Education Minister Rob Fleming. (Black Press Media files)

B.C. education minister says focus is on new curriculum, filling on-call teacher ranks

School year is expected to start Sept. 3, even though teachers have yet to reach a deal

The province’s education minister says he is focusing on the new senior curriculum and filling teacher-on-call lists as the 2019/20 school year gets underway.

This year will see a new curriculum in place for Grade 11 and 12 that Education Minister Rob Fleming said will focus more on real life skills and help students get a grip on what they want to do after the graduate.

During a press conference Wednesday, Fleming said parents and teachers can expect to go back to school on Sept. 3, even as mediated talks with the B.C. Teachers Federation continue.

Fleming said he is confident a deal will be struck, citing that 70 per cent of public sector union employees have had their collective agreements signed.

He said he was “perhaps a little bit” surprised that it’s taken 61 days of negotiation, 11 of which have been mediated, to not even have reached a deal with the teachers’ union. There are three more days of mediated talks scheduled, including Wednesday, for teachers to reach a deal.

“I want to say we’re hopeful that the parties can find solutions and reach a deal,” Fleming said. “I share the BCTF’s optimism that we can get to a deal.

He did admit he was a little nonplussed about the ads the BCTF has been playing in recent days.

One ad called on the NDP to “drop their attempts to increase class sizes and eliminate guaranteed support levels for students with special needs. We can’t go backwards.”

Fleming said he was “scratching his head a little bit at that ad campaign.”

“We have respected the media blackout, that we not bargain this in public through the media,” he said.

“I could probably also quibble a little bit the tone of the ad and the accuracy.”

Fleming pointed to the 4,000 teachers and 1,000 support staff hired since the 2016 court win that restored class size and composition language to teachers’ contracts, as well as an 85 per cent spike in out-of-province applications for B.C. teaching licences and 70 applications from France and Belgium for the licences. He said teacher vacancies going into this school year are now the same as in 2015, before the court decision.

But despite the BCTF’s comments, he said it was a “vastly, vastly different” negotiating environment with the teachers’ union than had been the case in prior years and that he was feeling good about a deal being struck.

Fleming said he would be speaking to superintendents in the coming weeks about filling teacher-on-call lists, which have been decimated by recent hiring sprees in urban regions.

Fleming cited a plan brought in last year by the Vancouver school board, where they “attracted 200 new [on call teachers] by guaranteeing a substitute teacher at least four days of work a week.”

The BCTF has said that the shortage leads non-enrolling staff, like librarians and educational assistants, having to take over classrooms for the day.

READ MORE: ‘Plenty of time for a deal’: Teachers’ union expects kids back in school on Sept. 3

READ MORE: Expanded support to help B.C. youth from care attend university still falling short


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

UPDATE: Two North Delta schools briefly in ‘hold and secure’ after report of weapon

Seaquam Secondary and Cougar Canyon Elementary were in ‘hold and secure’ for about 45 minutes

Charges dropped against officer who shot and killed Hudson Brooks in South Surrey

‘I feel like I’ve lost Hudson all over again,’ says mom

‘Men of Curling’ calendar features Surrey’s Tardi, who went rock climbing with a curling rock

Tyler Tardi, 21, now curls on men’s circuit, meaning he won’t play at 2020 nationals in Langley

Here’s why you may not have seen many federal election signs in Surrey

Earlier this year, Surrey council banned election signs on public property, highways

‘Jail’ time for Surrey business and community leaders in Crime Stoppers fundraiser

Metro Vancouver organization to host Jail & Bail event Friday at Central City’s outdoor plaza

‘I shouldn’t have done it,’ Trudeau says of brownface photo

Trudeau says he also wore makeup while performing a version of a Harry Belafonte song

35 of 87 dogs in 2018 Williams Lake seizure were euthanized due to behavioural issues, BCSPCA confirm

The dogs did not respond to the behaviour modification and remained terrified of humans

‘We still did not get answers’: Vancouver parents demand expulsion after students’ racist video

‘We were unable to get confirmation from the VSB, but he hasn’t returned as of yet,’ says Marie Tate

B.C. ‘tent city’ disputes spark call for local government autonomy

UBCM backs Maple Ridge after province overrules city

B.C. drug dealers arrested after traffic stop near Banff turns into helicopter pursuit

Antonio Nolasco-Padia, 23, and Dina Anthony, 55, both well-known to Chilliwack law enforcement

‘What goes up will come down’: Gas prices spike in Metro Vancouver

Petroleum analyst Dan McTeague says prices will fall Thursday

B.C. MLA calls on province to restrict vaping as first related illness appears in Canada

Todd Stone, Liberal MLA for Kamloops-South Thompson, introduced an anti-vaping bill in April

Most Read