Ontario's teacher shortage over

Ontario College of Teachers says province now has more teachers than it needs, though specialized positions remain tricky to fill

Ontario is no longer facing a shortage of teachers, according to the Ontario College of Teachers, the licensing body for the province’s teaching professionals.

An increased supply of newly qualified teachers, combined with a return to lower retirement rates, has dealt with the crisis in teacher numbers the college first raised eight years ago.

Even with recent a funding boost that will spur the hiring of new teachers to meet literacy, numeracy, physical education and arts programming needs, the existing supply of teachers meets most projected needs, the college said.

In 1997 the college raised the alarm about an impending shortage. A sharp rise in demand was predicted from 1998 through 2005 due to a spike in retirements among teachers hired in the 1960s and early 1970s. The college urged the province to fund 10,000 extra spaces over five years in Ontario’s faculties of education.

“We’re pleased to say that government and teacher response to the situation helped to attract the high quality teachers Ontario’s students required,” said Doug Wilson, the college’s registrar. “But our most recent Transition to Teaching study now indicates that many newly certified teachers are struggling to find full-time work.”

But the news isn’t all bad for recent graduates. There are excellent, full-time teaching opportunities for work in northern and remote areas of the province that people sometimes overlook, said Wilson.

Problems filling leadership roles?

The college said there is evidence that school boards are finding it a challenge to fill school leadership roles.

So far this decade about 1,000 teachers a year have completed their principal’s qualification certificate. But over the last few years, the college has granted roughly 175 temporary letters of approval to school boards each year to enable boards to fill principal and vice-principal positions with people who do not have the qualifications for those roles.

The leadership problem is most severe in French language school boards, the college said.

Still shortages in specialized areas

But there are still shortages in some specific areas. Specialties such as French, physics, chemistry, math, business studies and technological education are still tough to fill, the college said.

The college said persisting shortages in these areas can be solved if the province and faculties of education respond as effectively as they did to the general shortage.

“Targeted recruitment and support can help to relieve these remaining pressures facing Ontario’s school boards,” said college chair Marilyn Laframboise. “More must be done to attract and support French language teacher education candidates and people with science, math and technical backgrounds and to assist northern boards who find it particularly difficult to hire the staff they need.”

Facts and figures

According to the college:

•the annual retirement rate is now headed steadily downward;

•government-funded spaces for one-year teacher training at Ontario education facilities jumped from 5,000 in 1998-1999 to 6,500 in 2000-2001, a level that continues today;

•fewer teachers are leaving the profession in the early years of teaching — only one in 13 leave in the first three years;

•new teacher education programs have emerged in Ontario;

•interest in teaching has surged — 15,000 apply to faculties now compared to 8,000 in 1997;

•border colleges in the United States have added to the supply — in 1998 American based teacher education programs added 500 teacher candidates per year but by 2002 the number of grads from the U.S. applying in Ontario rose to 1,300;

•school boards also have access to a growing pool of retirees who can work for up to 95 school days a year without affecting their pensions; and

•college membership has grown from 172,000 in 1998 to 193,000 in 2004. (Teachers must be licensed by the college to teach in Ontario’s publicly funded schools.)

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