Education Department fills 190 of 191 classroom support jobs

Nova Scotia’s education minister says his department has filled every new in-class support job it announced earlier this year, and 190 of 191 jobs overall have been filled.

Teachers union welcomes progress, but renews call for inclusive education institute

Education Minister Zach Churchill says his department is preparing to evaluate funding formulas and guidance support radios. (Robert Short/CBC News)

Nova Scotia's education minister says his department has filled every new in-class support job it announced earlier this year, and 190 of 191 jobs overall that are intended to help ease teachers' workloads.

The new jobs were announced in the spring as part of the government's $15-million response to recommendations in the independent report on inclusive education, which laid out a five-year plan.

The jobs include school psychologists, education support workers, nurses and behavioural specialists.

Education Minister Zach Churchill said during an interview Tuesday that every job except for a nursing position for the Tri-County Regional Centre For Education has been filled.

Help where it's needed most

These new posts were promised as part of the government's efforts to tackle complex classroom issues and give teachers additional support in a work environment they increasingly said was beyond their ability to deal with alone.

Churchill said the expectation is regional education centres will use the new resources based on the greatest area of need within the system. The government, meanwhile, will monitor progress to ensure the new positions are being used as effectively as possible.

Nova Scotia Teachers Union president Paul Wozney said his colleagues are pleased to see help is on the way and that the government was able to meet the "aggressive" hiring targets, although he noted it's too soon to know the result of the added help.

"We recognize that this is an essential step in improving inclusive education for all students," he said in a telephone interview.

Funding model to be examined

But Wozney said the additional support was just one of many recommendations from the independent commission's report and he said teachers need to see a commitment to the entire report.

"It's not either or. It's all of the things together that ultimately make the big difference."

Churchill said the next big piece of work for his department will be an examination of funding models. Right now funding is based only on enrolment, and the minister said the department will work to change some components to a needs-based formula.

"We know that there's need out there that isn't accounted for when you're only looking at enrolment figures," he said.

"[So it's] figuring out the best way to provide funding to our schools [by] looking at the needs of our students."

Union still wants inclusion institute

The department will also be looking at ratios for guidance support and bringing in the tiered system of support for students, which combines universal, targeted and intensive support for those who need it, said Churchill.

While the government has previously downplayed the report's call for an institute for inclusive education, Wozney said that remains a key component for the union as a way to ensure transparency remains in the system and there is an arm's-length body independent of government or the union to evaluate what's happening.

"We really believe that that is an essential mechanism," he said.

"That's the rudder that steers the ship."

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About the Author

Michael Gorman

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Michael Gorman is a reporter in Nova Scotia who covers Province House, rural communities, and everything in between. Contact him with story ideas at michael.gorman@cbc.ca