Vulnerable students are waiting in limbo for supplemental aid, teachers say

Teacher Pascale L'Heureux talks to a student through an individual plexiglass shield at the Marie-Claire Academy in Montreal, on Monday, August 31, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

Despite supplemental aid having been promised to vulnerable students during the coronavirus pandemic, the province's teachers federation (FAE) say teachers and education specialists are still waiting for it.

According to a consultation the Federation conducted last month that 1,500 of its members participated in, more than 80 per cent of responders in the public network had not observed any increase in services offered in schools since the start of the school year.

Worse, some (around 40 per cent of them) reported a decrease.

Only 10 per cent of responders said they were satisfied with the measures in place in their establishment to support students who need to catch up.

Without help, teachers say their burden is too heavy and they are overwhelmed – and exhausted according to reports. Many educators teach both remotely and in classes and have had to personally disinfect rooms and equipment in addition to teaching every day.

“Students have no service whatsoever in virtual school: no resource specialists or professional services even if they have a very important intervention plan,” wrote one teacher in response to the consultation.

This FAE consultation aimed to better understand the pedagogical needs of teaching personnel during the COVID-19 pandemic and to verify the real effects of the additional measures announced by the ministry of Education in its back-to-school plan.

For example, in mid-August, minister of Education Jean-Francois Roberge announced $20 million to hire more teachers, professionals and tutors to organize catch-up activities, recovery and homework aid. It was also meant to better support for students in trouble and those with learning difficulties. In the past, the ministry announced $18.7 million to hire 350 new teachers, education specialists, psychologists, and psychoeducators.

The FAE is putting pressure on the minister to intervene quickly and offer students the services they need. 

“The gathered responses show the urgency of intervening rapidly in order to alleviate the considerable impacts of the pandemic on the pedagogical practices of teachers as well as their health,” said FAE vice-president Nathalie Morel.

“The current health crisis exacerbated the difficult conditions in which educators work.”

The FAE includes nine unions who represent almost 49,000 teachers, working most notably in pre-school, primary and secondary education.

-- this report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 12, 2020.

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