Opinion

Class sizes on decrease

The province is heralding its success in reducing class sizes across B.C. in its second annual report on class size.

“This government has taken a number of steps to address concerns about learning conditions, including putting firm limits in place on class size and composition,” said Education Minister Shirley Bond.

According to the data released in the recent report, class size averages came down in every school district in B.C. year, with more than 95 per cent of all classes having 30 or fewer students.

Only 85 classes in Grades 4 to 7 this year had more than 30 students compared to 648 in 2005/06 – a decrease of 87 per cent. Under Bill 33, each Grade 4-7 class with more than 30 students requires the consent of the classroom teacher.

Bond underlined “that there are more classes, teachers, librarians and special education assistants at the same time that there are fewer students.”

The number of classes with students with four or more special needs decreased by almost 1,400 compared to last year. Bill 33 requires that the principal must consult with the classroom teacher for each class with more than three students with special needs.

School districts now have a deadline to report class size data to the ministry by Oct. 15 each year. The report includes the number of students at each grade level in each class, the number of students with special needs in each class and the number of ESL students. 

Chilliwack Teachers’ Association president June McKellar said that on behalf of teachers she would like to thank the government for the class size legislation.

“First and foremost teachers are really happy that Bill 33 is in place because it’s started to turn things around,” she said. “But we think there’s still a way to go, especially since it came through without the money to fund it.”

The school district is already doing “more with less” she said, and both the government and the district are still not focused on one of the main problems, which is class composition.

“In some ways (the news release) was the usual flash and dazzle from the ministry,” McKellar said.

She found it interesting that in the past the Education Ministry has reported class sizes in October.

“To put it out now, there’s not a lot of time to do anything about those teachers still struggling with large classes,” she said. “Regarding the classes with more than 30 students in them, I can assure you that every one of those is a secondary class in Chilliwack.”

It’s significant because under the legislation elementary teachers had to consent to have more students, while secondary teachers only had to be consulted about it, she noted.

The CTA rep had kudos in general for the Chilliwack school board for making sure classes were within the specified limits, with no primary classes going over the limit of 30.

“We didn’t have elementary teachers having to agonize. But that was not the case for some secondary teachers,” she added.

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