Nova Scotia

Teachers will see a difference in the classroom come September: council

The Council to Improve Classroom Conditions remains optimistic there will be noticeable changes when school starts in September.

Council to Improve Classroom Conditions to meet 3 more times before end of April

Sean Barker, a council representative, is also a Grade 2 teacher at the Antigonish Education Centre. (Jerri Southcott/CBC)

A committee tasked with making recommendations to improve conditions for teachers and students in Nova Scotia remains optimistic there will be noticeable changes when school starts in September.

The 14-member Council to Improve Classroom Conditions was created earlier this year as part of legislation imposing a four-year contract on more than 9,000 of the province's unionized school teachers.

The group plans to meet three more times to discuss teachers' concerns ahead of a final report due April 28. 

Sean Barker, a teacher and council representative, said initial changes will be small, such as support for teachers writing individual program plans.

But he's confident those changes will be noticed. 

The Council to Improve Classroom Conditions held its first meetings in Halifax between March 21-23. (CBC)

"It's a process that teachers value and they know is important to support their students, but it's something that takes a lot of hours to write an individual program plan," said Barker. 

"What we're looking at right now is what we can do to support teachers in streamlining that process."

The council is comprised primarily of teachers and co-chaired by Sandra McKenzie, the province's deputy education minister, and Joan Ling, executive director of the Nova Scotia Teachers' Union. A guidance counsellor, a parent and a student also sit on the committee.

'Untangling' issues

Barker conceded bigger, more complicated issues affecting schools in rural areas will take longer to resolve. 

"Ultimately, the things that are going to take more time are around complex classrooms and meeting the needs of all of our students — making sure that the resources are there and personnel is there and getting all those supports in place that teachers really need to help their students be successful." 

The challenge for the council, he explained, is the depth of rooted issues and reviewing them "and then figuring out how we can start untangling some of those roots, one little bit at a time."

The council made 18 recommendations last month in an attempt to lighten the teachers' load. The province agreed to implement some immediately, including eliminating three provincially mandated assessments and time spent on the software system that manages student information.

Over the next two years, the council will help the government decide how to spend $20 million in classrooms while dealing with teachers' issues and improving workplace conditions.