Teachers are applauding a decision by the BC Court of Appeal that requires principals and superintendents to ensure that any oversize classes are appropriate for student learning throughout the school year, not just on a particular day at the beginning of the year.
“This is an extremely important decision because it means that the legal obligation to ensure a class is appropriate for student learning continues beyond September 30,” said BCTF President Susan Lambert. “Principals and superintendents must reconsider their determination of appropriateness if the classroom conditions change, or if promised resources or assistance are not provided or are withdrawn during the school year.”
Since 2002, when the BC Liberals stripped class-size and composition language from the teachers’ collective agreements, thousands of teachers have filed grievances in an effort to ensure the teaching and learning conditions in their classrooms are workable. About 15,000 outstanding grievances for 2006–11 remain unresolved.
This case began in 2009, when a teacher in Alberni filed a grievance regarding her Grade 5 class, which had more than the legally allowed number of students with Individual Education Plans (IEPs). Recognizing that the class was not appropriate for student learning, the teacher was provided with an integration support aide. However, the frequent and prolonged absence of the aide made providing appropriate education much more difficult and breached a promise made at the beginning of the school year.
“We’re gratified that the Court of Appeal has upheld our position that teachers have the right to grieve unacceptable class-size and composition, and that appropriate learning conditions must be upheld throughout the school year,” said Lambert. “We are determined to restore these stripped provisions because we know that contractual guarantees are the best way to ensure that students’ needs can be met in classes that are manageable. Both teachers and the public expect changes.”
BCTF public opinion research released last week shows strong public support for restoring contractual language to limit class sizes. Nine out of ten British Columbians believe it is important that BC teachers have a contract that protects learning conditions, and 84% believe that restoration of the right to negotiate learning and working conditions is important. In addition, 70% believe funding for public schools is too low.