B.C. union ‘sounding the alarm’ about potential teacher shortage


With the start of the school year just around the corner, the union representing around 50,000 teachers in B.C. is warning of a teacher shortage.

“We’ve been sounding the alarm, I’d say, for close to a decade now and it’s getting worse and worse every year,” said Clint Johnston, the president of the B.C. Teachers’ Federation.

The number of vacant positions across the province is not known, the union says it’s up to the education ministry to track those numbers.

“It started off kind of rural and remote as the first places hit, as you might expect, which includes some of the places on the Island for sure,” said Johnston.

At the same time, the union is calling on the provincial government to do more to attract and retain teachers.

“You need to make sure that the working conditions are good so that people can actually stay in this career for 30 to 35 years,” added Johnston.

In an email statement to CHEK News, the Ministry of Education and Child Care said it is “not aware of any schools or school districts that will be unable to open due to staffing shortages.” Adding, “We will continue to work with education partners to find solutions and develop a strong, sustainable K-12 workforce now and into the future.”

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Even though class will be back in session next week, Sooke School District Superintendent Scott Stinson says it’s hard to predict how the rest of the year will go as the number of teachers getting sick or away for other reasons is always an unknown.

“If we were able to have everyone in attendance every day things would run smoothly, but I understand that’s not how things go,” said Stinson. “We believe that we have everyone we need to start the school year and then it will depend on what happens to us as we go through the year.”

The B.C. Teachers’ Federation worries any absences or shortages in teaching staff could impact students’ ability to access help.

“It’s about the services to students and are they going to be available, are the students who need some extra support going to get it?” said Johnston.

The Greater Victoria Teachers Association echoed those concerns Thursday, saying, “With the new COVID variant and  flu season this fall it is anticipated that there will, again, be staff shortages in our schools…On the occasion when there is no teacher on call, available schools will  temporarily reassign teachers in the building that do not have a class, learning support teachers, counsellors, and librarians, for instance, to fill in for the classroom teacher.”

While it’s guaranteed to be another exciting school year ahead for Vancouver Island students, it comes with a caution that more homework may need to be done to address the potential for teacher shortages in the months to come.

Hannah LepineHannah Lepine

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