Education minister promises more resources for teachers
Newfoundland and Labrador Education and Early Childhood Development minister Dale Kirby says he’s been talking to teachers, parents and students while helping develop plans for the province’s education.
Kirby presented a speech to the Clarenville Rotary club on Monday, with members of the Chamber of Commerce in attendance.
In his address, which heavily focused on advancing technology in education, Kirby went over the 2018 provincial budget, the Premier’s task force on education, and the soon-to-come action plan resulting from the task force.
An example of one of the upcoming improvements in schools is funds allotted over the next three-year period for more teacher librarians, as well as teaching and learning assistants (or teacher’s aides who work alongside the teachers), and reading specialists.
“It’s a renewed focus for the province for the K-to-12 system now on basics, by-and-large, reading and mathematics,” said Kirby in his speech.
In an interview with The Packet, he elaborated on these plans.
“If you go back and look at the task force report and what they recommended, there’s no doubt there are deficiencies in the inclusive education model that have been identified long ago,” Kirby said. “One of the things we’re going to do now and catch up with the rest of North America is introduce this new role in schools called teaching and learning assistants.”
Kirby says these resources will help teachers deliver their lesson plans, and while there won’t be one in a given classroom 100 per cent of the time, each teacher will have scheduled number of hours with an assistant throughout the school week.
“That will go a long way to alleviating some of the pressures because you’ll still have student assistants as well.”
Kirby says, in addition, with school-based reading specialists problems can be addressed at an early grade, with the intention of preventing students from advancing fairly far through school with deficiencies in reading below grade level.
He added, these positions will help free up time for other positions in the schools.
He says they’re also going to ensure teachers have the tools they need to effectively teach the students in areas like technology and other innovative sciences.
“We’ve got quite a lot that’s happening, now we’re going to provide more resources,” he said in his address to Rotary.
Kirby also claimed that the public perception the province is “going bankrupt” is not based on “sense or fact.”
Using upcoming spending in his department as an example, he added there were five brand new schools opened in the province last year, two repurposed or refurbished facilities and one in Miawpukek First Nation in Conne River.
He says there is $200 million marked by the government for new school infrastructure and repairs and maintenance over the next five years — $43 million this year alone.
Locally, while over the past couple of school years many parents have lobbied for solutions at Riverside Elementary — which has had complaints of overcrowding — both Kirby and Terra Nova MHA Colin Holloway, who was in attendance, say they believe the matter is settled for the time being.
In the interview after the meeting, Kirby said the modular classroom additions addressed the capacity issue.
He says there are no further expansion plans, but he doesn’t know what the school district will propose for upgrades next year.
“The way it happens is the school districts… will submit their proposals for infrastructure improvements, or whatever, and then they prioritize it.”
Holloway added this year there are 100 fewer students in Riverside and the cafeteria scheduling has helped.
“That congestion issue is not the same today as then,” said Holloway.
The school has recently received a new gymnasium floor as an infrastructure upgrade.
“I’ve talked to the parents (and administration) and I don’t think they have the same level of concern as they had last year. But if it becomes an issue again, it’s something that we will work with school board to (remedy).”
The province’s education action plan is expected to be released before the end of this school year.
Education and Early Childhood Development Minister Dale Kirby at Rotary in Clarenville on Monday.