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Urgent investments needed in schools: teachers’ association

By Brad Perry Feb 20, 2024 | 6:33 AM

New Brunswick teachers say they want to see urgent investments in the upcoming provincial budget.

The New Brunswick Teachers’ Association (NBTA) has made its annual budget submission to the province.

President Peter Legacy said staffing levels are one of their three priority areas, in addition to classroom composition and healthy schools.

“We’ve got around 2,224 contract teachers who are certainly eligible in the next five years, and currently we only have 155 certified supply teachers under the age of 50,” Legacy said in a recent interview.

Legacy also pointed to a recent study from the University of New Brunswick’s New Brunswick Institute for Research, Data and Training which showed the province faces a looming teacher shortage amid retirements and population growth.

The study found just over half of bachelor of education (BEd) graduates in New Brunswick do not end up taking teaching jobs in the province.

It also shows about eight per cent of teachers leave the system within five years of starting work, although about 96 per cent of them remained in New Brunswick, suggesting they might be available to return to the classroom.

Legacy said the province needs to develop a comprehensive strategy for teacher retention and recruitment in order to address this.

The president said there also needs to be investments in classroom composition, such as more funding for teacher roles dedicated to supporting complex academic cases.

“We have more students with complex cases and some of the mental health stats that we see are certainly alarming and we’ve still got learning gaps from interrupted schools during the pandemic,” said Legacy.

NBTA recommends the province commit to reducing elementary-level class sizes so homeroom teachers can better respond to more diverse and complex student needs.

When it comes to healthy schools, Legacy said they want to see the province deal with overcrowding in schools and ongoing issues with air quality.

The association is also recommending more guidance teachers and regular access to school-based professional services, such as public health nurses, social workers, and speech-language pathologists.

The 2024-25 provincial budget is due to be released in March.