Teacher on Call and System-wide Teacher Shortage

Is there a labour shortage? What is the impact of the shortage upon our children’s education? What plans have been made to address the problem -long term?

Those are the sorts of questions that I would like to ask the various educational leaders. My two boys report that there are a lot of sick teachers, subs covering several classes and administrators seeming to be popping into to take a class more than they have ever seen. The situation got tot such a level that the Vancouver School Board Human resources office felt the need to issue a memo that tries to put out the rumour mill –but a careful reading would lead any clear thinking person to say that it looks like a serious labour shortage that won’t be short term.

Download Februry 22, 2006 memo to administrators.
Download March 1, 2006 TOC Clarification.The problem even seems to have got the attention of the provincial association of Principals and Vice-Princiapals. IN a CBC interview association president Tom Hierck says thousands of B.C. teachers and principals are expected to leave their jobs in the new few years:

“Our surveying shows we’ll need a thousand new principals and vice principals in the next three to four years. Well, those principals and vice principals will come out of our teaching force. Those teachers will then need to be replaced…And that’s just with principals and vice principals You can extrapolate to the teaching force.” As quoted by CBC, February 23, 2006

The BC Teachers Federation has been seeing an increasing problem on the ground as districts attempt to cover sick teachers and live up to their commitments for professional development leaves. Grass roots teacher have reported the follow general trends n the shortage of Teachers on Call:

    Leave requests being denied.
    Professional Development and other release time being denied.
    Retirees being sought; non-certificated people being hired.
    Some positions in areas such as school psychology, math/science, French programs, home ec. and special education are impossible to fill.
    Rural areas are hardest hit for ongoing positions and certificated teachers on call, but increasingly this is also being experienced in urban centres.
    Increased pressure on ill teachers to prevent them from taking sick leave; non-enrolling specialist teachers not being replaced.
    Some beginning teachers still complain at not being able to get on a TOC list which could be related to school boards’ concerns about hiring rights.
    Teachers are losing preparation time and cannot take accumulated lost preparation time.
    Lack of access to teacher education programs for the non-certificated people who have a first degree, and; use of teacher assistants to replace teachers.

The overall impact of the current shortage is likely to be a long term problem. It may well exacerbate class size issues. The shortage will likely have an impact upon the learning experience of many students. While this is a North American wide problem, the situation in BC has some of its home grown aspects. Since 2001 the provincial government has been waging a war against teachers and public education. Under the guise of improving standards (I trust I am not alone in my bemusement at the rhetoric of constant improvement that issues forth in ministry missives and a rang e of school and district planning documents) the ministry of education has been preparing the ground to spin off lucrative aspects of the system for private industry and to base everything under the so-called efficiency of the market. By the time they are finished the socio-economic divisions within our society will be so wide that the notion of class mobility will have faded into the realm of the quaint fairy tale.


A detailed article on this subject can be found in the Vancouver Elementary Teachers’ Association newsletter. Download file

Teacher shortage has parents scrambling

Janet Steffenhagen
Vancouver Sun
Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Parents of Grade 1 students at Birchland elementary were surprised this week when their children arrived at their Port Coquitlam school to find no teacher and no substitute.

The school had to scramble to make alternative arrangements, which included having the school secretary, the principal and a resource teacher take turns minding the class.

Birchland is not unusual. Hundreds of B.C. schools have found themselves in similar situations as the usual flu-season shortage of substitute teachers has been exacerbated by a recent hiring spree of full-time teachers intended to address widespread concerns about large classes.

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