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

Sexual assault stories from treeplanting camps ‘shocking but not surprising’

Contractors’ association is working with trainers to create respectful culture

Interior Health leading the way with innovative therapy for stroke patients

Percentage of ischemic stroke patients who received treatment has risen dramatically

School District 6 announces new superintendent

Karen Shipka will be taking on superintendent’s job this August

RDEK financial plan up for public comment

Taxes could increase $12 per home on average.

Matching workers with jobs

Job and Entrepreneur Fair left employers, job seekers and organizers pleased.

Two law enforcement trucks ‘deliberately’ set on fire in northern B.C., RCMP say

Police say they have video evidence of a person in the area of the truck fires

B.C. mother, daughter return home after coronavirus quarantine in Asia

Jensine Morabito and her daughter were on Holland America’s Westerdam but did not catch the virus

Leap Year means we get an extra day in February, so how are you spending it?

People online have a number of suggestions and plans on how they will be spending Saturday

Greta sticker that drew outrage in Alberta not child pornography: RCMP

X-Site Energy Services has denied having anything to do with the stickers

Bald eagle hit by train in northern B.C. has a chance of survival

The raptor has been taken to OWL in the Lower Mainland for recovery

Cheslatta Carrier Nation and Rio Tinto sign a historic agreement

Co-operation crucial to stem dropping Nechako Reservoir level

Hundreds of B.C. firefighters ‘climb the wall’ for BC Lung Association

The charity fundraiser saw participants climbing up 48 storeys

Lawyer gets house arrest for possessing child porn

Maple Ridge resident gets nine-month term

Most Read