A B.C. school district is looking for people to work on call to fill in for absent teachers, but they don't need a teacher's certificate. All that is required is a university degree, experience working with young people and a criminal background check. This comes as the province grapples with hiring more teachers because of a recent Supreme Court of Canada ruling.
The North Okanagan-Shuswap School District, in Salmon Arm, B.C, advertised on Facebook earlier this week for people to fill the gap in the classroom.
"Teacher replacements will perform the normal duties of a teacher such as instruction, supervision, lesson preparation and marking for the day's assignments. It is expected that they will follow directions provided by the regular classroom teacher and the school principal," the post read.
The posting from the school district in B.C.'s Interior comes as a hiring frenzy has gripped the province's public schools after a Supreme Court of Canada ruling that settled a long-running dispute between teachers and the former provincial government. The ruling restored clauses related to class size and composition that the former Liberal government had stripped from teachers' contracts in 2002.
The ruling has required the province to restore about 3,500 teaching positions. The government has said that more than 90 per cent of postings have been filled.
Peter Jory, superintendent at the North Okanagan-Shuswap district, said in an e-mail that the practice of hiring non-certified replacement teachers to cover classes is not uncommon, especially for certain specialty areas. The district's posting stated that it needed replacements at all levels of schooling and with specialized disciplines that included music, French immersion, social studies, math, and physical and health education.
"We have put out a posting to explore this possibility during a time of need, as we have a number of our current [substitute teachers] doing contractual remedy work, and because some are unavailable due to personal reasons," Mr. Jory said.
He added that a replacement would only be called after it was determined there were no substitute teachers available to fill the absenteeism and, "even then, only for short periods of time."
In an e-mail statement, B.C.'s Ministry of Education said the use of non-certified adults in the classroom, who are rigorously screened, has existed for many years in small and remote communities, which is a "responsible approach" to address teacher absences.
The ministry also stated that the government has set up a task force to look at the issue of teacher recruitment and retention.
Its findings are expected soon.
The B.C. Teachers' Federation (BCTF) agrees that it is not unusual for rural and remote districts to have non-certified instructors on call for a limited period of time because of a shortage of supply teachers.
However, those positions are to temporarily fill some specialty jobs or specific curricular areas, BCTF president Glen Hansman said.
"But what we have in North Okanagan-Shuswap, it's just regular classroom positions like art jobs, social studies or Grade 4," he said.
Mr. Hansman described this as "an unusual year" in the province with public school boards scrambling to fill teaching positions.
The Vancouver School Board, for example, cut French immersion spaces for kindergarten students because of a teacher shortage and the Supreme Court ruling to lower class sizes.
In many districts, when a classroom teacher is absent, principals are redeploying special-education teachers or school counsellors to fill the void, Mr. Hansman said.
"Students, in particular students with special needs, shouldn't be shouldering the burden for what can be resolved if a proper amount of dollars are spent," he said. "We are very concerned, not just in [the North Okanagan-Shuswap] school district, but there seem to be more drawing upon non-certified teachers for positions still sitting unfilled."