Published Monday, June 8, 2015 1:52PM EDT
Last Updated Monday, June 8, 2015 6:15PM EDT
A new report from a provincial advocacy group says there are gaps in Ontario’s public school system, including a lack of resources for special education students and inadequate teachers’ training on aboriginal issues.The report, titled “The Gap Between Policy and Reality” was released on Monday by the People for Education.
According to the group, the student-to-teacher ratio in special education classrooms are the highest they’ve ever been in recent years. On average, there are more than 35 special needs students per special education teacher at the elementary school level, and nearly 80 per educator at the high school level.
Many parents, including nine-year-old Spencer Powell’s mother, believes this is potentially jeopardizing their child’s education.
“I see teachers really stressed out … being able to manage special needs takes up so much time,” said Powell’s mother, whose autistic son attends an Etobicoke school.
More training on aboriginal issues needed
The report also highlighted a need for improved training on aboriginal issues.
According to the report, only 29 per cent of elementary schools and 47 per cent of high schools offer teacher training on aboriginal issues. These are troubling numbers, according to the group’s executive director, who says educators play an important role in delivering information about Canada’s history.
“There is an ambitious curriculum and an ambitious policy in the province, but when we look at what’s actually happening in schools, all kids aren’t necessarily getting educated on aboriginal issues all the way from kindergarten through to Grade 12,” Annie Kidder told The Canadian Press.
“Teachers for the most part say they are not comfortable teaching indigenous culture and issues.”
Across Ontario, the report shows that 92 per cent of elementary schools and 96 per cent of high schools have aboriginal students.
Monday’s report comes one week after the Truth and Reconciliation Commission called on the Ontario government to ensure all students are taught about the history of First Nations, Metis and Inuit.
That commission’s report followed a six-year study of residential schools in Canada, which concluded the system was a “cultural genocide” that led to the deaths of more than 6,000 children.
“Reconciliation has to happen with everybody,” Kidder said. “And education is key to making that happen.”
Monday’s report was based on a survey answers from nearly 1,200 Ontario principals.
The report made a number of recommendations, including adding a special education ombudsman at each school board.
With files from CTV Toronto’s Naomi Parness and The Canadian Press