Nfld. & Labrador

N.L. schools hiring 355 teacher's assistants, specialists over 3 years

Newfoundland and Labrador's new Education Action Plan includes a promise to rewrite the inclusion policy, hire more teacher's assistants and examine pre-kindergarten.

Government unveiled Education Action Plan on Friday

Over three years, the government aims to hire 104 reading specialists, 200 teaching and learning assistants, 39 additional teacher librarians and 12 additional ESL teachers for Newfoundland and Labrador classrooms. (Radio-Canada)

More than 350 teaching assistants and specialists will be hired into Newfoundland and Labrador's school system over the next three years, Education Minister Al Hawkins said Friday.

Hiring will start in September in 40 schools, and will continue in September 2019 and 2020. The list includes 104 reading specialists, 200 teaching and learning assistants, 39 additional teacher librarians and 12 additional ESL teachers.

Alice Collins, left, Dwight Ball, middle, and Al Hawkins pose for a photo with a copy of the provincial government's new Education Action Plan, which was unveiled Friday in Grand Falls-Windsor. (Garrett Barry/CBC)

The province's spring budget included $3.1 million for the added positions, and Premier Dwight Ball says the cost will increase in coming years as more schools get their assistants.

"I think, when you look at it, it's really 'at what point do you want to pay?,'" Ball said.

Hawkins says the provincial government is considering new models for inclusive education, which could mean students with exceptionalities spend more time outside of a traditional classroom. (Garrett Barry/CBC)

"We're willing to invest early so we actually create benefits and opportunities for our students in the future."

"We know, right now, when it comes to math, reading, inclusive education, indigenous education, multiculturalism and those sorts of things, that we need to do better."

The provincial government unveiled their The Way Forward action plan on education in Grand Falls-Windsor on Friday afternoon. The plan is a response to recommendations delivered by The Premier's Task Force on Improving Educational Outcomes, published last year.

Ball said his government will address each of the 82 recommendations from that report. The total cost of the education action plan will be around $50 million, he said.

Tony Stack, CEO of the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District, said a reading specialist will eventually be assigned to every school that includes students between Kindergarten and Grade 6.

New inclusion policy

The provincial government has also committed to writing a brand-new inclusion policy — as was recommended by the Premier's Task Force. According to the action plan, it will be completed by September, and will include more options to take students with special needs outside of the classroom to "another setting within the school environment."

"There have been proponents out there that says all students should be inclusive within a classroom, no matter what their exceptionalities would be. We know that we've had some challenges with that," said Hawkins.

Hawkins said the government is now working on creating a new model.

"What that model is may not necessary be total inclusion for all day, there might be different ways and different avenues," he added.

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About the Author

Garrett Barry

Journalist

Garrett Barry is a CBC reporter based in Gander.