Declining enrolment and looming collective agreement negotiations with teachers are two of the biggest challenges facing the public education system in the next few years.
That was the message delivered by provincial Education Minister Kathleen Wynne at People for Education’s annual conference at York on Nov. 4.
Most of the collective agreements with teachers will expire next year and 63 of the province’s 72 school boards will see enrolment decline. Wynne said she hopes neither issue will disturb the stability of the educational system or erode its infrastructure.
Left: Ontario Education Minister Kathleen Wynne. Photo by People for Education
On the plus side, the Ontario government will look into reducing class sizes for those students in Grades 4 to 8 and into providing all-day programs for four- and five-year-olds. Class sizes for students in JK to Grade 3 have already been capped at 20 students per class in this province.
An emphasis on nutrition in schools, increasing support for English as a second language programs, amending the funding formula used to allocate resources to schools and enhancing community use of schools are some of the other issues the government will tackle in the next few years, Wynne said.
York Faculty of Education Dean Paul Axelrod introduced Wynne to conference-goers as an excellent listener who is an educational reformer at heart.
Wynne encouraged members of People for Education to "hold the government’s feet to the fire" in meeting the province’s educational needs. People for Education is a group of parents working to support education in Ontario’s English, French and Catholic schools.
Author John Ralston Saul, the spouse of former Governor General Adrienne Clarkson, also spoke at the conference co-sponsored by York’s Faculty of Education.