Teachers frustrated with inclusive classrooms, NLTA says

Inclusive education is not only placing a financial strain on some parents of children with special needs — it's also causing frustration for teachers across Newfoundland and Labrador.

Union president Jim Dinn says there aren't enough trained personnel to assist in schools

Jim Dinn, the president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers' Association, says teachers feel they're being asked to do an impossible job with too few resources, Jen White reports for CBC Investigates 2:48

Inclusive education is not only placing a financial strain on some parents of children with special needs — it's also causing frustration for teachers across Newfoundland and Labrador.

"Teachers are finding it frustrating," Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers Association president Jim Dinn told CBC Investigates.

"They're being asked, they feel, to do an impossible job, with too few resources."

Dinn says the NLTA supports inclusive education overall.

But he says there aren't enough trained personnel to assist teachers in these diverse classrooms.

"Now you have, next year, a reduction of 77 units in teachers, and you have an increase in class cap. So it's going to make the challenge that much greater for them," he said.

The inclusion model sees all students, of all learning capabilities, being taught in one classroom.

Critics of the education plan told CBC Investigates that the model is not being properly implemented, and that's causing some parents to turn to outside supports, like tutoring, to help get their kids through grade school — at a cost of thousands of dollars per year.

Dinn says that's because the additional personnel who are in an inclusive classroom, like a student assistant or an instructional resource teacher, are often pulled to deal with more severe students. 

"That teacher's left there then to deal with, to deliver that lesson to the students who don't need the support, who can get by without it; to the students who might need that little bit of extra help; to the ones who are struggling in the class," he said.

Dinn says in extreme cases, not having the extra support can create chaos — something he says could have been avoided with extra resources.

You might have a student who has a violent outburst. Now we're talking primary/elementary, where desks are thrown around, where teachers have been bitten [and] where students have been bitten.- Jim Dinn, NLTA president

"You might have a student who has a violent outburst. Now we're talking primary/elementary, where desks are thrown around, where teachers have been bitten [and] where students have been bitten," he said. 

"The classroom may be cleared. There might be two or three other teachers brought into that situation, to control the situation and to bring the child to, calm that child down and to bring that child to a place where he or she may be dealt with."

Report coming in 2016

A joint committee on inclusive education was formed with the province in September, to try to address some of these issues.

The group is currently working on recommendations on how to best use available resources to deliver the best possible education for all students. A report is expected to be released in early 2016.

Dinn says he understands government's fiscal restraints, but says there has to be a way to fix the current model.

"We're going to have to look at what are we willing to invest in education to make sure it works for all kids," he said.

About the Author

Jen White

CBC News

Jen White is a journalist with CBC News in St. John's.

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