PEI

P.E.I. Teachers' Federation worried about split classes

The P.E.I. Teachers' Federation is concerned about split grade classes, saying teachers are faced with extra work but sometimes don't have the training or enough help to deal with teaching various grades in the same room.

'It just seems sometimes physically impossible'

Several P.E.I. schools have three-grade splits this year. (Robert MacPherson/AFP/Getty)

The P.E.I. Teachers' Federation is concerned about split grade classes, saying teachers are faced with extra work but sometimes don't have the training or enough help to deal with teaching various grades in the same room.

"What we're finding is that it's putting an increased workload on teachers ... we're finding that the resources are lacking," said PEITF president Bethany MacLeod. 

The federation says spilt classes are becoming more common as student numbers decrease in some areas of the province.

Teachers are feeling it's an increased workload.- PEITF president Bethany MacLeod

MacLeod said she hears concerns from staff about the multi-grade classrooms when she goes to schools, and the risk is there for teacher burnout. 

"It just seems that sometimes it's physically impossible when you have two different levels, or sometimes even three different levels, so teachers are feeling it's an increased workload," she said.

Several P.E.I. schools have three-grade splits this year. Gulf Shore Consolidated School in North Rustico has Grades 4, 5 and 6 in one class, as well as Grades 7, 8 and 9. According to the Georgetown Elementary School website, all grades are split, including one three-grade split class.

PEITF president Bethany MacLeod says split classes put an additional strain on teachers. (Laura Meader/CBC)

Meeting the needs of students

Parker Grimmer, the newly appointed director of Public Schools Branch which replaced the English Language School Board, began his career teaching a split class. 

"It's been something that schools have used to help deal with their staffing concerns over the last number of years," he said, adding that the research shows multi-level classrooms work.

"We're confident that the right classroom dynamics are there for students."

The Public Schools Branch says smaller rural schools tend to have more split classes.

"You're not able to create a complete class with the students that you have, so that would be an opportunity to be able work globally to meet the needs of the students for what's best for the students in that community," said Grimmer. 

Public Schools Branch director Parker Grimmer says split classes do work. (Laura Meader/CBC)

More training, more staff

The PEITF says teachers need specialized skills to cover the curriculum in split classes, and as well as additional staff members.

"I've been a teacher for 15 years, and I know I would find it difficult just to wrap your head around it," said MacLeod. "Normally that workload would have been split up between a couple of teachers at least."

We're confident that the right classroom dynamics are there for students.- Parker Grimmer

The Public Schools Branch couldn't go into specifics about upcoming training for teachers but said it welcomed the idea.

"Any supports we can provide ... I'm sure would be welcomed," Grimmer said.

But he believes a split class concept is not that different from other classrooms, pointing out there are always differences in students' abilities.

"Teachers are dealing with multiple levels of learners in their class, whether or not they are straight classes or otherwise."

About a dozen schools in the province have split grades.

Students head back to school in P.E.I on Sept. 6.

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