Toronto

Loss of 1 teacher in a high school equals loss of 6 courses, TDSB education director says

Ontario's plan to increase average class sizes in high schools will mean fewer choices for secondary students when it comes to courses, says the director of the province's largest school board.

Board concerned cutting resources from schools will have negative effects on students

John Malloy, TDSB's director of education, says the board is taking a hard look at its resources in an attempt to ensure students receive a good, quality education. (Martin Trainor/CBC)

Ontario's plan to increase average class sizes in high schools will mean fewer choices for secondary students when it comes to courses, says the director of the province's largest school board.

John Malloy, director of education for the Toronto District School Board (TDSB), says larger class sizes will mean fewer teachers in each school and fewer teachers, in turn, will mean a reduction in course options.

"When you lose one teacher from a school, you lose six courses from that school," Malloy told CBC Radio's Metro Morning on Wednesday. 

"When they lose six courses, it's been my experience as a former secondary principal, that you lose the electives."

You can listen to Malloy's full interview in the player below: 

Our coverage of the province's new education plan continues. Today we hear from the TDSB's Director of Education. He talks about how the changes could affect students, and how the board is preparing for a possible labour disruption. 6:36

Ontario Education Minister Lisa Thompson recently revealed plans to increase class sizes in high schools, introduce new math curriculum, ban cellphones in the classroom during instructional time and make students take four online courses as a graduation requirement by 2020.

The average class sizes in high schools, the government says, would increase from 22 to 28.

A recent memo sent to TDSB trustees estimated that an increase in class sizes will mean a loss of 1,000 public school teachers in Toronto. The board estimates the changes could mean 216 fewer teachers in Grades 4 to 8 and 800 fewer teachers in Grade 9 to 12. 

Board looking at 'magnitude' of changes

Changes to the public education system planned by the Ontario government will result in fewer course options for high school students, says an official with the province's largest school board. (hub.jhu.edu)

Malloy said the board is worried about what offering fewer course options will mean for students.

"What it would look like in our high schools is the reduction of course options for students, for example, and fewer teachers in the school building to support our students in terms of their well-being needs, for example, " he said.

"Relationships matter for our students. We all know that. And obviously, that takes our staff to help us create those conditions."

Malloy said e-learning will not benefit all students, given their learning styles, and he pointed out that some arts courses, for example, are "not conducive" to e-learning. The education ministry has not said how schools will deliver the mandatory online courses.

"Some subjects actually won't work on that platform. It's actually taking choice away, in my opinion, from the students whose voice matter the most," he said.

The board is also concerned that courses that do not have the average sizes required by the province could be cut, he said.

The province wants to increase class sizes in high schools, introduce new math curriculum, ban cellphones in the classroom during instructional time and make students take four online courses as a graduation requirement by 2020. The board is assessing how those changes could affect schools. (Frank Gunn/Canadian Press)

As for the number of job losses that could result from the changes, Malloy said the estimates are based on a number of factors.

"Though we may not know the impact each year over the next four years, the reason why we were able to give the number of 1,000 teachers is because, when you are raising class size by a certain number, it's actually a mathematical formula," he said.

"We will not know how many teachers will come out each of the four years because that depends on retirements. But we do know the target we are expected to reach in four years."

Board assessing resources

Malloy said the board is taking a hard look at its resources to see how it can continue to provide a good quality education to Toronto public school students. Students deserve a "variety of learning experiences," he said.

Students already do not have a lot of options because of compulsory requirements over the four years of high school, he added.

"We are looking at all of the resources that we have. We will look at what the impact will probably be for September, again based upon retirements and resignations, and we are trying to think outside the box to give our students more opportunities, especially in our smaller schools," he said.

"Our teachers and all of our staff matter so much."

In the TDSB, there are 246,000 students at 582 schools throughout the city.

With files from Metro Morning, Muriel Draaisma

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