More than 500 professional positions posted in the public school network remain vacant for lack of candidates. The unions attribute this “silent shortage” of psychologists, remedial teachers and speech therapists, in particular, to more attractive working conditions in the private sector, despite some catching up in recent negotiations with Quebec.
“You may have funds to create posts, if there are no soldiers, how are you going to offer services to the students?” I am nearing retirement and have seen public services deteriorate so much. I find that sad, ”says Jacques Landry, president of the Federation of Quebec Education Professionals (FPPE-CSQ).
He describes the shortage of professionals as “silent” because the lack of speech therapists or psychoeducators, for example, seems less glaring than the absence of a teacher, who leaves an empty chair in front of a class. Students with special needs, their teachers and their parents, however, feel strongly about the lack of support services, even more so with the disruptions due to the pandemic.
The FPPE compiled the positions posted in the vast majority of French and English school service centers in Quebec. It determined that 508.9 professional positions, or 6% of the total workforce in the network, have not found candidates, despite record amounts announced by the Department of Education for hiring.
The number of vacant positions includes those part-time (two half-tasks were counted as one task), as well as professionals who do not provide direct services to students, such as engineers and architects responsible for managing construction sites. ‘school.
Private to the rescue
Education Minister Jean-François Roberge recognizes the staff shortage. According to ministry figures, there is a shortage of 297 full-time professionals providing services to students. “It’s true, there is a shortage, but it’s difficult to fill all the positions that we create year after year. These are new positions that are being created. “
The minister confirmed what he said this week to Journal of Montreal : Quebec will reimburse parents who call on the private sector for the services of speech therapists, psychologists, psychoeducators or other professionals who are lacking in public schools.
“We start from the needs of the students. If a school professional, the teacher and the administration say that such a student needs psychoeducational services, the service must be provided. If the school team or the health network cannot meet the need, we can turn to the private sector, ”says Jean-François Roberge.
He warns in the same breath: “It is a solution of last resort. And it is up to the school team to determine the needs. “
To improve the conditions of practice of specialists, the minister says he is working with unions, service centers and professional orders to eliminate the obligation of a “rating” to students which provides funding for services. Schools have long denounced this “race for diagnoses” which is being carried out at the expense of student services.
“We will have a diagnosis if necessary, but not necessarily a diagnosis,” explains Jean-François Roberge. This “paradigm shift” is due to come into effect at the start of the fall 2022 school year.
A crying need
The FPPE recognizes the minister’s efforts, but reimbursing parents who resort to the private sector does not solve the crying need for professionals in schools. For example, educational advisers play a crucial role in supporting the hundreds of non-legally qualified teachers who work in the network or in training teachers in the use of new technologies.
Specialists give a helping hand – and appreciated – to teachers in the classroom, recalls Carol Beaupré, rehabilitation officer at Gérard-Filion high school in Longueuil. He is a union delegate at the Marie-Victorin School Services Center. Trained in criminology, he works in the institution’s psychoeducational service.
Carol Beaupré notably accompanies a class of 20 students with great learning difficulties, who are at risk of dropping out. “It takes a team to help these students who are in a last-ditch class,” he says. Without the help of specialists, children with special needs “can become a drag on teachers”.
The lack of staff increases the workload of those in office, explains Ève Dell’Aniello, psychologist in an elementary school and union representative at the Center de services scolaire Marguerite-Bourgeoys (CSSMB), in Montreal. This service center is one of the best organized in terms of professional services, according to her, but the shortage still leads to waiting lists.
“The needs are much greater than what we are able to meet,” she says. By dint of managing emergencies, prevention work is not always done. “
The agreement in principle concluded last June improved the salary conditions of certain categories of professionals, but remains insufficient to overcome the shortage, estimates the FPPE.