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NS teachers receive less prep time than majority of their Canadian counterparts

Teachers require an appropriate amount of time to plan, prepare and practice to ensure they can fully, consistently support and engage all of their students.

Teaching is like any other profession – solid preparation increases the chances for success. So, it’s crucial that teachers are given the time they need to be ready to meet the needs of each and every student they support.

Unfortunately, Nova Scotia’s teachers get less marking and prep time than the majority of their professional peers across Canada. In fact, teachers in our province only have about half the time to prepare as those in Ontario and Quebec.

Factor in that class size caps in Nova Scotia are at best middle of the pack compared to the rest of the country, what you end up with is a public education system where teachers’ time is being stretched to the limit. The fallout is professionals that are overworked and overtired because they are being pulled in a thousand different directions.

As of right now, Nova Scotia teachers have about 30 minutes* a day (total) to plan lessons, mark student work, input data, develop activities and collaborate with a range of specialists in order to support classrooms packed to the brim with students with an overwhelming range of abilities and needs.

For an elementary class of 20 students this works out to just 90 seconds a day per student. For high school teachers who regularly teach more than 100 students a day, time per student drops to less than half a minute per day. For specialists who teach physical education, music, art and French second language who support an entire school population (or more), daily time per student can be measured in eye blinks.

Clearly this is not fair to teachers and their students.

For teachers working outside of the Halifax area, this has been a longstanding issue. They are well accustomed to the challenges an unfair level of prep time creates. Up until recently, things were somewhat better for many teachers inside the HRM who often received additional prep time at schools where resources allowed for it. This is one of the factors in the achievement gap between students in metro and rural Nova Scotia.

Unfortunately, the past several months have seen the Halifax Regional Centre for Education order an end to any extra prep time for all teachers. Once again, instead of trying to lift everyone up, the McNeil government is engaged in a race to the bottom. Where before it was only unfair for some, the government has ensured that things are equally poor for everyone.

Ultimately, all teachers across our province require an appropriate amount of time to plan, prepare and practice to ensure they can fully, consistently support and engage all of their students. How could 90 seconds per day for each student possibly empower them to do that?

Lately the province is saying a lot of positive things about how it is providing resources to teachers. It announced that an additional 190 specialist teaching and support positions have been added to our public school system this year. This is welcome news, but adding supports while cutting the most precious resource teachers have to support students (time) feels an awful lot like needing a lifeline while someone throws you a stone.

Oddly enough, while the McNeil government has been quick to adopt many of the elements of the Ontario education system, providing Nova Scotia teachers with the same amount of prep time has not been on the agenda. That’s unfortunate because giving teachers a fair level of prep time would have a far greater impact on student success than anything contained in Bill 72.

— Paul Wozney