Home Local News Québec schools suffer substitute-teacher shortages

Québec schools suffer substitute-teacher shortages

Québec schools suffer substitute-teacher shortages
Renata Isopo

A recent investigation of 20 boards province-wide concluded that schools are experiencing severe shortages of qualified substitutes. Administrators warn of dire consequences if the issue isn’t addressed soon.

Although in principle school systems require substitutes to be certified, school boards now face a multi-pronged crisis that is bound to worsen if solutions are not implemented.

Numerous complaints from administrators decrying this unacceptable situation have surfaced recently. The problem, they say, is intertwined with challenges boards face in predicted shortages of regular teachers, protracted teacher absenteeism, long-term leaves, and the need for up-grading of teachers to meet new demands from the educational reform sweeping the province. These realities signify an elevated demand for certified replacements. Educators have expressed concerns that the situation will be ignored until it reaches crisis proportions, despite the high educational/economic costs of an inadequate substitute-teaching force. 

Scarcity of qualified substitutes

School officials who have asked for anonymity tell TLN that little reliable information exists about policies, and substitutes get little attention, despite substantial bites they take out of the education budget, directly affecting classroom experiences of millions of students.

While classrooms need teachers each day, the substitute shortage is acute despite the centralized AESOP computerized system for securing substitutes. Regular teachers told TLN that Administrators often rely on them to give up their preparation time, for emergency substitution.

The MEQ requirement enunciated several years ago in all school boards that prospective teachers, including substitutes, possess Quebec Teacher Certification, has dramatically reduced the replacement pool. Richard Greschner, Laurier School Board’s Human Resources Director, issued directives in April 2018, that as of July 1, 2018, “all substitute teachers must have a Québec Teacher Permit, Québec Teaching Brevet, or Provisional Teaching Authorization to be registered”. TLN has learned that non-qualified teachers are back as substitutes; the policy is not enforced – no educational restrictions for substitutes. The Laurier Board disregarded its own reform movement of no unqualified (uncertified) substitutes. 

To make matters worse, TLN has learned that Stephanie Krenn, interim Secretary General, has replaced Greschner as Director of Human resources, a turn of events likely to further complicate the issue as continuity is compromised.

Boards may be forced to ease requirements, but stakeholders should not have to tolerate lower standards, a sentiment expressed by a LSA parent. Critics offer solutions:  hire a permanent core with university qualifications, recruit willing/able retired teachers, implement stronger recruiting strategies.

A qualified substitute teacher speaks out

“If certified people aren’t available, minimum standards for substitution without certification must prevail, otherwise, all you have are high-paid babysitters. Many uncertified university graduates  are overlooked, ignored, rarely called. Yet, I know of people who have only high school or vocational diplomas that are called daily – waiters, sales people, homemakers. Nepotism is rampant; school secretaries seem to have much control. It appears one’s education isn’t a priority. As the saying goes,” it’s who you know, not what you know,” says Christine Morozovitch.

“Substitution is overlooked by the MEQ and school boards. Teacher unions don’t seem to care; even though they pay dues, subs are neglected and underrepresented since they aren’t covered by the Teachers Collective Bargaining Agreement. We’re second class citizens, but we are needed. Not having high-quality subs is an issue because students are cheated in the long-run. The MEQ must implement emergency certification programs for substitute teachers with university degrees, something in condensed form,” substitute teacher and university graduate Morozovitch told TLN.

TLN has placed several calls to other boards – English Montreal, Lester Pearson, New Frontiers; no response at press time.. “Lowering standards for substitute teaching is scary”, a Laval teacher who wishes to remain anonymous told TLN, “because they are already low in my school, the reputation of subs is already poor.”