Education minister fears pushback from union on using outside workers
Zach Churchill says temporary measure a must to meet teachers' needs for more classroom supports
Meeting the staffing recommendations for September laid out in the report on inclusive education will almost certainly require bringing in outside workers, and the province's education minister is concerned about potential pushback from the teachers' union.
The report released last month presented a five-year plan for overhauling the inclusion system, including a major hiring effort for more specialists and support staff. Education Minister Zach Churchill has noted the short-term challenge of a lack of available people.
While he's said there would be a major push to train more people, Churchill said in the meantime the department could turn to graduate students, as it did last year to erase a backlog of psychological assessments for students.
But the use of the students from Mount St. Vincent University was grieved by the Nova Scotia Teachers Union, and Churchill said an arbitrator's ruling on the matter could affect the way his department uses outside support in the future.
"If we are going to implement the commission on inclusive education recommendations, it's very clear to me that we don't have the expertise within the education system," Churchill said in an interview.
"And while training is important, we don't want to wait for new teachers to be trained — we want to get these supports into the system as quickly as possible."
Union wants more permanent hires
Union president Liette Doucet wouldn't get into the specifics of the grievance but said it focused on the government's decision to temporarily bring in extra support, rather than hire more full-time staff as was once promised.
Doucet said she and the union understand there is a shortage of specialists and they could be open to a short-term solution, but bringing in outside workers should be a last resort.
"If more professionals are needed, we need to insist that more professionals are hired," she said.
"We need to look at the recruitment, we have to look at the training and we're willing to work with the government to help them do that."
Schools 'in dire need' of help
Regardless of differences that might exist between the government and union, Progressive Conservative MLA Pat Dunn said it's time to get going with more supports for teachers.
The former educator said the people he's talking to are hoping that happens in September, but right now he doesn't see how that will be possible. Dunn said the Education Department needs to be doing whatever it can to get more people trained and hire available graduates.
"All our schools are in dire need of this professional help," he said. "So I think the government could step forward and put a fair bit of emphasis on that end."