COPE and Vision Vancouver school trustee candidates will make class size a priority if elected, said Vision mayoral candidate Gregor Robertson, at an announcement outside Sir Charles Tupper school today.
“The NPA Vancouver Board of Education has failed to make progress reducing class sizes in the past three years. In fact, the situation has worsened,” said Robertson. “We’ve had a failure of leadership from the NPA trustees in advocating for the needs of Vancouver students, and we’re seeing the results in hundreds of overcrowded classrooms and far too many unsupported students with special needs.”
Since 2006, the number of secondary classes with over 30 students has gone from 498 to 586 – an increase of 18 per cent.
Classes with more than four students with special needs have increased from 795 to 1088 – a 37 per cent increase since 2006. This means there are nearly 52,000 high school students in classes that exceed the specifications of The School Act.
Despite these numbers, NPA trustees voted in October to accept these classes as “appropriate for student learning,” while COPE trustees Allan Wong and Al Blakey, along with Vision trustee Sharon Gregson, voted no and urged the board to go back and do better.
“A Social Studies 10 class with 37 students including four with special needs or an English 11 class of 31 students with six students needing their own Individual Education Plans are not ‘appropriate’,” said COPE candidate Bill Bargeman. “These are only two examples of many, many such classes.”
While the situation in elementary schools is better, with no classes exceeding legislated size limits, the number of classes with four or more students with special needs has increased from 80 to 90 in the past year.
Patti Bacchus, a Vision Vancouver candidate and long-time parent advocate for students with special needs, pointed out that learning conditions have worsened during the NPA term and services for students with special needs have taken a disproportionate hit from staff cuts.
“The NPA-dominated board has blindly stated that all these classes are appropriate for student learning and we know that is not the case – there are far too many students with special needs who are not receiving the support they need,” said Bacchus.
“The key is standing up for our students, parents and schools and making the case that funding for public education must cover real costs including classes that are truly appropriate for student learning,” said Bargeman. “A COPE and Vision Board will look at the budget with a keen eye to reallocating resources back to the classroom.”