23 February 2023
The Quebec Government’s Classroom Team Forums
The Treasury Board should prove its interest in this matter by making itself available at the sectoral negotiating tables instead of creating a diversion with its public relations campaigns.
This is the position of the school sector federations of the Centrale des syndicats du Québec (CSQ), the Fédération des syndicats de l’enseignement (FSE-CSQ), the Fédération du personnel de soutien scolaire (FPSS-CSQ) and the Fédération des professionnelles et professionnels de l’éducation du Québec (FPPE-CSQ).
Primary school assistance: services that must remain complementary
The role of the classroom assistant is to accompany students, to help teachers with non-pedagogical tasks, and to ensure the well-being and safety of students while they are in school. Assistance should be given to the whole class or a group of students in that class, not to individual students or the entire school. This service does not replace the essential educational work carried out for students with special needs.
FSE-CSQ President Josée Scalabrini says that “classroom assistance in primary school only partially relieves the teaching staff. It may possibly help to lighten the workload, but it does not help with the special challenges resulting from the composition of the class. To attract and retain teachers, the government needs to take pre-emptive actions to balance groups, both at the primary and secondary levels. As stated a few days ago in the Ménard report: ‘I have the feeling that teachers need help as much as the current integration model needs air.’”
FPSS-CSQ President Éric Pronovost adds that “it is important to distinguish special education services from those of the Classroom Assistant; they are complementary, not competitive. If a student is already being assisted by a Special Education Technician or a Social Work Technician or a Handicapped Students Attendant during a class, the Classroom Assistant is not there to replace them, but rather to meet other needs in the classroom.”
Likewise, FPPE-CSQ President Jacques Landry is disappointed that measures promoting the improvement of professional services in our schools do not appear anywhere in the proposals put forward in the classroom team forum. “We have always welcomed the addition of more classroom support, but the Treasury Board and the Ministry of Education are seriously deluded if they think this is a magic solution. As recently as last June, the Quebec Ombudsman sounded the alarm when he said that the right to services adapted to the special needs of students was not being respected in Quebec.”
The president of the FPPE-CSQ also believes that simply increasing the salaries of psychologists will not serve to attract and retain very many professionals whose expertise is essential in promoting student mental health. “There are vacancies throughout the network, including more than 200 speech therapists and psychoeducators,” says Jacques Landry.
Harm instead of help
The variety of tasks that the Classroom Assistant is expected to perform raises the issue of respect for the roles and responsibilities of others working in the school sector. Their tasks should not interfere with the role of teaching staff in terms of pedagogy and the evaluation of learning, nor with employees in other support or professional categories who work with students with difficulties.
Classroom assistants should not find themselves in difficult situations if they are asked to carry out tasks for which they have received no training, which could also have undesirable effects for students or even cause them harm. The issue of what kind of training they will be given is therefore inseparable from the definition of their role.
The government is also forgetting about secondary schools where the needs are very substantial. In his proposal this morning, he ignores the fact that students do not have access to all the services they are entitled to, and staff need reinforcements to improve academic success.
Increase the working hours of school support staff
Éric Pronovost welcomes the additional working hours for school support staff and says “the attraction and retention of school support staff depends on quality jobs with full-time positions, the end of split shifts, the valorization of all school support staff jobs, and family-work balance. The government is taking concrete actions with this offer, but it must accomplish this through the negotiation process, because all the impacts must be taken into account. We cannot change everything on the back of an envelope or in a forum.”
Circumventing ongoing negotiations
The government wants to circumvent the ongoing negotiations to revise the assignment and transfer process. This circumvents the law because the issue is one that is supposed to be dealt with at the sectoral negotiation tables, the intent being to usurp the ongoing process. The three (3) school sector CSQ federations have already tabled their demands. They are based on consultations of the membership that prioritized the issues.