Bill 36 – end of standard school year

Introduction and
First Reading of Bills

Bill 36 — School Amendment Act, 2012

Hon. G. Abbott presented a message from His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor: a bill intituled School Amendment Act, 2012.

Hon. G. Abbott: I am pleased to introduce the School Amendment Act, which will support B.C.’s education plan by removing barriers to personalized learning and providing students and parents with greater flexibility and choice.

First, the legislation will eliminate the standard school calendar as of the 2013-2014 school year to enable school districts to offer more creative scheduling options that would better meet the need of their students.


Second, the legislation will increase choice by allowing kindergarten to grade 9 students to enrol in a mix of bricks and mortar and distance learning courses.

Third, the legislation will clarify that boards of education can charge fees to offset the extra costs associated with international baccalaureate

HSE – 20120426 PM 005/bah/1350

by allowing kindergarten-to-grade-9 students to enrol in a mix of bricks-and-mortar and distance-learning courses. Third, the legislation will clarify that boards of education can charge fees to offset the extra costs associated with international baccalaureate programs.

Furthermore, the legislation requires districts to establish financial hardship policies for students who might otherwise be excluded from these programs.

I move that the bill be placed on the orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.

Mr. Speaker: Hon. Member, we first have to move first reading.

Hon. G. Abbott: So moved, Mr. Speaker.

Motion approved.

Hon. G. Abbott: I move it be placed on the orders of the day for consideration at the next sitting of the House after today.

Motion approved.

Draft legislation.


Tuition and Post Secondary Education

Recent events by UBC’s AMS executive have brought the question of tuition fees into the public light.  The students have focused on the manner by which their executive did this.  Leaving aside student political infighting the fact remains that tuition fees and the associated costs of post secondary education in Canada have been flying up with the net result of narrowing the window of accessibility.  For many students this is not much of a problem as they rely upon parental resources to both prepare them for university and to fund them while they are at university.  But and especially in the face of a growing downturn in the global economy tuition becomes a structural barrier to those potential students without parental resources.

I’ll pause right here to acknowledge all of the people who have pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps, the Jimmy Pattersons of this world who provide the content to the story that if only you try hard enough anythings is possible.  I will also acknowledge that there are indeed a variety of funding programs from scholarships to bursaries that attempt to open the door a little bit wider for those who are seen to merit it.  All this being said the structures of class power and privilege are such that unless they are explicitly targeted these structures still work (in spite of the one off examples) to exclude many people from accessing post secondary education.

The Ubyssey wrote about what they have called the tuition debacle (not debate) in which mention is made to the doubling of tuition fees at UBC since 2002, student protests elsewhere, and the avenues open to students to engage on this issue. Yet there was a tone to the article that seemed to suggest the issue of tuition fees isn’t really that important to many UBC students.  One wonders.

Homework -the perenial issue

Homework, and how much of it, is a perennial issue in education and parent circles.  There doesn’t seem to be a happy medium.  Many educators say there is too much homework, but it is being demanded from parents. But then one comes across stories like the one quoted below about the Calgary couple who found that there was too much homework being issued from the school.

A Calgary couple signed a unique contract with a school this week that prevents teachers from giving their children homework, the Calgary Herald reports. Tom and ShelliMilley negotiated the deal because their pre-teen kids were spending as many as three hours each evening on homework, the paper says. (Read the full story on Janet Steffenhagen’s blog: Calgary couple signs no-homework deal with school – Report Card)

In the Calgary story is seems that a policy designed in the school to limit homework -a quota of 10 minutes per night- became transformed into ten minutes per subject per night.  The net effect was an ordeal of several hours of home work for the Calgary family’s young children.

Of course, ‘ordeal’ might sound a bit much and when one reads of the couple’s jam-packed itinerary for their kids it might be that they had a bit much already on the go.  Nonetheless, the issue of how much, what kind, and how effective remains a continuing debate -especially in the elementary grades.

I certainly recall the issues around homework for my sons in the primary grades, especially the feared ‘dictee’ practice for my son who was in French Immersion.  I also recall being critical of the route learning approach and the clerical nature (i.e. recopy such and such) of a lot of that earlier homework.  There is a place for doing activities at home which support learning in the classroom.  However, I am of the opinion that what is most important are activities such as reading to one’s children, engaging in activities that combine literacy and/or numeracy activities in play,  guided support of in-class activities and all of this supplemented by activities outside of the home that involve more than organized sports or extracurricular lessons.

There is much to be said about unstructured play and exploration outside.  Yet, the culture of fear (see also) has corralled parenting activities into organized supervised scripted activities.  It’s time that we support our children in finding their own capacities and opportunities through less scripting and letting them have the gift of failure at a stage in life when it is a benefit and not a risk.  Releasing children from an over burden of homework, from overly scripted activities, and into unstructured activities outside of the garrison that has become the North American home is ultimately in our children’s best interests.

Ouch! UBC Media Specialist Blows It

Maria Loscerbo, a communications consultant (and amateur pilot, skier and media consultant to the premier on youth issues, and a range of other random google traces . . .) working for the  Human Early Learning Partnership, really blew it and has drawn the ire of the Vancouver Sun’s education reporter, Janet Steffenhagen.  Drawing the wagons close she ‘inadvertently’  sent an email to Steffenhagen that basically tells a UBC research group to keep their mouths shut until they craft a common story (see email below).    Ms Loscerbo apparently holds not special concern for UBC staff communications personal either as she unceremoniously implies that Senior Manager, Privacy, Strategic Operations (Mapping) & Knowledge Management, Michele Wiens jumped the gun.

Steffenhagen posted the errant email on her blog with her own commentary on the matter:

Here’s my suggestion: Nobody should return Janet’s phone call until we decide what to do – Janet will probably try to call Clyde first, then Paul and Joanne.
“Let it go to voicemail, or, if you accidentally answer the call (Janet works from home so her actual name should show on your call display) , simply say you’re ‘not available to talk right now and will get back to her’. Get her coordinates and call me. Then we plan next steps, ideally schedule an interview with Clyde for Monday.

“Michele didn’t release any new EDI data – only background info that has already been published so we’re okay.”

Loscerbo quickly phoned to apologize. She said she is a communications specialist organizing release of the information, and the organization is not ready to talk about the new EDI. Wiens had “jumped the gun,” she added.

Read the full storyy: Avoiding my calls at UBC – Report Card

By the way Janet, I’ll answer your phone calls without having to call upon a high-price consultant to tell me to be quiet.

What’s Happening to U Hill Schools?

Future in doubt for two new schools

There’s no word on whether two new public schools slated for the University of British Columbia area will be part of infrastructure spending recently announced by the provincial government.

On March 17 Premier Gordon Campbell announced the B.C. government would spend an additional $424 million on new schools and school renovations.

But the Ministry of Education will not confirm if an elementary and secondary school to replace the University Hill schools will receive funding.

BC Budget and U Hill Rebuilding Plan

Education and the 2009 budget – Report Card

It’s always a challenge in the lockup to figure out what money is “new” and what has been announced previously. Take the capital spending, for example. The budget promises $1.3 billion over three years to replace, renovate or expand K-12 facilities (including seismic upgrades). But as we found out, that is for projects already planned or underway.

This might suggest that the rebuilding of U Hill has been delayed for three years. If K-12 capital project (i.e. building) is for planed or underway projects U Hill is out of consideration in terms of the ‘underway’ category. We would need some details to understand what constitutes fitting under the ‘planned’ category. Does the fact that there is not agreement in principle in place at this time for U Hill mean that it is outside of the ‘planned’ category? Let’s hope not.

VSB on U Hill Delay

UBC/UEL capital project bylaw delayed – News and Media Releases

UBC/UEL capital project bylaw delayed

Vancouver, B.C. – (February 16, 2009) – Vancouver’s Board of Education has delayed passage of the capital project bylaw for new secondary and elementary school facilities within the University Hill Secondary School catchment area pending approval from the Ministry of Education.

The bylaw, which was scheduled to be introduced this evening, would authorize the school district to convert and expand the existing National Research Council (NRC) building for a secondary school and construct a new elementary school on the current site of University Hill Secondary School.

The Vancouver school district has completed and submitted all work required to move the project forward, but is yet to receive approval from the Ministry for the capital project bylaw.

The Vancouver Superintendent of Schools, along with other members of senior staff, is in contact with Ministry officials concerning the delay in this project. Trustees will also be writing to Minister of Education Shirley Bond to request a status update and communicate the urgent need for project approval.

It is the Board’s expectation that the capital project approval process will be expedited by the Ministry so that the capital project bylaw can be brought to an upcoming board meeting.

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