Kitchener-Waterloo

Removing class size caps not good for students, teachers' union says

Education Minister Lisa Thompson has announced the province is reviewing class sizes and may remove caps on how many students can be in a classroom. One local teachers' union president says the government views removing caps as 'an easy cut.'

'It’s something that is being seen by the government as an easy cut,' EFTOWR president says

The province has announced it's reviewing class sizes. Education Minister Lisa Thompson says they are currently consulting education partners and no decisions have been made yet. (Don Ryan/Associated Press)

A proposal by the provincial government to remove the caps on kindergarten and primary class sizes is concerning, says the president of a Waterloo region teachers' union.

On Wednesday, Education Minister Lisa Thompson announced the ministry is launching consultations with education partners, looking at class sizes and the way teachers are hired.

In a statement, Thompson said the ministry is "modernizing the way we fund education in a responsible manner and we are eager to hear the innovative ideas of educators and sector partners."

She also tweeted no decisions have been made yet.

Greg Weiler is the president of the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario Waterloo Region and said teachers learned about the discussions surrounding class sizes along with everyone else on Wednesday.

He said he's already heard from teachers concerned about the proposal.

"There's really a feeling that this isn't coming forward because it's good for kids but rather because it's something that is being seen by the government as an easy cut, an easy way to save money," Weiler said.

Class sizes already larger, Weiler says

Weiler said caps on class sizes were negotiated during the collective bargaining process between the province and the teachers' unions "so it's very concerning to us that the government would be looking to work outside of that process."

He added the decision to cap class sizes was done after a lot of research and demonstrates there's an advantage to smaller classes in kindergarten and primary grades.

"With the needs in our classrooms today, children coming with a variety of needs — especially special needs, students that have to be differentiated for — the larger the class size, the more students you have, the less ability the teacher has to provide that differentiation to make sure that every student is getting what they need to be successful," he said.

He also noted they're not hard caps. While a class may have 24 students to start the school year in September, that can change as students move in and out of the school communities or classrooms.

He said by the winter break, some classes have more than 30 students.

"It's really misleading if the government puts out information for consultation to say, you know, 'What do you think of a cap of 24 students?' for example, when the reality in classrooms is there aren't 24 students for most of the year. There's just 24 at the beginning," Weiler said.

Impact on local schools

Jayne Herring, school trustee and chairperson of the Waterloo Region District School Board, was unavailable to comment on what the proposed changes could mean.

The Waterloo Catholic District School Board managing officer, John Shewchuk, said they were unable to comment on what it could mean for local schools.

"It's going to take us some time to unpack what it all might mean," he said in an email.

"It's still very early days, and we need to fully understand the current lay of the land before we'd be able to comment in any responsible way."​

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