British Columbia

Vancouver says there's no more teacher shortage — but B.C. still has hundreds of vacancies

B.C. Teachers Federation president Glen Hansman says there are over 350 contract teaching positions yet to be filled across the province.

VSB says it has a qualified teacher in every classroom

BCTF president Glen Hansman says there are still 350 teaching positions across the province that need to be filled. (Shutterstock / Iakov Filimonov)

While Vancouver might have its teacher shortage problem under control, the province as a whole still has hundreds of vacancies. 

B.C.'s teacher shortage can be traced to a landmark 2016 Supreme Court of Canada decision, which found the then-Liberal government had acted unconstitutionally to increase the number of students per class.

The result of the court's decision was to shrink class sizes back to 2002 levels which, in turn, required the hiring of thousands of new teachers.

Carmen Batista, the associate superintendent of the Vancouver School Board, says last year was difficult for the district but now they are no longer short teachers.

"This year we are in a much more stable environment, " Batista said. "We're not short. We actually have a qualified teacher in all of our classrooms."

The district is still conducting nation-wide recruitment, however, but this, Batista says, is a proactive measure. 

"We have been doing cross-Canada recruitment fairs for many, many years and it's not something new," she said. "

We are looking to supplement our on-call lists as well as be prepared for eventual retirement and some secondments that will go to universities and so on."

Provincial shortage

Glen Hansman, president of the B.C. Teachers Federation, says the situation province-wide is less rosy.

"Province-wide, there are still over 350 contract positions that aren't filled," Hansman said. "On top of that, we still don't have enough teachers on call to go around — people who fill in for contract teachers and other teachers when they're sick."

Hansman says some of the same issues that have plagued teacher recruitment to the province continue to hamper efforts. These include low starting salaries compared to other provinces and the high cost of housing. 

Listen to Glen Hansman on CBC's On The Coast:

Hansman says province-wide, there are still over 350 contract teaching positions that aren't filled. 11:12

Hansman says some individual school districts — like West Vancouver, for example — have started talking about developing below-market rental housing specifically for teachers. 

But he said dealing with the systemic problem of teacher's shortages cannot be a one-off solution.

"We still need to see a robust and coordinated and funded plan with the participation of the Ministry of Education so that we can avoid replicating the same conversation in 60 different school districts," he said. 

The Ministry of Education created a task force in 2017 to come up with possible solutions to the challenge of recruitment and retention challenges in the short- and long-term. 

Hansman says only some of these solutions have been implemented to date.

With files from On The Coast

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