Saskatchewan

Sask. government to form committee to study class size and composition

Saskatchewan's education minister is looking to form a committee to study Pre-K to Grade 12 class size and composition.

STF says committee an attempt to 'sidestep' bargaining process

The Sask. government is hoping a cross-section of education sector partners can come up with recommendations to tackle issues of class size and composition. (Don Ryan/Associated Press)

Saskatchewan's education minister is forming a committee to study Pre-K to Grade 12 class size and composition in the province.

The Provincial Committee on Class Size and Composition is scheduled to host its first meeting before the end of the month and may consist of nine education sector partners, including:

  • Parents.
  • Academics.
  • Professional staff.
  • Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation.
  • Saskatchewan School Boards Association.
  • Ministry of Education.

"I have heard from parents, teachers and staff that our classrooms are more complex than ever," Minister of Education Gordon Wyant said.  

"I look forward to the work of this committee helping to develop solutions to guide class size and composition planning in our schools."

The government said the committee will "construct a framework on class size and composition with the intention of implementing recommendations for the 2020-21 school year."

Wyant said he expects that some recommendations may require additional money. He said he will share those needs with cabinet in preparation for the upcoming budget.

Class size and composition have been major talking points for the STF and the opposition NDP.

The STF has demanded the two issues be a part of ongoing collective bargaining talks. Wyant has maintained that those issues are best negotiated at the local level and not the bargaining table.

The two sides don't even agree how big classes are. The Ministry of Education told media in April that the average class size in Saskatchewan is 19, but the union says classes range from 22 to 40 children.

STF President Patrick Maze said the province is "sidestepping the bargaining process and demonstrates bad faith bargaining".

"Half of Saskatchewan's teachers said the issue of class size and composition was as important as their own compensation and the Federation remains committed to addressing this through provincial collective bargaining," Maze said Wednesday.

Collective bargaining continues next week.

"Government only announced this committee after we brought the issue forward and presented solutions — including a fund dedicated to provide necessary supports in classrooms — at the bargaining table. This alone is evidence of the need to address this through provincial collective bargaining," Maze said.

Wyant said the committee will go ahead with or without individuals or groups that were invited to participate.

Negotiations between the STF and the province have played out in public as well.

The provincial government proposed a two per cent salary increase in 2020 and 2021 and a $1,500 lump sum payment to each teacher.

The Saskatchewan Teachers Federation's ask is for the two per cent raise this year and a three per cent raise for the next two years. They also want to see a contract of employment for substitute teachers and smaller class sizes.

The NDP has called the situation in Saskatchewan classrooms "a crisis." It is a claim Wyant refutes, although he does not disagree that increasingly complex classrooms are a challenge for students, teachers and parents.

NDP education critic Carla Beck has been travelling around the province in recent weeks with NDP Leader Ryan Meili holding education town hall events. One is scheduled for Wednesday night in Regina.

Beck said the need to tackle class size and composition is "very high around the province" and requires quicker action than a committee studying the issue allows. She called for mid-year funding to address classroom needs.

Last weekend, the NDP announced at its annual convention a plan to cap Kindergarten to Grade 3 classes province-wide.

Beck said the party has not costed the pledge to cap class size, which would likely require hiring of additional teachers.

On Monday, the STF released results of its Education Re-Imagined report, which features 12 calls to action, following nearly a year of discussion and public consultation.

The STF, NDP and the ministry of education have done their own separate education surveys in recent months.

About the Author

Adam Hunter

Journalist

Adam Hunter is the provincial affairs reporter at CBC Saskatchewan, based in Regina. He has been with CBC for 12 years. He hosts the CBC podcast On the Ledge. Follow him on Twitter @AHiddyCBC. Contact him: adam.hunter@cbc.ca

with files from Bridget Yard and Alex Soloducha

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