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B.C. education system suffering as teachers in worse health, working more: survey

BCTF commission survey that calls on government to improve recruitment

A BC Teachers’ Federation survey finds that teachers are in worse health and working more in the face of “critical personnel shortages” that are also impacting students – and the union president is calling for “meaningful strategies.”

These findings appear in what the BCTF calls its first annual membership survey after having asked Leger to survey teachers about their well-being and working conditions.

According to the survey, just under two-thirds of teachers report that their workload is greater now compared to a year ago. About the same report experiencing more stress this year. These conditions have reduced well-being among teachers while causing burnout with significant effects for teachers and the broader school community.

“The impacts of poor mental and physical health are felt across the public education system,” it reads.

BCTF president Clint Johnston said the findings show a critical need for school districts and the provincial government to introduce what he calls “meaningful strategies” for recruiting and retaining teachers before they burn out.

“Teachers are doing their best to make it work, but without significant staffing increases, the pressures on them are unsustainable,” he said. “Our public educators believe passionately in providing students with the best education possible and could do so much more with the full support of school districts and the B.C. government.”

Johnston said government has introduced some positive hiring and training strategies for nurses, doctors and other professions that played pivotal roles during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Now it’s time to fix the teacher shortage,” he said.

The worsening health and well-being of teachers appears against the backdrop of teacher shortages, which has a direct impact on students and other teachers.

The survey found that 81.5 per cent of teachers have been directly impacted by staffing shortages at their school or district, which leads to not only a greater workload, but also less time for preparation.

“Teachers are concerned that there are gaps in student learning due to inconsistent or uncertified staffing or emergency coverage by teachers with limited subject/grade level experience.”

Those shortages particularly impact students with disabilities or diverse needs as teachers find themselves unable to access the support to which students are entitled.

RELATED: No easy fix for rise of uncertified teachers in BC schools: BCTF

The report notes that declining working conditions will also have a negative impact on recruitment and retention.

Education Minister Rachna Singh said in a statement she recognizes the challenges facing teachers following the pandemic and global labour shortages.

“In my recent conversations with the BCTF, I have heard first-hand about the work teachers do everyday to support students and while that work is very rewarding, I’ve also learned about the challenges some teachers are facing.”

Global labour shortages are impacting school districts across the province, Singh said, adding B.C. plans to recruit and train more teachers by adding 250 new openings in teacher education programs and streamlining certification for educators trained internationally to work in B.C.

She added the needs are different across the province. B.C. is putting forward $12.5 million through the Future Ready Skills Plan to boost rural and northern teacher recruitment, retention and training to support the recruitment and retention of Indigenous teachers.


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Wolf Depner

About the Author: Wolf Depner

I joined the national team with Black Press Media in 2023 from the Peninsula News Review, where I had reported on Vancouver Island's Saanich Peninsula since 2019.
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