Students return to school in September. (Black Press files)

Students return to school in September. (Black Press files)

More students, more pressure in B.C. school system

Court ruling requiring smaller classes adds to space squeeze

Enrolment is up in 35 out of 60 B.C. school districts as more than 530,000 students head back to school this fall.

The net increase province-wide is about 1,700 additional full-time equivalents, including adult education students. The other 25 districts are predicting declines, but many are seeing small fluctuations in a stable student population.

“It’s quite a change since five or 10 years ago,” Education Minister Rob Fleming said. “At one time there were only one or two districts out of 60 that were growing.”

The fastest growing district per capita is Sooke on Vancouver Island, and the largest increase overall is once again in Surrey, which was the focus of last year’s provincial election debates around education.

In an interview with Black Press, Fleming acknowledged that Surrey school district is adding another 14 portables for this year, and stressed that eliminating portables there and elsewhere is a four-year commitment by the NDP government.

He said Surrey and other districts would be reducing portables by now if it were not for smaller class sizes reimposed by last year’s Supreme Court of Canada decision, which restored terms of the B.C. Teachers’ Federation contract removed in 2002. That has had a ripple effect as districts hired more than 3,000 more teachers and had to make space for them.

RELATED: Surrey’s portable classroom count rises to 347

The hiring flurry is mostly complete, with certified teachers outside the system being approached to come back part-time to replace substitutes who moved to full-time jobs.

The shortage of French teachers prompted Fleming to visit Europe on a recruiting trip this year, and new training spaces have been funded. Another shortage is math and science teachers in rural and remote districts.

RELATED: B.C. French immersion teachers in short supply

“We have inherited some pre-existing problems around shortages of specialist teachers,” Fleming said. “There was an active deterrent, for example, to become a special education teacher over the last 15 years because there was no work for them. The government was simply uninterested in hiring those types of specialist positions.”

The B.C. Public School Employers Association has set up a “one-stop” website for qualified teachers to review vacancies around the province, which is speeding the process up, Fleming said.

Students heading into grade 10 will be getting the new curriculum that has now been put in place from Kindergarten to grade nine and will carry on through the senior grades starting next fall. Its focus is on teamwork and critical thinking.

“Those are really important 21st Century skills in the workforce,” Fleming said. “The way the curriculum is taught, with group-based projects, a new feature called a capstone project that students will work on, are all designed to reinforce some of those critical skills that will teach students how to properly communicate and feel confident about the competencies that they’re developing.”


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC legislatureEducation

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Multiple people were injured at a Vernon home following an early-morning break-in Saturday, March 6, 2021. (Black Press file photo)
Multiple people left injured following break-and-enter in Vernon

Police believe the early-morning break-in was targeted and not a threat to the general public

Seniors in the Interior Health region can book their COVID-19 vaccinations starting Monday, March 8, 2021 at 7 a.m. (File photo)
Seniors in Interior Heath region can book COVID-19 shots starting Monday

Starting March 8 the vaccination call centre will be open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily

A Coldstream resident who found an owl struggling on her property in March 2021 is now spreading awareness of about the knock-on effects of rodent poisoning. (Kathy Renaud photo)
Coldstream owl ‘fighting for her life’ after ingesting rat poison

Coldstream resident warns against the use of rodenticide due to risk of secondary poisoning in raptors

Vernon residents can breathe a little easier now that a dust advisory has ended in the area. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)
Dust advisory lifted in Vernon

Changing meteorological conditions have improved regional air quality

The City of Vernon is looking for input into its Climate Action Plan. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Vernon voices wanted on climate action plan

Community engagement sought on city plan

The James C Richardson Pipe Band marches in a Remembrance Day parade on Nov. 11, 2019 in Chilliwack. Wednesday, March 10 is International Bagpipe Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of March 7 to 13

International Bagpipe Day, Wash Your Nose Day and Kidney Day are all coming up this week

Kelowna General Hospital (File photo)
Second COVID-19 outbreak declared at Kelowna General Hospital

One patient and one staff member on Unit have tested positive for the virus.

Victoria man Brett Andersen is asking for people’s help to secure him one of eight free tickets to the moon. (Screenshot/@brettandersen Instagram)
Victoria man wants your help securing a free ticket to the moon

Japanese billionaire offering eight people a trip to the moon

The Conservation Officers Service is warning aquarium users after invasive and potentially destructive mussels were found in moss balls from a pet store. (BC Conservation Officers Service/Facebook)
Aquarium users in B.C. warned after invasive mussels found at pet store

Conservation officers were told the mussels were found in a moss ball from a Terrace pet store.

Hockey hall-of-fame legend Wayne Gretzky, right, watches the casket of his father, Walter Gretzky, as it is carried from the church during a funeral service in Brantford, Ont., Saturday, March 6, 2021. HE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky remembered as a man with a ‘heart of gold’ at funeral

The famous hockey father died Thursday at age 82 after battling Parkinson’s disease

Fire ripped through a mobile home on Boucherie Road in West Kelowna on March. 6. (Phil McLachlan - West Kelowna News)
‘My whole life just went up in smoke’; Fire consumes Okanagan mobile home

RCMP confirmed that there were no injuries due to the fire

Donald Alan Sweet was once an all star CFL kicker who played for the Montreal Alouettes and Montreal Concordes over a 13-year career. Photo courtesy of Mission RCMP.
Ex-B.C. teacher who was CFL kicker charged with assault, sexual crimes against former students

Donald Sweet taught in Mission School District for 10 years, investigators seek further witnesses

During a press event on March 6, Const. Alex Berube, media relations officer for the West Shore RCMP, addressed a deadly shooting that occurred in Metchosin the night before. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
VIDEO: One man shot dead on Vancouver Island in ‘targeted incident’

Highway 14 reopens following multi-hour closure for investigation

Most Read