Another personal report, by DPAC Chair.
I wanted to go into more detail about the discussion that was had about class size and composition at the BCCPAC meeting, and at previous BCCPAC AGMs.
I had put in a paragraph in my previous report: “Back in 2006, a resolution that was passed at BCCPAC was: “That BCCPAC advise all education partners that limiting the number of students in classrooms based on designations or labels is discriminatory and, as such, legislation or employee contracts must not contain wording that promotes or creates such limits.” I think it’s important to note that we want and need funding, supports, and resources for all our children, but we shouldn’t deny students access based on a group characteristic. There must be a better way of doing things. My notes say “but make damn sure to protect the money!”. Again, very much an avenue for further discussion, on how to best manage issues of student need and teacher workload.”
It’s really easy to misinterpret the BCCPAC position on this, especially in the current environment of mistrust. I have to say that all of the parents who have worked on this have children in the schools, and have dealt with a lot of these issues personally, with their children. Not one person in that room was in there from the point of view of “let’s do this as cheaply as possible!”, or “our system is perfect as it is!”.
We all know that it’s possible to have a really workable classroom with 30 students – if they’re the “right” kind of students – and a completely unworkable classroom with 15 students – again, if they’re not the “right” kind of student.
Class size and composition are a method of trying to match resources to individual children. It’s a way of saying that we have a complicated system, we have all these children with individual needs, we have to match them with classes and teachers and education assistants and resources and manage teacher workload – let’s make it simple and limit it by number of students and by number of students with particular identified challenges, who are designated and officially labelled.
But is this the best way to do it? We again all know about the “grey area” children – the ones without designations or labels or directed funding. How do these students fit with class size and composition? The answer is that they don’t. And they need support as well.
Do we need to have students officially labelled and designated before we can offer support to them? We shouldn’t.
This doesn’t mean that we don’t want funding for individual students! Very much, we want to protect that current level of funding, and then generate more funding for these other needs. Some strong words were used about the necessity of protecting funding.
So the goal was to focus on the needs of each individual child. Every child is special, every child has special needs. Some have more needs than others, some are more difficult to teach than others, some will be easier to teach.
How do we flip the way we look at it, focus on the needs of each child, and how do we match that with appropriate class sizes, teacher workload, education assistant workload, supports, and money?
I don’t think there’s any one formula that will do that. I think this needs to be a discussion that’s had with every teacher, every principal, for each class. We wanted parent input into this – but I do think that we all recognized the pivotal role of the education professionals.
What are a couple of problems with this sort of model?
Well, one is reporting out and seeing how this works. It’s really easy to pull up a report of all class sizes over 30, and all those that have over 3 students with individual education plans. It’s less easy to track, are each individual student’s needs met?
If we can’t measure it, how can we manage it?
How can we best measure it, how can we best manage it, how can we best tell if it works – and how can we trust that it’s being done for the benefit of our kids?
Let’s have that discussion – a respectful discussion, on how our education system can best meet the needs of all our individual students, in such a way that supports all our students in their ability to thrive and succeed in life.
Can we use the provincial voice of BCCPAC to get our education partners in a room, together, and work on this, with a respectful joint discussion?
Teacher workload is very much a contract concern, and should be dealt with in fair bargaining, and reach a fair negotiated settlement.
Meeting the needs of all our individual students, though – that’s a discussion that should be had by all of us who are involved in the system. I don’t think BCCPAC has the one, true, answer to the solution – but I firmly believe that we can use all of our partners in education to come up with a better answer than what we currently have.
We have all these dedicated, experienced people involved in the education system. We can do better.
Sarah Holland, DPAC Chair