education critic said that principals should be able to recruit help to ensure that extra-curricular activities are held. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)

Ontario school principals should be able to recruit additional help if teachers don't want to resume extracurricular activities, the Progressive Conservatives' education critic said Tuesday.

MPP Lisa MacLeod's comments come a day after the president of the Ontario secondary student teachers union said it agreed to suspend their political protest and resume these activities — but it was up to each individual to decide.

MacLeod told reporters at Queen's Park on Tuesday that measures should be taken to ensure students' education is not compromised.

"We believe that if a teacher is not available to offer extracurricular activities, students should not suffer," said MacLeod.

"We should be giving more power to principals to allow them to go into the community to allow our kids to have their hockey team or their drama club. There shouldn't be anything wrong with that."

She also said that the Conservatives intend to introduce a motion to protect teachers who resume extracurricular activities.

"We will prohibit the use of sanctions against teachers who want to continue to offer extracurricular activities when there is a labour strife," said MacLeod.

"Right now, we know, that some teachers are fined, named and shamed, even intimidated into not continuing to support students in extracurricular activities. We think that's wrong. And we'll make sensible changes to take that off the table."

Elementary and secondary school teachers across Ontario have stopped supervising student activities in response to a labour dispute with the province.

But on Friday, the Ontario Secondary Schools Teacher Federation (OSSTF), said union leaders have agreed "to suspend political action regarding voluntary activities" and urged its members to resume extracurriculars.

Enrolment dropping at public high schools

However, this announcement drew the ire of some teachers, who said the move came with no guarantee from the province to resume collective bargaining, a key issue in the labour dispute.

The OSSTF president Ken Coran told the CBC's Metro Morning on Tuesday that he sympathized with the teachers, but he believed there was a change in the political "atmosphere" under new Premier Kathleen Wynne.

"The main thing is for any problem to be solved, there has to be discussion," he told host Matt Galloway. "And, with the new Liberal government after Kathleen Wynne was selected, it was a different flavour, it was a different atmosphere. And there was a willingness to collaborate and to talk."

Still, Coran said the ongoing labour strife has had a negative impact on its enrolment.

Grade 8 students appear to be choosing Catholic or private high schools in greater numbers, he said.

"This is the time of the year when Grade 8 students select, and some of the numbers coming in are showing a trend has impacted those decisions," he said.

However, he believed it was a "short-term pain".

"I think those students made those decisions impulsively, and I have full faith they will return to the system," said Coran.