By Heather Maddocks
The Progressive Conservative government refuses to acknowledge an apparent teacher shortage in London, despite claims made by both the New Democratic Party and teachers.
Many teachers in Ontario are being encouraged to take early retirement to save money, said Marion Boyd, NDP Member of Provincial Parliament from London Centre. The government has done this by changing the formula used to calculate when a teacher is eligible for retirement, she added.
"There is now a discrepancy between the number of teachers needed and the number of teachers we have now," Boyd said. The need for teachers is so great people are being promised teaching positions before they even graduate, she explained.
Despite Boyd's claims, Diane Cunningham, minister of intergovernmental affairs and MPP for London North Centre, said she is convinced there will be enough teachers to meet the needs.
"In the big picture we are not anticipating any teaching shortages," she said, citing the difficulties people have had in the last 10 years finding teaching jobs.
Peter Askey, superintendent of corporate planning and communications at the Thames Valley District School Board disagreed. "Teachers are now feeling undervalued, class sizes are larger." In short, they are induced to take the early retirement offered, he added.
"There is a need to increase the number of applicants to the faculty of education, to increase class sizes and funding for the training of new teachers and attract back those who have teaching certificates who have not been teaching," Boyd explained.
Rebecca Coulter, associate dean of the faculty of education at Western, said student enrolment is already at full capacity. "We need increased funding to hire more instructors, better facilities and more applicants to areas such as French, broad-based technologies, math, chemistry, physics, business and computing," she said.
Coutler said the teacher shortage will benefit students graduating from the faculty of education. "Students graduating from the faculty of education will have more jobs, more choice and will be hired sooner than later."
Things are being done to solve this serious problem, Askey said. "We have to make sure we get aggressive in terms of recruitment. We have to get into the faculties of education to advise them of the Thames Valley District opportunities."