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Two more students per class to counteract the teacher shortage

Increasing the number of students per class to address teacher and space shortages: This is one of the solutions required by the Association of School Service Centers to alleviate the “general shortage” of teachers in Quebec schools.

• Also read: “Emergency substitution”: teachers must be substituted in other classes

• Also read: Groundhog Day in Education

• Also read: Shortage of staff: Exhausted teachers have to replace in other classes

School service centers are asking the Legault government for “greater flexibility” in forming student groups, allowing them to place two more students per class “in those settings where that would be required,” we can read in the letter to the Federation, written as Part of the Legault government’s pre-budget consultations.

Teachers who have more students in front of them would be entitled to a special bonus and better achievements in the classroom, specifies Dominique Robert, deputy president and CEO of the association. “The goal isn’t to save money,” he says.

According to the association’s calculations, the addition of two students per group in all classes in the country would allow a “restoration” of 3750 teachers. However, this is not a measure that would be applied “wall to wall”, specifies Mr. Robert.

“There are fast-growing service centers where the pressure on staff and space is very high at the moment,” he says. However, this measure would be less suitable for smaller schools in the regions.

Mr Robert acknowledges that this temporary solution is a “drastic measure” but justified by the current “crisis situation” where the risks of service disruptions are very real.

The service centers also want Quebec to adopt “more competitive salary scales” to curb the “exodus” of school staff, we read in the letter.

Shield survey among the teachers

Unsurprisingly, this proposal does not go down well with teachers’ unions, who are demanding just the opposite in ongoing negotiations with the Legault government.

“Two more students per class cannot be a solution,” says Josée Scalabrini, President of the Federation of Education Unions (FSE-CSQ).

“How does such a measure respond to our need to review class composition? Congratulations on your promotion,” she quips.

Additional facilities for students with difficulties “are not available in regular classes anyway” so there is no reason to think they would be available for larger groups, adds Ms Scalabrini.

Same story of the Autonomous Federation for Education (FAE). “It is not by increasing the number of students per class that we will persuade teachers to stay in the school network or persuade others who have left to come back,” says President Mélanie Hubert.

Teachers’ unions believe the Legault government’s priority should be to “tackle the source” of the problem by improving teachers’ working conditions.

At the Quebec Parent Council, it is indicated that it is necessary to take into account the interest of the students, the research on the subject, as well as the solutions that “are already available to the schools”, as the pilot project aid to the class “that sees promising”.

It’s not the first time that increasing the number of students per class in the school network has been cited as a solution to staff shortages. The Quebec Association of School Executives had also proposed this as a solution in a notice to the Department of Education in 2021.

Effect of increasing the number of students per class

  • One more student: 1,950 teachers
  • Two other students: 3,750 teachers
  • *Number of teachers who would be “restored” if the increase were applied to all Quebec classes.

Source: Federation of School Service Centers of Quebec

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