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Yukon teacher shortage puts vulnerable students most at risk: union

The president of the Yukon Education Professionals Association fears that the most vulnerable students will be hardest hit by the territory’s teacher shortage.

“It’s the students who will suffer if they don’t get the extra support they’ve had in the past or need,” said Ted Hupé of the Yukon Education Professionals Association.

The shortage of teachers is felt as Yukon schools begin the new school year.

Although Hupé and the Ministry of Education disagree on the number of vacancies, they agree that providing an exact number can be tricky as the situation is fluid.

Last week, Hupé told the New by telephone on August 23, there are approximately 30 teaching vacancies in the system, including 21 vacancies in the communities.

Hupé said there are three major vacancies for Hidden Valley Elementary School, Elijah Smith Elementary School and St. Francis of Assisi Catholic High School, formerly known as Vanier Catholic High School.

Hupé said the department’s vacancy count may not include recent medical leaves and other “last minute” leaves.

The figures provided by the Ministry of Education were slightly lower than those provided by the association.

In an email, Michael Edwards, a spokesman for the department, said there were about 20 teaching vacancies as of August 23. He said that compares to about 25 positions that were open as of August 19.

Registered teaching positions represent those dedicated to student classrooms, and openings for those positions are spread “more or less evenly” across all schools in the territory, Edwards said.

Edwards said “a number” of job offers have been made to candidates and more offers are expected in the coming days.

On August 17, Nicole Morgan, Deputy Minister of Education, announced during a briefing for journalists on COVID-19 in schools that non-registered staff with specialized roles could be recruited to compensate for teacher absences. .

This means that assistant teachers and learning advisors are removed from their usual duties of working closely with students who may have difficulty reading, writing and numeracy, and moved to the front of the class, while students who need special support will not get the extra attention they need.

It remains unclear how many unregistered or specialist positions are assigned to teaching roles, given that the year has just started at some schools and has not yet started at others, according to the department.

“For this reason, it is too early for us to provide information on unregistered or specialist positions placed in teaching roles,” Edwards said.

Hupé said “everything is fair and good” because educators “will do whatever it takes to fill in the gaps” and that ultimately there must be “a teaching body” at the front of the class.

However, he said, this makes it difficult for the ministry to follow through on its inclusive education program in response to the 2019 auditor general’s report. The audit found that the ministry has not been able close the gaps in educational outcomes and was unsure if its approach to inclusive education was working.

“When we’re not full, it’s the vulnerable learners who are at risk,” Hupé said.

In an Aug. 18 statement, the Yukon Party blames the Yukon government for the number of school vacancies.

“To fill the gaps, there are reports of patchwork solutions requiring staff to take up positions outside of their specialty,” the statement read.

“It seems that these concerns are unfortunately becoming a reality, and this is another indication that this Liberal government has simply verified.

The Yukon Party cites a letter decrying the lack of concrete action on inclusive and special education. Hupé leads one of four groups – along with Autism Yukon, LDAY Center for Learning and the Association of Yukon School Boards, Boards and Committees – that wrote the joint letter dated Jan. 4 to Education Minister Jeanie McLean.

“We hear from those on the ground that the education system in the Yukon has never been in worse shape,” Education Critic Scott Kent of the Yukon Party said in the statement. .

“For a government that claims to make education a priority, it seems Yukon educators, students and parents are bearing the brunt of the Liberals’ failure to address these concerns over the summer.

Hupé is advocating for the Department of Education to be more vigorous in its recruiting practices to place qualified teachers in front of classrooms across the territory and to let specialist staff provide much-needed support to students.

“How can we embark on an inclusive education program when the very people who are the main actors in supporting vulnerable children and their inclusive learning and education are on a mission they are not supposed to have? “

Contact Dana Hatherly at dana.hatherly@yukon-news.com

Education

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