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Education Minister Bill Hogan speaks with reporters on Nov. 30, 2023. Image: Government of New Brunswick YouTube video capture

Long-term recommendations to improve anglophone education sector

By Brad Perry Nov 30, 2023 | 2:50 PM

New Brunswick needs a provincial action plan to address “chronic absenteeism” in the province’s schools.

That was one of the recommendations made by an executive steering committee to help improve the anglophone education system.

Announced on Thursday, the long-term recommendations are meant to build on short-term recommendations made earlier this year.

Education Minister Bill Hogan said some school districts have already started planning ways to address chronic absenteeism.

“We do also have to look at how we engage our students so that as they get older they want to come to school and be actively engaged,” said Hogan.

That involves engaging parents to demonstrate the importance of education, said Hogan.

Another recommendation in the report involves rethinking the approach to “moving students forward without the necessary foundational skills.”

According to the report, several respondents encouraged holding students accountable by establishing clear expectations and boundaries.

“If we retain a student, or a student doesn’t meet the outcomes, then we would look to see how we could catch that student up. That could take a whole variety of situations to make that happen,” said Hogan.

The report also recommends developing a new classroom composition model and a reasonable timeline to implement an improved inclusive and equitable system.

Hogan was asked how that would be possible while respecting class size maximums as per the teachers’ collective agreement.

“There are areas where we can reduce the number of students that have higher needs and give them greater support in a class while placing students that have lesser needs and can achieve better academically in a larger class while respecting the collective agreement at the same time,” he said.

Other recommendations in the report include:

  • Developing a new classroom composition model and a reasonable timeline to implement an improved inclusive and equitable system.
  • Improving retention and recruitment of qualified teachers and specialized health service professionals in education.
  • Establishing a clear plan for strengthening French language learning, including expanding course options and opportunities for high school students, and exploring options for students to enter French immersion with greater flexibility based on readiness.
  • Encouraging movement and getting outside, including embedding 30 minutes of physical education for K-8 daily in addition to outdoor education opportunities.
  • Leveraging technology to enhance learning and personalization.
  • Supporting educational assistants in receiving dedicated training, professional learning, and opportunities to further collaborate with teachers to support the changing needs of students.
  • Ensuring teachers who work with early readers have specific training designed to maximize the development and outcomes of these students.

Formed in April, the executive steering committee is composed of educators, students, the New Brunswick Teachers’ Association and other key groups.

It engaged with education partners through virtual and in-person sessions and received feedback from more than 3,000 New Brunswickers through an online survey.

“Teachers look forward to hearing the details of this commitment from the government to strengthen public education in New Brunswick,” said Ardith Shirley, executive director of the New Brunswick Teachers’ Association.

“We look forward to the implementation plans and government funding for all of these recommendations.”

Hogan said the department will develop implementation plans and an accountability framework for the following actions by March 31, 2024.