Students Still Waiting for Support …


You should have been walking across the stage this week at commencement, along with all your peers who started school with you in 2005.  You should have been with them,  celebrating the end of 13 years of schooling.

You had been with them at the start, all excited to finally be going to school.  You couldn’t wait to learn how to read, how to write,  how to add and to subtract.

But by the end of your Grade 1 year, it  became apparent that learning was not going to be easy for you.  Your teacher noticed that you seemed to have difficulty writing what you knew.  You were one of many students in her class who needed help.

She did not have any support for any of you.

Your teacher referred you to a counsellor who put you on a list to be tested by a school psychologist.  She told your teacher it would be a few years before you would be seen as there were many other students awaiting assessments.

By the time your name came to the top of the list, your family had moved to another school and somewhere in the shuffle, your file was lost.  It would be another 3 years before another teacher tried to get help for you and 6 other students in your class who she could see needed extra help. By this time, there were even fewer school psychologists and the list was 2 years long.

By 2010 the school district’s funding for special needs was not what it had been in 2005 when you started school.  It had been gutted to make up for the reduced funding your school district received from the Ministry of Education. Reductions to the number of learning specialists and school psychologists meant that waits became longer and longer.

Soon you were in Grade 8, still without support for your learning difficulties.  With all the usual pressures of being in a secondary school,  your struggles in the classroom and your struggles to fit in outside the classroom became overwhelming and you began to vent your frustrations by acting out in various ways.

You began to have regular visits to the vice-principal’s office. Your behaviour in class was seen to be more of a problem than your inability to read a short story…

In order to get support you needed to have a Ministry designation. In order to get a Ministry designation, you needed to be assessed. In order to be assessed you needed to see a psychologist. And the waiting list kept getting longer and longer.

But with the help of your teachers, you plodded along . They tried to do for you what they could. You were often one of many students in a class who had difficulties learning. All different kinds of difficulties. In fact in some of your classes, there were only 2 students without any difficulties of one kind or another.

You managed to move through your grades because you could explain orally what you were learning. When a teacher asked, you could explain a concept but when it came to writing it down, you had trouble.

Your teachers knew that what you needed was both a special education teacher and  an education assistant.   But in order to get that help, you needed to get a designation.

By the time you got to Grade 10, you were so tired of trying so hard to do what was asked of you.  It seemed that no matter how many hours you spent on an assignment, you could only just barely pass it. You became increasingly frustrated because you understood the questions, you could just not write down the answers that you knew. .

You began skipping school and hanging out at the mall.

You got into quite  bit of trouble for doing that which got you into the vice-principal’s office but not into a school psychologist’s office.

By the time you were finally designated, at the end of Grade 10, there had been such severe funding cuts made that you could not get the help you were finally entitled to.  And since you were now over 16 years old, you did not have to be in school.

And so you left.


But no one wanted to hire anyone who had not graduated high school.

You eventually got a job stacking shelves for minimum wage in a dollar store.

When you were in kindergarten, you had wanted to be a policeman or a fireman or a doctor. You had lots of options back then.

What you wanted most of all was to be a hero to people, to help them, to make a difference. You wanted to fix things,  to make things better.

On the day your peers were at their commencement, you were working a 12 hour shift, stacking shelves at the local dollar store.

They tweeted their pictures to you. You wished you were with them.

Your teachers wished that too.

They have been in a 16-year battle to get more support for students who struggle to learn.

They worked hard to get a new government elected in 2017. They had hoped that the new NDP government would keep their promises to provide supports for all students who needed the help.

It’s been a year now.

With heavy hearts and deep frustration, they’re still waiting.

(This was originally posted in May 2014. It’s been updated to reflect the current reality for students in June 2018. Nothing much has changed even though the government has.)

21 thoughts on “Students Still Waiting for Support …”

  1. Education has gone down, to levels which are dispicable. Making Christy Clark responsible for the last 13 years is equally as dispicable. While she is responsible now, and for the things she has done since she has been in power, the government we voted in for this time period is our responsible.


    1. Christy Clark is a misogynist, pure and simple. Hates teachers and nurses, both predominantly female occupations. Pays BCPSEA with your tax dollars to think of ways to screw over teachers when those millions could and should be going to pupils. Has free access to Global News (a wholly-owned subsidiary of the BC Liberal party … pocket-wise) to bias reports on unions and falsify the cause of job action to rile public opinion. A women that was rejected by voters when she stood for election, then twisted the rules to get her into the Legislature. If that wasn’t a gross misuse of privilege I don’t know what constitutes such.


  2. FYI… Christy Clark became the Minister of Education under Gordon Campbell in 2001. She is more than responsible for the demise of public education in BC over the past 13 years.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Sadly the numbers in the chart and this tale are totally true… As a former special ed teacher I saw this happen far too often…and know with the constant sacrifice of student support service staff that it has now become much, much worse in the 4 years since I retired. In schools that 12 years ago had 4-5 full time support teachers on staff, full time counsellors, a number of SEA’s and youth workers, full time librarians, psychologists / speech pathologists, hearing / vision teachers who came weekly that came weekly etc, now have NONE of this staff available to support kids. Before there may have been a very few kids who “slipped through the crack”; now the lack of support is a gaping canyon in schools thanks to Christy & co.’s stripping of the contract and constant cut backs in funding. Schools have hit the point where not only can they not provide for kids via special support programs, but whole classes can no longer function properly due to the high number of both designated and unable to get tested students in each class. Education in BC is past the tipping point and that is why teachers are standing up against the gov’t.


  4. As the mother of a child with a diagnosed written output disorder (the example you’ve used) this resonates. I’ve got a pretty loud voice and I’ve advocated long and loud and my child has been served. You’ve missed a piece that should be added – the school system as a rule does not respond to learning issues until a child is two years behind academically. That means that a child who is quietly struggling (not acting out like crazy) WILL NOT BE SERVED UNTIL HE OR SHE IS IN GRADE 3. At the earliest. There is little to no prevention, and reaction is delayed UNTIL THE CHILD FAILS. It is so not ok. My son was born in 2001 and has had to live the reality of a gutted school system. The teachers are my heroes.


    1. I am so sorry! This breaks my heart! Thank you for telling us about your son. I am haunted by the faces of students I couldn’t help and could not get any help for.


  5. Our most at risk students are being abandoned by Christy Clark’s government. In the fourteen years I have been an Education Assistant I have seen the funding for students decrease every year, with cuts to special education being the most tragic in my opinion. Kids that have so much potential to become contributing members of society as adults are being stripped of the tools and support that they need to get the job done. Give a child a quality education and the opportunities are endless.


  6. Do teachers really think the bctf is looking out for them? I don’t think so…if they don’t take the deal on the table there will be more layoffs…the cuts stated in this thread happened so the pay raise demanded in the last strike could be met. Back in February on CBC radio a spokesperson said “this next strike is going to be about wage increase.” So beware teachers of the next round of layoffs if you don’t take the deal….


    1. I believe one main argument is that Liberals need to put more money into education. If more money is actually budgeted into education then layoffs would not have to happen to provide raises. In the past the money for raises were to be ‘found’ in the local district budget and cut backs had to be made.


    2. Dear Allan:
      Teachers are in this difficult situation because they support kids and quality education for them. Would you really ask teachers to believe that the gov’t is looking out for the best interests of education and kids? or teachers? Really… The same gov’t that has introduced Bills that violated rights such that the UN, Supreme Court of Canada, and BC Supreme Court have all censured them and told them to correct their actions multiple times (which of course they have not done nor paid the fines imposed); the same gov’t that has stated that there should be 3 identified kids in a class, yet has sat back while classes with 4 – 7 identified kids have soared to thousands without acting to improve class situations; the same gov’t that as a solution decided to de-list several internationally recognized and highly common learning disabilities so the kids would no long officially count in class size documents (as if that somehow magically cured them and meant teachers no longer had to address their learning needs in classes); the same gov’t that has cut funding and transferred costs to such a level that thousands of teachers have been cut over the past 12 years – classroom teachers, unique program teachers, specialist teachers (special needs, learning assistance, counsellors, blind support, hearing support, psychologists, librarians, etc and many CUPE support workers too) are becoming rare in schools as school districts struggle to meet essential services and the increasing downloaded costs; the gov’t that chose the intimidate teachers into complying by locking them out and restricting them from using their non-instructional and unpaid time to work with kids in a variety of ways/mark exams/have sufficient time to prep and mark classwork because they are kicked out of schools and not allowed to do work at home or access school computer links from home as is common while they work at home during the evening and weekend as they always do, and then cut wages 10% for the time the gov’t will not allow them to work; the gov’t who insists that teachers must leave the school premises at break and lunch forcing teachers to eat on sidewalks no matter the weather – and will not allow them even to come in the building to use the washroom during that time; the gov’t who suspended talks with school districts negotiators that were going well replaced that district representative group with their “mouthpiece” to toss out all the positive work done thus far then say NO to every proposal from BCTF negotiators (not negotiate, just decline); the gov’t who sees providing more teachers to classes that are among the largest in the country as a waste of money and not job creation; the gov’t that has saved multi-million dollars in education costs over the past 12 years since breaking the contract and now cries poverty; the gov’t that chooses to fund our kids $1000 per student less than other provinces in the country; the gov’t that consistently ranks as the province with the HIGHEST child poverty in the country to the point that school are considered viable charities to raise funds for via newspaper begging so that it is commonplace for teachers to provide out of their own pockets daily to feed, clothe, and provided school supplies for kids in their classes…. While you may not feel the BCTF is looking out for education and teachers’ best interests, it is VERY clear to teachers and anyone who values public education that the gov’t is not.


  7. My grain of salt with the numbers above, is what has the number for enrollment done in that time peroid? Have they gone up or down?


  8. I support this. I know it’s hard for teachers. It may be they are fighting the wrong battle. Let’s cut some district trustees, admin staff etc. there has been a reduction of kids in my district this year, numerous teachers laid off but 5 new district admin staff. Why? It also hits home as my daughter walks across the stage this week and has been told NO teachers will be there. There is no support and no congrats and no speechs. What do you think she will remember most about her ceremonies. It won’t be that teachers were on strike it will be that her day and school and district failed her. She stated that it feels like they just don’t care!


  9. This is written by a colleague, Karin Kalyn:

    Welcome to my class. It has six students with intellectual disabilities in it, four with learning disabilities, one with a serious mental illness and one in need of a severe behavior intervention. Twenty-one of my students are English as a second language. There are only two out of twenty-nine students in this class that do not fit into any of these categories. And I’m lucky that I only have twenty-nine students in my class, because the government decided that Performing Arts classes do not need any class size limits at all and I teach Drama.
    If the government were the type to obey the rule of law, I would have no more than three students in my class with individual education plans, and my classes would not go above thirty. There would be funding for more of the students with intellectual and learning disabilities. There would be more counselors to deal with my mentally ill students and my students with severe behavior issues. New English Language Learners might not be dropped into an entirely verbal class like Drama without any support. However, we don’t have a government that obeys the rule of law.
    Even after the Labour Relations Board, the International Labour Organization and the Supreme Court of BC all instructed our government to reinstate the class size and composition language we bargained for, and made concessions for, in 1998, they still have not done it. Instead, they have chosen to spend more of our taxpayers’ money to appeal the ruling yet again. This is not how I want my tax dollars spent! So, teachers are bargaining for what, according to several judiciary bodies, we should already have!
    There are several things that teachers have made concessions on at the bargaining table, including wage demands but, personally, I don’t see how we can concede that we are asking too much when it comes to class size and composition when we are simply asking the government to reinstate what we were granted at the bargaining table in 1998 and the courts have told us several times should never have been subsequently revoked by the government.
    Class composition is an ill-understood concept by the general public because most people who graduated before 2002 had pretty homogenous classes. I have heard someone say more than once “What’s wrong with having 35 or more students in your class? I had that when I was in school.” You may well have, but how many special needs students did you have in that class? Maybe two or three. Probably none. There were enough special needs teachers and special education assistants (SEA’s) that it was not necessary to put several special education students all into one class so that one SEA could assist them all, since there aren’t enough SEA’s anymore that we can have one looking after three per class. There have been too many cuts for that.
    There is the crux of the problem. There have been too many cuts over the last twelve years to be able to provide BC’s students with the education they need and deserve, whether they are special needs students or one of the undesignated students in my class who just want to get a good education, go onto university, college or the trades and end up being good, contributing members of our society. That is the mandate of the public school system. Fund the system appropriately and we will happily get on with fulfilling that mandate.


  10. Teachers should not have to go on strike for specialist support teachers for kids who need a bit of extra help. They should not have to lose their meager pay to get a decent contract for class size and composition either. That should be the domain of the parent/voters. They need to get much more vocal about demanding quality education for their kids.


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