APRIL 11, 2016
TO: All Teachers
RE: Update on Status of Report and Recommendations from the Inclusive Education Committee
The joint NLTA/Department of Education and Early Childhood Development Inclusive Education Committee established under Clause 30.02 of the Provincial Collective Agreement to review the resourcing of the Inclusive Schools initiative was supposed to bring a report and recommendations by February 29, 2016. This memo is to advise teachers that the Committee has not been able to reach agreement on a report and recommendations despite timeline extensions until March 31, 2016. Regrettably, the NLTA has reached the conclusion that the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development is unwilling to include meaningful recommendations on allocations as part of a committee report – allocations are fundamental to resourcing inclusive schools and meeting the needs of students with special needs. As such, the NLTA does not believe that Government has been acting in good faith in compliance with the Provincial Collective Agreement obligation concerning Clause 30.02 and has filed the appropriate grievance.
During negotiations on the 2012-16 NLTA Provincial Collective Agreement, the Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers’ Association brought forward proposals on teacher allocations. In making these proposals the NLTA explained that the current level of allocations is insufficient to meet student needs in the context of Government’s Inclusive Schools Initiative. The NLTA pointed to lengthy delays/wait times for children to be assessed for learning disabilities; the increased number of children with special needs who are unable to obtain adequate supports and/or have lost support when students with greater needs were identified or entered the school; the increasing number of students struggling with mental health challenges; and the increase in incidents of student violence and aggression in our schools as evidence of the need for additional supports. It has been the position of the NLTA that the Inclusive Schools Initiative is beneficial for students only if properly resourced.
While these concerns with teacher allocations were not addressed in the last Collective Agreement, there was agreement to form a joint NLTA/Department of Education and Early Childhood Development Inclusive Education Committee to review the resourcing of the Inclusive Schools Initiative with a mandate to bring forth a report and recommendations by no later than February 29, 2016. The Committee determined that its required report would include recommendations under three themes: Service Delivery, Allocations, and Deployment.
The NLTA was particularly interested in recommendations on allocations for Instructional Resource Teachers, Guidance Counsellors and Educational Psychologists. Government argued, after seven years of piloting inclusive education, that insufficient data was available to support recommendations on allocations for Instructional Resource Teachers, Guidance Counsellors and Educational Psychologists. The NLTA proposed a mechanism to extend the Committee’s mandate, thereby allowing their work to be completed. However, this suggestion was rejected by Government. After 16 meetings and many conversations, the NLTA has reached the conclusion that the government is unprepared to include meaningful recommendations on allocations as part of a committee report.
As part of its work, the Committee conducted research on inclusive schools. The recent Moore v. British Columbia decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in which a school district was found to have discriminated against a learning disabled student by removing supports for budgetary reasons was reviewed. Over 1,900 NL teachers responded to a survey seeking their professional opinion on matters of inclusion and to gain insight into the realities of our children’s classrooms. The NLTA commissioned an independent analysis of the qualitative survey results which included the following concerns and challenges identified by NL teachers:
Strengths of the Inclusive Schools Initiative
- Allows all students to interact, learn and play with their peers/greater sense of belonging/attempts to address the needs of all students/feel part of the classroom and school community
Challenges with the Inclusive Schools Initiative
- Not enough funding/human resources/support overall for this initiative
- Without adequate supports, students with behavioral issues are disruptive to overall teaching and learning environment
Most prevalent reasons inhibiting effective implementation of Individual Education Plans (IEPs) for students in my classroom
- Too little support/human resources/classes too large overall to effectively implement IEPs
- Too many demands /not enough time to help everyone (especially for one-on-ones)
- Not enough student assistants or IRTs to fully cover the needs/they are spread too thin
Most prevalent reasons inhibiting ability to provide academic intervention for struggling students in my classroom
- Too many students with diverse needs in class to always help those struggling academically/class size is too large/I do my best but not possible to address all needs
- Lack of time/too much paperwork/overworked now/too many other issues and demands
- Have to meet the needs of IEP students first so rarely have time/some students consume more time/some struggling students are falling through the cracks
Most prevalent comments regarding allocations
- Instructional Resource Teachers
- Pervasive students with behavioural issues getting most of the IRT time vs. those with academic issues or learning disorders who are falling through the cracks
- Need more IRTs/far too few for the number of students with exceptionalities
- Guidance Counsellors
- Too many needs/responsibilities placed on one guidance counsellor/they are spread too thin
- Increasing mental health issues among students that take up GC’s time
- Educational Psychologists, Speech-Language Pathologists
- Shared between too many schools/spread too thin/caseload too high/very infrequent visits/small amount of time spent with students/delays in assessments
- Increased needs re mental health issues
- Need more SLPs
- District Level Personnel
- Shared between too many schools/spread too thin/caseload too high
Teachers are very concerned with their ability to meet their professional and ethical responsibilities to students and parents in an under-resourced inclusive school environment. Under the current “needs-based” approach, when emerging needs are identified, the needs of all students in a school are reassessed and existing supports are redeployed to the students with the greatest needs. This can result in reduction or removal of existing supports for students with previously identified needs. In addition to students with identified needs not getting the required supports, there is a growing backlog of students waiting for the assessments required to determine their eligibility for supports. The Department of Education and Early Childhood Development was unable to provide the Committee with an accurate number of students who are waiting to be assessed. Teachers take seriously their professional responsibility to advocate for supports necessary for students to be successful in school. Teachers feel it is their ethical duty to inform parents when supports in place for their children are reduced or removed and when there is little likelihood that required assessments will be carried out in a timely fashion. It was the NLTA’s hope that the joint NLTA/Department of Education and Early Childhood Development Inclusive Education Committee established under Clause 30.02 of the Provincial Collective Agreement would bring a report and recommendations that would assist teachers in addressing these issues and meeting the needs of students in inclusive classrooms and schools. This does not appear to be the case at this time, so the NLTA will seek resolution through the grievance dispute resolution process under the collective agreement.
The Association will keep teachers informed on the progress of the grievance and other relevant information related to this matter.