North

N.W.T. teachers to experiment with less class time, more prep time

The N.W.T. Teachers' Association, the N.W.T. Superintendents' Association and the territorial government are launching a three-year pilot program to reduce class hours by up to 100 hours per year.

Teachers to use extra time for planning and professional development

AnnaLee Mcleod teaches Gwich'in Studies in this file photo. N.W.T. teachers will begin experimenting with less classroom instruction time starting this fall. (CBC)

The N.W.T. Teachers' Association, the N.W.T. Superintendents' Association and the territorial government are launching a three-year pilot program to reduce class hours by up to 100 hours per year.

The plan, which will go into effect at the start of the 2017-2018 school year, is for teachers to use the hours for planning and professional development in order to increase the quality of teaching during the remaining instructional hours.

It's an outgrowth of recent contract negotiations between teachers and the territorial over workloads. Teachers in the territory work an average of 52 hours per week, per a 2013 study. 

High school students in the N.W.T. receive 1,045 instructional hours annually, the highest level in the country according to the territorial government. The Canadian average is 940. After the reduction, N.W.T. students from Grade 1 to Grade 12 will receive a minimum of 945 instructional hours.

Shannon Barnett-Aikman of the N.W.T. Superintendents' Association (left), Fraser Oliver of the N.W.T. Teachers' Association (centre) and Rita Mueller of the territorial government (right) discuss changes to instructional hours for N.W.T. teachers on Monday. (CBC)

In a news conference on Monday, Rita Mueller, the assistant deputy minister for the N.W.T's department of education, said the change will be positive for both teachers and students.

"Teachers are working evening, weekends and holidays to get work done," Mueller said. "Having structured, embedded planning time for teachers has been proven to positively impact their overall wellness and overall student outcomes."

What will it look like?

Fraser Oliver, the president of the N.W.T. Teachers' Association, has met with superintendents and principals to discuss the change. He said it will be up to each school to decide how it will reduce class hours.

He says the pilot program is not mandatory and schools may reduce less than the maximum 100 hours.

"We were speaking to one principal last week… they were looking at doing a half day on Monday morning," Oliver said. 

He said other schools are looking at taking full days off, while others are looking at reducing each school day by about 35 minutes.

Schools represented by the Yellowknife Catholic Schools board are not yet part of the pilot program, but Oliver said he hopes to include those schools once contract negotiations with teachers are finalized.

The plan to reduce instructional hours still requires an amendment to the N.W.T. Education Act.

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