Back to top
November 29, 2022
Standing Committees
Human Resources
Meeting summary: 

Committee Room
Granville Level
One Government Place
1700 Granville Street
Teacher Workloads and Impact on Student Achievement, and Teacher Recruitment and Retention; and Appointments to ABCs
Department of Education and Early Childhood Development
Elwin LeRoux - Associate Deputy Minister
Dr. Chris Boulter - Executive Director, Education Innovation, Programs and Services
Kim Matheson - Executive Director, Centre for Equity in Achievement and Wellbeing
Jeremy Brown - Executive Director, Nova Scotia Education Common Services Bureau
Educators for Social Justice
Megan Neaves - Teacher
Paul Lenarczyk - Teacher
Nova Scotia Teachers Union
Ryan Lutes - President.

Meeting topics: 
























Tuesday, November 29, 2022



Committee Room




Teacher Workloads and Impact on Student Achievement,

and Teacher Recruitment and Retention;


Appointments to Agencies, Boards and Commissions













Printed and Published by Nova Scotia Hansard Reporting Services




Chris Palmer (Chair)

Melissa Sheehy-Richard (Vice Chair)

Dave Ritcey

John A. MacDonald

Nolan Young

Hon. Tony Ince

Ali Duale

Kendra Coombes

Suzy Hansen


[John A. MacDonald was replaced by Danielle Barkhouse.]

[Ali Duale was replaced by Braedon Clark.]




In Attendance:


Judy Kavanagh

Legislative Committee Clerk


Gordon Hebb

Chief Legislative Counsel






Department of Education and Early Childhood Development

Elwin LeRoux - Associate Deputy Minister

Dr. Chris Boulter - Executive Director, Education Innovation, Programs and Services

Kim Matheson - Executive Director, Centre for Equity in Achievement and Wellbeing


Nova Scotia Education Common Services Bureau

Jeremy Brown - Executive Director


Educators for Social Justice Nova Scotia

Megan Neaves - Teacher

Paul Lenarczyk - Teacher


Nova Scotia Teachers Union

Ryan Lutes - President











2:00 P.M.



Chris Palmer



Melissa Sheehy-Richard



THE CHAIR: Order. I call this meeting to order. This is the Standing Committee on Human Resources. My name is Chris Palmer, the MLA for Kings West and Chair of this committee. Today, in addition to reviewing appointments to agencies, boards, and commissions, we will hear from witnesses regarding teacher workloads and impact on student achievement, teacher recruitment, and retention.


At this point, I’d like to ask everybody to please put your phones on silent mode or vibrate. I would like to ask all committee members to please introduce themselves. We’ll start on this side and go around the table, starting with Ms. Sheehy-Richard.


[The committee members introduced themselves.]


THE CHAIR: For the purpose of Hansard, I’d also like to recognize the presence of Legislative Counsel Gordon Hebb to my right, and Legislative Clerk Judy Kavanagh to my left.


As per the normal Human Resources protocol for our meetings, we will do a bit of committee business before we go to our question-and-answer period. We will ask our witnesses to indulge us while we just do a few appointments to boards and agencies. We’ll move on to that in our committee business, and I would ask MLA Ritcey to make a motion.


DAVE RITCEY: I’d like to make a motion for the Department of Advanced Education. I move that Stephen Wadden, Donnie Holland, Keith Maher, Harman Singh, Denise Allen, and Rany Ibrahim be appointed members of the Cape Breton University Board of Governors.


THE CHAIR: There is a motion on the floor. Is there any discussion?


All those in favour? Contrary minded? Thank you.


The motion is carried.


MLA Ritcey.


DAVE RITCEY: The next motion, for the Department of Communities, Culture, Tourism and Heritage, I move that Vivek Sood and Susan Crocker be appointed as directors of the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia Board of Directors.


THE CHAIR: There is a motion on the floor. Is there any discussion?


All those in favour? Contrary minded? Thank you.


The motion is carried.


MLA Ritcey.


DAVE RITCEY: For the Department of Communities, Culture, Tourism and Heritage, I move that Mickey MacDonald be appointed Chair and member, and that Adam Fraser, Matthew Ryder, and Matthew Johnson be appointed members of the Nova Scotia Boxing Authority.


THE CHAIR: There is a motion on the floor. Is there any discussion?


All those in favour? Contrary minded? Thank you.


The motion is carried.


MLA Ritcey.


DAVE RITCEY: For the Department of Communities, Culture, Tourism and Heritage, I move that Anne Crossman be appointed member, public at large, and Chair; and that Wayn Hamilton, Hansel Cook, and Sandra Toze be appointed members, recommended; and that Marcelle Comeau be appointed member, public at large, of the Advisory Board of the Public Archives.


THE CHAIR: There is a motion on the floor. Is there any discussion?


All those in favour? Contrary minded? Thank you.


The motion is carried.


MLA Ritcey.


DAVE RITCEY: For the Department of Finance and Treasury Board, I move that Mark Boudreau be appointed Director of the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation.


THE CHAIR: All those in favour? Contrary minded? Thank you.


The motion is carried.


We will move one piece of correspondence to our committee business before we begin our question-and-answer period with the witnesses this afternoon - just correspondence received from Mr. Lutes in an email from last week to join our meeting today as a witness. For the record, I will note that in response to a request last week from Mr. Lutes, President of the Nova Scotia Teachers’ Union, committee members agreed by unanimous consent in an email poll to invite him to join the witnesses today. So welcome.


We’ll put off any other committee business until after our question-and-answer period. We will now move on to our topics this afternoon: teacher workloads and impact on student achievement, and teacher recruitment and retention. I’d like to welcome all of our witnesses this afternoon. Thank you for being here.


At this point, I will ask the members at the table to please introduce themselves, and then we’ll ask you to do your opening statements after that.


[The witnesses introduced themselves.]


THE CHAIR: Now, I see we have other people with us this afternoon, and my understanding is that they will be mentioned in opening statements. At this point, we will ask everybody if they’d like to give opening statements. Please feel free.


Mr. LeRoux.


ELWIN LEROUX: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Good afternoon, everyone, and thank you for the invitation to speak with you this afternoon.


Before I begin, in addition to Dr. Boulter, I would like to introduce two other colleagues who’ve joined us this afternoon: Kim Matheson, our executive director of the Centre for Equity in Achievement and Wellbeing; and Jeremy Brown, executive director of the Nova Scotia Education Common Services Bureau. Team members who join me today are very knowledgeable about our public school system. I am very pleased to have them with me, especially given my short tenure in my current position.


Has a great teacher made a difference in your life? I believe if we paused, we could spend an entire afternoon sharing incredible stories of how teachers positively impacted each of our lives. Teachers are important to students, families, and indeed, to our communities. Teachers help students read and wonder, discover, and become. Teachers guide students to build skills and help systems build futures.


In my experience, teaching is an incredibly challenging, thrilling, and rewarding career. Coach your children, neighbours, and friends to an incredible profession - coach them to become a teacher.


As sure as the rewards of this profession are, like with others, there are also current challenges, especially related to labour market supply and demand. Nova Scotia currently is benefiting from positive growth. We record student enrolment annually as of September 30th. This year, we registered 129,121 students in our public schools. That’s a year-over-year increase of almost 4,000 students throughout our province.


Correspondingly, we have more teachers in our province than ever before. Currently, we have approximately 10,000 teachers and 2,600 substitutes. This includes the over 400 new teachers who were hired for this school year.


Although we have been successful in hiring more teachers for our schools, together with regions, the Conseil scolaire acadien provincial and the Nova Scotia Education Common Services Bureau, we continue to work on recruiting and retaining teachers. We look forward to sharing the details this afternoon about our coordinated and multi-layered initiatives.


These include establishing a teachers recruitment and retention working group; adding more than 1,000 inclusive education supports, programs, and positions to the public school system over the last five years; increasing the number of days retired teachers can substitute from 69.5 days to 99.5; establishing and assuring a maximum size on the number of students in a classroom; and supporting the professional learning of teachers.


Last year, we issued nearly 450 permits to allow qualifying, university degree-holding members of our community to substitute in our schools. As of November 24th this year, we have already issued approximately 230 permits for this current school year.


We have also begun work to connect with other provincial marketing campaigns to support teacher recruitment. These include campaigns with Tourism Nova Scotia, the Department of Labour, Skills and Immigration, and the Office of Healthcare Professionals Recruitment.


The Department of Education and Early Childhood Development appreciates and values the important relationships we have with the Nova Scotia Teachers Union, the Public School Administrators Association of Nova Scotia, Nova Scotia universities with Bachelor of Education programs, and other partners who help us champion the opportunities in Nova Scotia for careers in public education.


Once again, I’d like to thank you for the opportunity to speak this afternoon. We very much look forward to your questions.


THE CHAIR: Thank you, Mr. LeRoux. Mr. Lenarczyk, do you have comments?


PAUL LENARCZYK: Yes, I do. Thank you very much, but we are actually sharing our opening statement as two members. Megan goes first, and then I will follow.


THE CHAIR: Ms. Neaves.


MEGAN NEAVES: Thank you. We were very happy to hear that Ryan Lutes of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union was just invited to speak to the committee as well since he hears from the teachers around this province every day and can give a more comprehensive testimonial than we can. Thank you, Ryan, for being here.


Paul and I will attempt to give a quick glimpse of some of the challenges that we as teachers are facing, although, of course, we can only really speak here for ourselves.


We would like to start by acknowledging that teachers are by no means the only ones struggling. Health care workers, child care workers, long-term care workers, people facing housing issues, et cetera, are all in crisis, but that does not take away from the fact that the problems that we are seeing in Primary to 12 education are real. Our school support workers recently had to make the difficult decision to strike in two regions of this province. We recognize that these issues are all connected, and we are in solidarity with people in those sectors, too.


Education looks different from what it was 20 to 30 years ago, and teaching standards have improved in an effort toward a more equitable education for all of our youth. For example, Indigenous and Black students are owed reparations from our education system, and teachers hold the responsibility to close these historic gaps, as we should. We need smaller class sizes so we can truly know our learners and build on what they already know.


We are much more aware of the diverse learners in our classrooms. Today, in addition to delivering quality lessons, we are planning for the success of students living with autism, Down syndrome, intellectual disabilities, learning disabilities, ADHD, behavioural issues, et cetera, while communicating with parents, assessing and reporting along the way. When we improve learning conditions for these students, we improve learning conditions for all of our students.


Staff shortages mean that teachers are forced to cover for absent colleagues during their prep time, and children end up losing the resources that were created to help them succeed due to the shortage of substitute teachers. Mental illness is at an all-time high among students, and we do not have enough school counsellors to cope. Some schools are currently without any school counsellor. We need more school counsellors immediately.


One thing that we often hear teachers say is that we constantly have things added to our plates, and nothing is taken off. There is no extra prep time to be able to do all of the important things that we now understand teachers should be doing. Teachers are burnt out trying to fulfill all of the duties that are impossible without the time to do so. When we invest in education, we invest in improving all of the systems that govern our society as we have the future in our hands.


PAUL LENARCZYK: I get to give a bit of an analogy for you. Imagine the teachers are pilots of planes. In the 1970s - that’s before my time, even, and probably most people in this room - teachers were flying very old planes. Things had been done the same way for 100 years, right? In the 1980s and the 1990s - that’s getting a little closer to my time, at least of being a student - teachers were also the builders of planes, as well as the pilots. Teachers in the 2000s were asked more, which is to design the planes, and build the planes, and pilot them.


Teachers today are designers of planes, and builders, and pilots. We are also the ground crew, the ticket agents, the flight attendants. Passengers have ever greater needs from very simple to very complex. Furthermore, the demands of the airline are more and more complicated, and teachers have to deal with all this with some support, but really doing a lot of the heavy lifting. Oh, and the plane is on fire.


[2:15 p.m.]


Teachers - I mean the pilots - are expected to land the plane, and not just get every passenger out safely, but also make sure that passengers achieve to the best of their potential, and that every passenger is able to do that equally. As Megan, my colleague, said, that should be the job of teachers for sure. But when you have less time to do it - less time to get to know your passengers or your learners - it makes it more and more challenging.


Nova Scotia is not unique in terms of these challenges. However, it is our feeling as educators for social justice, that we are lagging behind other jurisdictions in the way we’re dealing with the problem. I look forward to hearing more of the ideas from the department on how to fix some of these issues. The bottom line is that a lot of these numbers are great, but there are just not enough teachers in the system, because teachers don’t have enough time to do the work that we need to do.


The increased burnout that my colleague mentioned means higher costs for Regional Centres for Education, for the Province, lower achievement for students, and basically an inability to meet the very important and lofty goals, the high standards, that the department rightly sets. This amount of work the teachers have to do then discourages other people from joining the profession. When there are fewer joining the profession, the cycle then repeats itself because there aren’t enough people in the system.


Part of the problem is - when I’m talking about shortages of teachers, it’s not just substitutes, although that’s a big issue that we’re going to talk about now. The problems with substitute teachers are many. The first is compensation. A very quick survey of the Atlantic Provinces alone shows that Nova Scotia teachers are the worst compensated in the four Atlantic Provinces. Yet, they are being relied on more and more heavily to prop up the system, which is suffering because teachers are suffering from burnout.


A bigger issue is benefits and job security for the substitutes. Fewer people choose this career because they see what the realities are while they’re doing their subbing or their teaching internships, and then they say, I can’t do this, because even if I get a substitute job, when am I going to get a contract? How is that going to work? They cannot see a path to their chosen career because of the strange and antiquated hiring practices that Nova Scotia has, and the difficulties there are in getting a contract.


There are a lot of possible solutions to this. Again, I look forward to hearing from the department what some of the solutions are. We have a couple of ideas as well: hiring substitutes on a contract to teach in a large school or at a family of schools would be a great idea, because it would give them that contract and some benefits and security; changing the hiring practices; improving compensation for substitutes; and finally the big bottom line, giving teachers more preparation time to get to know the needs in their classroom, to get to learn the new curriculum that is being introduced and the other initiatives. Again, I’m not questioning that they’re all very important and noble goals, but they take time to develop the expertise within the existing teachers and new teachers coming in.


As my colleague, Megan, said at the beginning, we know this is not only teachers who are suffering right now in the civil service, but proper care for the education system needs to be part of the path to solving Nova Scotia’s societal and systemic problems. From the acknowledgement of historical wrongs to segments of our population, through culturally relevant pedagogy, and providing quality, equitable education to all of our students, improving education is a clear way forward, and can help resolve numerous systemic problems in our province. I believe we all need to work together to make this happen. I thank you for inviting us to speak here.


THE CHAIR: Mr. Lutes, you have some opening comments?


RYAN LUTES: Thanks for giving me the opportunity to speak today. I appreciate that from the committee.


Firstly, I fundamentally believe that all of us - whether we’re elected or appointed, whether our favourite colour is blue, red, or orange - want to strengthen and improve our public education system. I hope today’s meeting can serve as a building block for that and that we can move toward a more collaborative dialogue when it comes to ensuring our kids, teachers, and schools all get the supports they deserve.


It’s no secret that the past months and years have been challenging times in our schools. A perfect storm of population growth coupled with a COVID-19 pandemic and now the current respiratory illness increase has only served to exacerbate a teaching shortage that has been building for nearly a decade. Similarly, the needs of students have become increasingly more complex, especially against the backdrop of rising inflation, which is having the greatest impact on our already-marginalized communities. Tangible supports for our students have not increased to the same extent and have left unsustainable workloads for many teachers in schools.


The teachers, guidance counsellors, and specialists who belong to the Nova Scotia Teachers Union are an extremely dedicated group. They’re dedicated to their students, and grateful to be back in classrooms after two years of pandemic learning. However, the fact that cannot be denied is that this is not a return to normal. Too often, teachers are being asked to give up their already-inadequate prep time due to a chronic shortage of qualified substitute teachers. As a result, teachers are finding it harder and harder to develop those rich learning experiences that leave a lasting impact on our kids.


Without this time, teachers are struggling to make connections with home, provide timely feedback to students, and connect with other teaching colleagues to discuss how to best support our kids. Similarly, those in our system who support our most vulnerable students - our guidance counsellors, our learning centre and resource teachers, our student support teachers - are more often than not filling in for colleagues instead of doing the job that they need to be doing to support those kids. In either of those situations, ultimately it’s student learning and student support and teacher workload that are the casualties of our teacher shortage.


While I commend the work of the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development through the recruitment and retention committee, and I look forward to hearing what Mr. LeRoux talked about - and the NSTU does participate in some of this work - there is more work to be done. The NSTU has proposed two key initial initiatives to help alleviate the teaching crisis in our schools. These steps, if taken by government, would show teachers that government understands that our schools are in crisis and would offer a glimmer of hope to teachers.


First - and my colleagues have mentioned it up here - is that Nova Scotia substitute teachers are among the lowest paid in the country, and as such, many young teachers are choosing to pursue different career paths, especially in today’s economy. Keeping in mind that substitute teachers are teachers’ entry-level position - most teachers come out of their B.Ed. and they will be substituting. The NSTU would like to see compensation for substitutes increased to become more competitive with other jurisdictions in Canada.


Something that I hear often from substitute teachers is that they can’t afford to be a substitute teacher. They want to be. It’s where their heart is. It’s what they dedicated their post-secondary education to, but they cannot afford it in today’s economy.


Secondly, we encourage the Province to create a publicly available recruitment and retention plan to address the current shortage both in the short and long term. While I acknowledge the efforts taking place within the department, a clear and transparent path forward that is created in collaboration with teachers, universities, communities, and families is needed to properly tackle the crisis in our schools. This is extremely important: a true recruitment and retention plan must place a significant focus on improving teachers’ working conditions. This means decreasing class sizes, increasing prep time, and increasing supports to our most vulnerable students.


The fact is that we will never successfully encourage our young people to want to be teachers if their own teachers are struggling daily with the demands of the profession. Teachers’ working conditions are students’ learning conditions and must be prioritized by our system if teachers and students and schools are to thrive.


Our children are the future of our province. Let’s not allow the current crisis to deepen. Let’s take steps now to ensure that no student or teacher falls unnecessarily through the cracks, which will only widen with our inaction.


Again, thank you for this opportunity. I look forward to addressing any questions that you may have.


THE CHAIR: We will now enter into our question-and-answer period. As per the protocol of this committee, we do it by show of hands. I’ll look around, I’ll get your attention, and I’ll get you on the speakers list. We will allow for a quick follow-up as long as it’s pertaining to the original question. It’s not an opportunity for a second question, just so we know. We have so many witnesses here today, and I think we’d like to hear from everybody and allow for a lot of questions. If we can try to keep our answers to the people being addressed - I know there might be an opportunity or feeling to want to answer everybody, chime in on an answer, but if we can kind of keep it fairly organized with the person being addressed and asked the question, that would be great, okay?


We’ll move on, and we’ll stop questioning at 3:40 p.m. to allow for committee business and allow our witnesses to give a closing statement at that point in time. I saw Mr. Young’s hand first, and then I saw Mr. Clark’s hand, and then I saw Ms. Coombes, and then I saw Ms. - yes, so I’ll make my list and we’ll move forward from there. Mr. Young, you begin.


NOLAN YOUNG: My question will be for Mr. Brown, please. It’s: With the population on the rise, I’m just curious, what is Nova Scotia doing to recruit more teachers, and what initiatives may be in place to achieve this?


JEREMY BROWN: It’s my pleasure to be here today and explain some of the recruitment efforts that we’re working on to help out with our teacher situation and our substitute . . .


THE CHAIR: Excuse me, Mr. Brown. I have to recognize you first before you speak. I apologize. That’s a reminder to us all to please wait before I recognize you before you speak for Legislative Television. Mr. Brown.


JEREMY BROWN: We’ve hired a lot of teachers in the last few years. Introducing class caps, increasing population growth, and teachers whom we’ve hired out of the inclusive education funding have definitely created some strains that we’re aware of on our substitute pool.


I’d like to take you through some of the things that we’ve been working on as a department and with our partners over the last couple of years, and what we’re looking at as we go forward. I think one of the first things to support our recruitment strategy was to look at our regulations and whether or not there are any barriers in our regulations that were going to prevent us from out-of-province recruitment. This was work that we did with the NSTU, and we did make some regulatory amendments in 2019 to support out-of-province teacher recruitment.


In 2019, we amended the regulations to eliminate the issuance of what was called the Bridging Teacher’s Certificate. A Bridging Teacher’s Certificate was issued to applicants who met minimum criteria for certification in Nova Scotia and who held certification in a province other than Nova Scotia but did not have the same amount of credit hours as a Bachelor of Education student would earn in a Nova Scotia program. They met a minimum threshold, but the threshold was not the same to the maximum - wasn’t the same amount of credit hours as what a Nova Scotia graduate would receive. As a result, they receive what we’d call a Bridging Teacher’s Certificate.


The problem with the Bridging Teacher’s Certificate was - and the Teachers’ Provincial Agreement - holders of a Bridging Teacher’s Certificate would be paid at one salary scale lower than what they would have received had they completed their Bachelor of Education program in Nova Scotia. We needed to amend this, obviously. It caused problems when we were recruiting out of province when we couldn’t guarantee the same salary that we would be issuing a teacher who graduated from a program in Nova Scotia.


When we changed this certificate, three things in essence happened: We had 1,850 teachers who were previously certified in Nova Scotia who had a Bridging Teacher’s Certificate. At that moment of change, they were all eligible for what is called an Initial Teacher’s Certificate, which is our entry-level certificate in Nova Scotia that would be received by Nova Scotia applicants. In addition, on a go-forward, any teachers who had completed their Bachelor of Education program in another province or territory would automatically earn minimally an Initial Teacher’s Certificate, the same certificate that would be earned in Nova Scotia, and any internationally educated teachers who had a BTC would automatically be eligible for an Initial Teacher’s Certificate. And we introduced another type of certificate called a Conditional Teacher’s Certificate. They still get the salary bump, but there may be additional qualifications that those teachers would have to earn over a five-year period for permanent certification.


We’re obviously very proud of this change. It had an immediate impact with our ability to recruit out-of-province teachers. From this, our strategy could be built. In short, our strategy is really a collaborative approach to recruitment. We established a substitute shortage working group with the NSTU in 2020. We also had HR directors from our RCEs and CSAP on that group, and what we were doing with that group was to look at our substitute teacher shortage and look at better ways that we can address our shortage. We took a deep dive into the numbers there to see what was happening with our substitution pool, and a series of recommendations came out of that work.


[2:30 p.m.]


We also recognize that the way we’ve been recruiting in the past probably needs to be revamped. In the Winter of 2022, we formed a recruitment and retention working group with all of our RCEs and CSAP, a representative of HR folks; NSTU sits on that committee and the Public School Administrators Association of Nova Scotia sits on that committee. One of the things that we’ve decided that needs to change is we need to market Nova Scotia. We’ve got to market Nova Scotia as a great place to live, a great place to teach, and for any out-of-province initiatives, we would go as Nova Scotia and not an individual RCEs or the CSAP. That’s a pretty powerful message. We had members from the Province and the NSTU standing side-by-side in those job fairs, saying what a great place it is to live and work in Nova Scotia.


That recruitment and retention working group continues through this year. We’re going to continue with our out-of-province initiative and establish a Nova Scotia presence in out-of-province job fairs, and we’re also looking to better understand common needs that we have outside of out-of-province recruitment. What are our hard-to-fill positions? What are some strategies that we can share, best practices that would help all of us? We’re also looking at really having a better understanding of our substitute teacher pool.


There’s a recurring theme that the substitute shortage working group recognized, that year over year, regardless of the size of our substitute pool, there seems to be only a small percentage of teachers who are working a large number of days. There’s never been a real deep dive into understanding substitute behaviour, substitute experiences, perceived substitute barriers that substitutes are experiencing, so we want to hear from our substitutes. There are probably a lot of good ideas out there that we can learn from, so we’re actually meeting next week to discuss what this - probably a survey - will look like to really hear from our subs and how we can support them.


As Elwin mentioned in his opening statements, we’re beginning to make connections with other provincial marketing campaigns. We’ve reached out to the Atlantic Provinces Special Education Authority, the Department of Labour, Skills and Immigration, talked to their navigator services. We’ve reached out to the Office of Healthcare Professionals Recruitment, and we’re looking to leverage each other’s resources, looking for synergies, looking for ways that we can work together.


In the Fall of 2022 - this is also very new - we’ve teamed with the other Atlantic Provinces that are experiencing similar situations with their substitution pool, challenges filling rural positions. We have common needs, and we’re again looking for best practices that we can share in the Atlantic Provinces.


We also have put things in to address some of our immediate needs. Working with the NSTU, we increased the number of days a retired teacher can work from 69 and a half days to 99 and a half days. Those were amendments within the Teachers’ Pension Plan Regulations. Last year, we also worked with the NSTU to issue Bachelor of Education students with that Conditional Teacher’s Certificate that I just spoke of a couple minutes ago so that they could act as a substitute and receive a salary for days that they weren’t in the practicum.


Over the last couple of years, it’s become more common than had been in the past, but to support our substitute pool, we’ve issued a number of permits to teach. Permits to teach are issued to individuals recommended by their RCEs and CSAP. They have a Bachelor’s degree, and they’re able to substitute teach in cases where a certified substitute teacher can’t be found. Last year, the Office of Teacher Certification issued 450 permits to teach. This year, as of November 24th, they’ve issued 230. As RCEs continue to recommend people, the Office of Teacher Certification will continue to issue these permits.


This has created an opportunity. Permits to teach to unqualified teachers may sound bad, but we’ve also worked with our Bachelor of Education programs to offer part-time, off-campus cohorts in Nova Scotia. What we’re seeing in those cohorts are cases where people who have enjoyed their time in the classroom with the permit to teach now want to pursue a career in education. These people are already situated and established in their communities, they’re mature students, so we’ve added a couple of part-time programs in the Western region, in Yarmouth. These permit-holders are now certified teachers working in those areas.


We also support some unique initiatives. We’re hearing that Université Sainte-Anne is now partnering with a couple of programs in France where those teachers can come over from France, study at Université Sainte-Anne, earn a Nova Scotia teachers’ certificate, and hopefully be able to stay in our province and work.


Combined, this multi-layered approach that I’ve led you through, we’ve seen some positive impacts. From 2006 - also kind of leading to our substitute shortage, likely - from 2006 to 2016, year over year, the Office of Teacher Certification issued a lesser number of teachers’ certificates - year over year over that 11-year span.


Since 2017, there has been an increased interest in teaching in Nova Scotia, and year over year since 2017 we’ve issued more teacher’s certificates to people who wanted to teach in Nova Scotia. Those are our Nova Scotia Bachelor of Education grads. That’s our labour mobility, our teachers from other Canadian provinces - removing that Bridging Teacher’s Certificate has really had a positive impact there - and our internationally educated teachers. Over those five or six years since 2016, we’re up to a 44 per cent increase over where we were in 2016 on issuing teacher’s certificates.


The last thing I’ll add is just to talk a little bit about recruitment or retention. When we worked with the substitute shortage working group, we - around the table, anecdotally - didn’t perceive there to be a retention issue, so we left that off to the side of our project. Since then, we’ve learned that since the 2014-15 school year, we’re only seeing a retirement average of 314.5 teachers a year. That’s a small amount, considering we have 10,500 FTEs in our system.


We also recently learned that the number of resignations that we’ve seen over the last five years is also low. We’re looking at 73 resignations out of the teaching profession. These resignations could be people also who come to the department to work, go to the NSTU to work, go to PSAANS to work, or go to work in other provinces as a teacher. That’s 73 teachers a year yhat we’re looking at leaving the system under resignation. That works out to 0.7 per cent of our FTE population.


I think we’re seeing some very positive things. Like Mr. Lutes said, there are other things to do. There’s a lot of work to do. We’re just really getting started with our new approach. I’m really excited to see where we go.




BRAEDON CLARK: I’d just like to ask Mr. LeRoux - we’ve heard from several witnesses here today about the issues around compensation for substitute teachers. I wonder if the department is actively looking at or will raise these wages to keep them, as we’ve heard, competitive with at least the other Atlantic Provinces.


ELWIN LEROUX: The Nova Scotia Teachers Union and the Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development have a provincial agreement. That agreement includes salary. It would be the minister’s understanding that the agreement ends in July of next year, so we would expect the NSTU to be bringing forward any of its priorities in bargaining. But given that is within the collective agreement, it’s most likely that would be an issue that would be brought forward through collective bargaining.


BRAEDON CLARK: So we wouldn’t expect any change prior to July, at least. Is that correct?


ELWIN LEROUX: It would be my understanding at this moment that issues that are within a collective agreement would best be brought forward through bargaining. It’s not our understanding that that would be an incredibly high-leverage strategy to increase the efforts that Mr. Brown just referenced.


It certainly is something that I can bring to the minister and discuss, but given that it’s collective bargaining, we would expect that would be where it would best be tabled.




KENDRA COOMBES: As someone who truly respects the collective bargaining agreement, I think it’s great, but - I’m just going to say this before I ask my question - I also find it very concerning that in the preambles and the last answer that was given prior, that the government would not even have that as a possible consideration on their behalf to raise substitute pay as well as provide contract amendments. Considering that is what’s being consistently told is the biggest issue to keeping and retaining our teachers, I would think that the department would be having that as part of their solutions - but I see a pattern in all the departments.


My question is going to our educators and NSTU. Given that compensation is an issue here - and it was mentioned that providing substitutes with contracts, as well as benefits, is a way of retaining teachers - and we’re seeing that teachers are leaving due to low pay, and that teachers can’t get to that magic number of three contracts in order to get a full-time position, and that a lack of subs means that the classrooms sometimes don’t have a teacher, I’m wondering with all those hurdles for substitute teachers, can you talk about this challenge and how it relates to the bigger issues that teachers are facing? That is to both our teachers here and to NSTU.


RYAN LUTES: I’m happy to hear a lot of the initiatives that are coming out from the department in terms of teacher recruitment and retention. The NSTU does a lot of work with them. We have a collaborative relationship, and I think there are good things being done. What I think though is that we need to get moving quicker and we need to be doing some things today that will show the teachers of this province that government is willing to work with them.


The NSTU - I heard Mr. LeRoux’s comments about substitute pay being part of the collective bargaining process - he’s correct. The NSTU would be more than happy to discuss an increase in substitute pay outside of the bargaining process. That’s something that we’ve heard from our substitute teachers that’s driving them out of education. That’s something that we feel would have a positive impact on the profession, on our kids, on our schools, on our teachers. Also, this is something that we have advocated for already to government. This government has shown willingness in other areas to act outside of the collective bargaining process when they feel the need.


Our schools are in crisis every day because we do not have the right number of substitute teachers. They are being pulled from our most vulnerable kids. Our teachers are overworked because of it. It is a crisis. It’s a crisis that requires government action, in my view, today. The NSTU would be more than happy and willing to discuss that substitute pay outside of the collective bargaining process. I’m available at any time to talk about this issue.


PAUL LENARCZYK: If I may add, as a substitute teacher, I moved to Nova Scotia in 2016 from New Brunswick where I was teaching on a permanent contract for 15 years. When I got here - 2016 was a bad year for Nova Scotia education, and I didn’t know that before I came. We came for a job for my wife - so anyway, long story.


Once things got resolved, the second year that we lived here, I started looking for substitute teaching work. That year, it was very difficult to get sub jobs. There had to be an online - I had to buy an app for my phone that would tell me if there was a job, and if I didn’t grab it right away, I wouldn’t work. So, I went in a different direction then. I worked in private schools for a little while, then I came back to subbing. Today, I bet you if I went on that website right now, there are 20 to 30 unfilled sub jobs just in the Halifax Regional Centre for Education.


I also appreciate the work that the department is putting forward, but I find it interesting that retention was left off to the side because subs are here, and they do like contracts. I would love a contract, and it’s just not working that way.


THE CHAIR: As we get questions going, I will ask that we try to limit our responses to one, two at the very most because we do have a lot of witnesses to speak. Ms. Neaves.


MEGAN NEAVES: I just wanted to speak to the retention of teachers as well, and hence why we’re actually needing more subs is the burnout of teachers. We have so many things on our plate, and we’re trying to provide an equitable education. Honestly, all of us have been trained through a Eurocentric system to be a teacher. We’ve learned through that lens. So when we’re trying to provide multiple perspectives in our classrooms and make sure we’re enriching the students’ learning from all different angles, we need the prep time to be able to kind of almost unlearn everything we were taught, relearn, so then we can reteach.


[2:45 p.m.]


There’s not a night that goes by that I don’t go home, or any teacher goes home - based on what I was feeling and hearing from other teachers - that we carry a guilt of: I could have done that better, or I forgot to do this, or I need to contact this person’s parents. There are always things on our list that we cannot complete at the end of our day, so it leaves us working on the weekends, working late nights while a lot of teachers have their own families and things to tend to as well. I think that we also have to focus on the retention of teachers, and we need more prep time to be able to provide the equitable learning opportunities for all of our students in the province.


THE CHAIR: I will limit the answer to one particular person this time.


KENDRA COOMBES: To Mr. Lutes, in your discussions, you said that you are ready and willing outside of the bargaining process. I agree with you that government has been willing to go outside the bargaining process - for certain topics. My question to you is: Has the government and the department been receptive to talking with you about the pay for substitutes?


RYAN LUTES: I think right now the Nova Scotia Teacher’s Union has a collaborative relationship with the minister and with government. They have been open to hearing our concerns, and at this point, that’s as far as it has gone. We’ve advocated for changes, and then the line that’s consistent is that they’re open to fixing this in bargaining. While I appreciate that, I think substitutes have been long overdue for a pay raise, so it gives me some hope that in our next round of collective bargaining, we’ll be able to achieve that for substitutes.


Again, substitute teaching is a teacher’s first job. We can’t expect folks to go to school for six years of education, to come out and make $32,000 or $35,000 a year. It’s not unreasonable to ask that they should be paid a living wage, so I would say that’s what they’ve opened themselves to.


I believe that there’s some room where today we could make some tangible improvements for folks. Mr. Brown talked about a few things. One, trying to figure out why some substitutes maybe aren’t working more days. Well, part of it is because sometimes it’s not worth the money, and more compensation is going to entice substitutes to work more. That’s part of it.


Again, I’m really happy to hear the department talking about this more in depth, but if we have a strong recruitment and retention plan that completely leaves out the working conditions and learning conditions of our schools, teachers, and kids, then there’s no point in writing the report.


Teachers need to have jobs. Like my colleague said, they go home, they do everything they can, and they feel good about it. That’s what they want. That’s what they deserve. That’s what our kids deserve. Right now, in many schools, that’s not happening. Again, it’s not for lack of trying. It’s because teachers’ plates are overfilling, and students have more needs that aren’t being met.


THE CHAIR: MLA Barkhouse.


DANIELLE BARKHOUSE: Mr. Lutes, you said earlier, and then again just now, that you do some work with the government, and you collaborate. I just kind of want to know, can you give us some examples of how the government is engaging with NSTU, how you guys are working together, and with teachers to better understand their needs?


RYAN LUTES: Certainly, we have a lot of staff members who are on department committees who are bringing the NSTU perspective forward to the department. Again, this is something that’s important for the NSTU. It’s important to get teachers’ voices on department committees. That’s certainly something that we value, teachers value, getting their voices heard.


Like I said, we do have a collaborative relationship with government. I don’t want you to leave here thinking that no one is listening because I do believe the department is listening. Where I think the buck has stopped is the action that teachers need to see to really think that change is coming. I think that’s a really important piece. Right now, all they’ve heard from us is that we have a collaborative relationship, that we’re doing a lot of work, but when they go to school, they’re in the same school with the same conditions as they were yesterday.


I also recognize the education system at large. It’s hard to make changes, but teachers need see some tangible changes now. It’s not always just about them. What’s really weighing heavily on their hearts is that schools are not able to support our most vulnerable students because teachers are being pulled in so many directions.


DANIELLE BARKHOUSE: I’ve got a follow-up. I think it’s a follow-up. Others might not. We saw examples of NSTU and the government collaborating on issues throughout the pandemic, including teaching shortages. Are there any initiatives that you feel should be carried over or worth continuing from last year?


RYAN LUTES: Again, to some of Mr. Brown’s comments about increasing the number of days that retirees can sub, that’s something that was brought forward and changed the pension regulations, so I think that’s a tangible, positive thing for our system. Let’s also be frank that that’s also just a drop in the bucket. We can’t prop up our education system, and we can’t have all of our retirees, who already had a career, needing them to be substitutes. Substitutes are an entry-level job into the profession. We want those, if we can, ideally, to be the new B.Ed. graduates to be our new teachers, to get a foot in the door, to then get some successes in the profession, and then want to be in the profession.


I caution this table and other tables to think that that’s just one solution. That is a solution in the grand scheme of things, and certainly that’s something that the NSTU supports. We’ve heard positive comments from our retirees as well, so that’s certainly one initiative that I think was very positive and that the NSTU, I believe, will be looking at continuing on.




SUZY HANSEN: I just want to say, first and foremost, I truly appreciate all of the work that is done at this table, whether it’s department side, whether it’s in classroom as well, supporting and protecting the teachers and the staff and administration. I know that it is not an easy job, but I do respect the fact that you’re here to give us this information. This is valuable for the work that we need to do when we sit in the House and discuss these issues.


I want to say that the report in 2015 conducted by NSTU that was published on teacher time use, which found that workload was a major stressor for teachers, and there were concerns reported about teacher well-being in light of all of that. We’ve heard that today from a lot of the conversations that were around the table. I want to know how the COVID-19 pandemic and the respiratory RSV and the flu, how has this impacted teacher workloads and related stress, and what supports are needed to support the well-being of teachers during this time so that we don’t replay this again in another season? We know that we don’t have enough teachers right now doing the work that they need to do because of sickness and stress. As well, we have shortages across the board. I’m going to ask the teachers if they’d like to answer that.


MEGAN NEAVES: I can only speak to my experience, but there was one day we were down 20 per cent of our school due to sickness and illness this year. Just a couple weeks ago, I had eight kids missing from one class. I don’t know the exact numbers for the other ones, but very high numbers. What happens is, I was wondering, do I plan my original lesson, or do I wait until those kids return, and when are they going to return? Do I give them more busywork, or do I give them the lesson that I was really excited to deliver to them?


In result, you have to make that decision, and then when they get back to school, usually we have other kids missing. Just trying to keep up and then also provide some work for them or things that can develop their skills, because they’re going to miss many lessons and different things like that. The illness has played a huge factor in our schools, and out of all my teaching years, I haven’t seen so much on the rise. In result, teachers are getting sick, because we’re getting those same illnesses, and then they’re off and then it alludes to the sub shortage.


It’s a continuing cycle because when we’re getting better and returning to school, we now don’t have the prep time because we’re covering for the teachers who are now out. This has literally been happening all year long. It’s hard to get our prep time back because of the sub shortage.




HON. TONY INCE: Thank you all for being here. My question is for the department: What incentives does the government have to retain new education graduates at our universities, if there are any?


THE CHAIR: Is that directed to . . .


TONY INCE: Anybody at the department (Inaudible).


THE CHAIR: Mr. LeRoux or Mr. Boulter? Who would like to take that question? Mr. Boulter.


CHRIS BOULTER: So what I’d like to do is go through a few pieces related to the supports that we would provide new teachers as they enter the system. First and foremost, what I’d like to state is over the past several years, we put over a thousand positions, as part of our Inclusive Education Policy, into the system. Over a thousand positions dispersed throughout the province. Those positions are all intended to support classroom teachers as they embark on inclusive education.


As our partners at the NSTU have stated, it’s not easy work. It’s tough work. We certainly value the time and effort and everything that goes into that.


We’re very enthused about where we are with inclusive education. We know - again, as per some of our partners’ comments today - that it’s a challenging task. What we want to do is ensure that there are supports in place, so as new-career-stage teachers enter the profession, they’re properly supported. Inclusive education is one. For example, this year alone there were over 150 positions, and again, over a thousand positions budgeted. Those positions could look like roles such as student support workers, extra learning centre teachers, extra teacher assistants, and a variety of other roles.


Another piece that we’re very excited about that’s going to have a direct impact on new-career-stage teachers is a new coaching framework that we’ve just been implementing this year. We know that as teachers enter the profession, the support they receive in those first few formative years is extremely important. Within the new coaching framework, the expectation is that someone with an area of expertise goes into a classroom and doesn’t just sit and observe but engages with students, gets to understand the students with the classroom teacher, and co-teaches along with them. So that’s something we’ve implemented as of this September and something we’re quite excited about as well.


In addition to that, as a result of the pandemic - but certainly not that it wasn’t imagined before - we’re really focussing on foundational outcomes. We know that part of the workload that comes from teaching every day is the amount of outcomes that teachers are required to cover regardless of grade level. Obviously each grade level and each subject area would have its own grade-level outcomes.


So what we tried to do was to say, if we have this many outcomes, how do we boil those down to some foundational outcomes and ensure that when teachers look at an outcome document and say, here’s what I’m required to cover this year through my work with children in this classroom, that they’re very clear, they’re concise, and there are no more than are required? So that’s some work that we’ve done.


When the pandemic started, we were in a transitional phase and talked about a year or two with foundational outcomes, and we have clarified that the foundational outcomes now are the outcomes. We hope that that makes a difference as well, as teachers look and say, okay, I had this many outcomes before. There are a more manageable amount of outcomes here.


The last thing I’ll say related to that is that we’re doing a lot of work right now in mathematics in regard to pacing guides. So again, if you put yourself in the shoes of a beginning teacher - you have supports through inclusive education, you have access to a new coaching framework. Teaching support teams are another thing right now, or an initiative that came through inclusive education funding, where teachers can go to a team after school and say, listen, I’m struggling. I need some help with this.


Through inclusive education, what we did do was create teaching support teams in every school. We know lots of teachers throughout the province are using that as an opportunity to go to the team and request support. It’s not an evaluation tool for teachers. It’s an opportunity to partner with the school administration, with the school psychologist, speech-language pathologist, other experts who support the school and therefore can support the teacher.


I mean, really what we’re looking at is how do we wrap our arms around new and early-career-stage teachers to ensure that they feel supported to do the very complex work that they do every day.


THE CHAIR: MLA Sheehy-Richard.


[3:00 p.m.]


MELISSA SHEEHY-RICHARD: I believe I might have a question for Ms. Matheson at the back. I’m not sure, so I’ll just go with it. I’m just curious to know a little bit more about the provincial Student Success Survey that was administered in 2021-22, following a pause because of COVID-19’s interference last year. Can you tell us a little bit more about the results of these surveys and how they might inform goals, strategies, measures as part of the student success planning?


THE CHAIR: Ms. Matheson.


KIM MATHESON: I love talking about this, so thank you for the question. We have a Student Success Survey that’s done with students across the province from Grades 4 to 12. It really gives us an opportunity to hear directly from children about their experiences in school.


We do that in the Spring annually. We were disrupted a bit by COVID-19 closures for a period of time, but we were able to do it this past Spring. We do it in every regional centre for education and CSAP. This year we had a great participation rate at approximately 75 per cent. Our students really leaned in and gave us some feedback.


We have reports at the provincial level and the regional level. As well, every school receives a report, which is really important - that they hear from the children in their schools so that they can then follow up with them, talk to them about what they’re seeing, and they can inform next steps, doing that with the children, talking to them about it.


The way we do the survey is we disaggregate by many different groups, which is really important - so looking at how did our African Nova Scotian students respond to those questions? How did our Mi’kmaw Indigenous students respond to those questions? Are there differences? We disaggregate by all of those particular subgroups. We have it posted provincially, and we’d love for people to be using it and informing their work as they move forward.


How do we use it? Certainly, we pay attention to that information at a regional and school level. They use that data to determine what they’re going to do next for improvement. Every regional centre and school has several goals they focus on, and those are mathematics, literacy, and well-being. This survey really is associated with the well-being and the experience of our children in schools. They use that to decide what some action strategies are that they’re going to do, and then they measure the progress. When the next survey comes out, when we hear from our students again, we can look at has that made a difference? Throughout that process we monitor, we reflect. It’s really important to pause and see how things are going.


Overall, how did we do on this survey? Overall, we saw some good responses from students - their experiences are good in schools. We can look at and improve in some areas, and we are seeing some differences by particular populations. That’s something that we need to pay attention to in our planning moving forward. We’re really happy to have been able to administer it this year, especially now with the pandemic, to see what’s happening, what their life is like at school.


In terms of comparisons, when we did the survey for the first time, we went out in the system and asked students and teachers for any improvements that can be made with the survey. As a result, some questions were changed. Some questions were added about racism and discrimination, for example. We can’t compare a lot. The survey is better now. We don’t have a lot of comparative data, but we will be able to see improvements as we move forward.


MELISSA SHEEHY-RICHARD: Thank you for that. The reason it piqued my interest is because I’ve got somebody in Grade 12 and I was adamant that he be now more engaged and that he participate and fill out his. The only thing I just wanted to know was, did you find any differences between centres? I’m from the Annapolis Valley - so for example, the Annapolis Valley Regional Centre for Education as compared to the Halifax Regional Centre for Education.


KIM MATHESON: When we look at the survey, there weren’t huge disparities from region to region. We’re still digging into that data and talking about it collaboratively. In fact, there’s a meeting today where they’re working together to talk about that and what next steps that they’re doing so they can support each other, but in general, not huge disparities between each regional centre for education.


THE CHAIR: Our list of questioners coming up is MLA Young, MLA Clark, MLA Hansen, and then MLA Barkhouse.


NOLAN YOUNG: I’ll direct my question to Mr. LeRoux. We heard today that there’s been a shortage of substitute teachers and it may be causing disruptions or lower morale within the schools. I’m just wondering what efforts are being done to get more substitute teachers.


ELWIN LEROUX: Certainly, school regions are working hard to recruit. If you clicked on any of their websites today, I’m sure you would see banners that provide opportunity about employment. Even collectively with the NSTU, their senior leadership team meets with us, putting our communications folks together to do additional work in support of this. It’s very important.


I can assure everyone today that there is a teacher in every classroom. Our efforts to date have assured that learning is happening, and thanks to the quality of the staff that we have, I would say high quality learning is happening.


At a school level, when systems are normal, everyone is there. When they’re not, the principal will work with the team to figure out, first of all, do we need another substitute - because sometimes when staff are out, so too are students, so maybe we don’t need another substitute. In most cases they would, and they would look to their team. How do I best use my team for the circumstances before me today? When they need more on the team, they would reach out to regions and others to make sure that we maintain the goal of supporting children to have positive success in school every single day.


I also want to let you know that one of the recruiting strategies includes permanent positions for substitute teachers. They do exist. Several regions have determined that is part of our solution forward. So they have permanent substitutes who, for all intents and purposes, you can think of as a teacher hired for the year, itinerant in a family, itinerant in a geographical area, or in some other designated area of need.


So again, from school-level problem solving to greater levels of team, regions continue to work to make sure that our schools are open and that children have the experiences that Ms. Matheson just reported about in schools. We do face pressure, and we will continue to work to solve that in collaboration with our partners - including all of you - that we represent Nova Scotia as a great place to come and work, especially in the public education system.


BRAEDON CLARK: I’d like to ask Mr. Lutes a question. This discussion that we’re having this afternoon in a lot of ways is reminding me about this recruitment and retention discussion we’ve had around health care actually. I’ve had the same questions kind of bouncing around in my head on that issue as well, which is: Where will you start to make progress?


Mr. Lutes and others, today you’ve talked about the issue of time and the lack thereof, in many cases, when it comes to teacher work. My question is: Is the problem that there are not enough people either in the system or wanting to get into the system who are qualified to do the work? Or are there enough people and we just happen to be losing them to other provinces - we happen to be losing them to other professions because - as others have said - it might not be the most attractive choice for someone right now? I know the answer is always a little bit of both, but if you could tip the scales one way or another, where do you think that would land?


RYAN LUTES: I think for us, and what I hear from teachers, is that we’re struggling to get folks to want to be teachers. That’s the hardest of the problems to fix. That’s not something that I could snap my fingers today and fix. I think our public education system, like health care, has eroded over the last 20 years because of needs and maybe some failure to invest, or we’re not investing in the right things. I don’t want to cast blame because I’m here to look forward. But I think if we want folks to want to be in the teaching profession, they should be able to talk to their teacher about it, and their teacher should be selling it up, saying, you know what, there are some challenges, but every day I go to work happy to work with kids, and I give everything I’ve got, and that’s enough.


I think it’s that last part - that’s not enough today. Teachers are going home every day, giving of themselves, giving of their time, and knowing there are so many kids who didn’t get the right supports. That weighs on their mental health, which obviously has an impact on keeping those folks in classroom, but it weighs on the ability for new students to want to become teachers.


Anecdotally - and I don’t have any data to back this up - but one of the things that I heard when I was teaching last year at Halifax West High School - but also just talking to some B.Ed. students - is that some of them, after their practicum, have seen enough of the profession. That hurts my heart. As a teacher who got into this to work with kids, and working my way in union leadership to support teachers, that kills me - that our newest, brightest, most passionate teachers are already seeing that the writing is on the wall, they can’t get through a career. To me, that’s really telling.


Again, a hard problem to fix, but we’re not going to fix it if our recruitment and retention plan doesn’t talk about working conditions and learning conditions. If our plan is only about bridging certificates and trying to get more substitutes - all of that stuff is important - we’re missing at least half of the conversation. I think that’s really important. We need to focus on what the teachers are telling us. Why are teachers struggling with coming to work? They are struggling because their mental health is degrading, because they can’t meet the kids’ needs. That’s a huge part of it.


I would like to talk about some other things that other people said, if that’s okay, Mr. Clark or Mr. Chair.


THE CHAIR: If I could ask you to address it in your close, if you could, Mr. Lutes. I would like to stay on track with our questions as the MLAs are asking them - just to respect everybody around the table to ask their next question. If you would like to put that in your close, that would be fine.


Mr. Clark, did you have a follow-up?


BRAEDON CLARK: Yes, quickly. To my earlier question, when we talk about recruitment, I think recruitment is easier to conceptualize and to act on because we’ve recruited 200 new teachers this year, but retention is the more complex and more difficult task, for sure. Again, you may not have data to support this, and that’s fine, but do you think as a province we are doing anything particularly wrong relative to our peer provinces, let’s say in the region, on this issue of retention? Maybe you speak to your colleagues in other provinces. Is this a consistent problem we’re seeing across the country, or is there something we’re doing perhaps not as well as we could?


RYAN LUTES: Certainly overall, this is a problem across the country. Are there some ways that I think we could be doing better and that we could be out-competing other places? Absolutely. That’s when I talk about the working conditions and the teaching conditions, and ultimately the student learning conditions.


One of the things that I’ve heard from teachers is that throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, some of them had their prep time cut down. It’s stuff like that that happens. When teachers and students are experiencing the most need, we should be looking to uplift the system, not bring aspects of it down. That’s certainly part of it.


We could be doing some aspects better, no question. Again, that’s why I listen with interest hearing Mr. LeRoux and Mr. Brown talk about the recruitment and retention stuff that’s being done. I think that’s important, but if we only look at the recruitment and retention without looking at the classroom conditions piece, then it’s failing before it even gets out of the gate. I think that’s the piece we’re missing.


Right now, today, we have a teacher in every classroom - that’s really important. Do we have a qualified teacher in every classroom? I think probably the answer to that is no. Do we have a body there or a permit to teach, and are there some opportunities there? Absolutely. As a parent, when I send my kids to school, I expect them to be taught by a certified teacher with a Bachelor of Education degree. If we’ve gotten to a place in our system where I can’t as a parent expect that, then I think that is a description of a system that isn’t keeping its bargain with parents and kids.


THE CHAIR: MLA Hansen, and then MLA Barkhouse.


SUZY HANSEN: I wanted to say that, listening and hearing, you’re right. Getting into a profession or career should be one that you love, and you see that every day when teachers are in the classroom. They do love the work that they’re doing, but there are also some added pressures onto that. We feel it, we see it - we know. It’s not hidden. This is not just happening overnight. This is years, and sometimes even decades, of inadequate systems not doing the work that needs to be done.


I want to say, in the same report from 2015 conducted by the NSTU, on teacher time, you found teachers worked on average 10 hours a day, with 2.3 of those hours being outside of school hours. Twenty per cent of teachers reported working over 60 hours per week, outside of their contracted hours. Workload was found to be the main stressor for teachers.


My question to NSTU is: Have these figures improved since this report?


[3:15 p.m.]


RYAN LUTES: Anecdotally, of course, I would say that they have not improved, and likely they’ve actually gotten worse. I think one of the misconceptions is that school goes from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., and then everyone’s done, but that’s not the case. Teaching is a job. It’s part of the job, but it’s a job where you have to work so that you can work. I have to prepare a lesson that I likely don’t have enough preparation time for and try to figure out how to meet all the kids’ needs before actually going to work to teach and deliver that lesson. I think that’s a huge part of it.


Good teaching takes time. It’s not something - we run an educational system. Teachers want to deliver rich learning experiences. That can’t be done when you are trying to maximize every minute a teacher has. Some of the parts that have come out of that is that teachers do need more time within the day, at their own discretion, so that they can plan their lessons, so they can dialogue with the resource teacher about: How can I really support Megan in the best way possible, because you have a really good rapport with that student?


Those are the conversations that non-teachers don’t see. That’s equally as important to the job as the delivering of the lessons. What we’re hearing from teachers is that because of a lot of factors - because of decreasing prep time, increasing needs, plates that have become too full - they simply, at the end of the day, don’t have the time to do that. Not to mention, you know, connecting with home, trying to fill in - I talk to elementary teachers often, and they often get reports from physicians to fill out to assess whether a student might have ADD or other issues. That all goes into those hours outside of the instructional day that they’re working.


Again, teachers are working much longer than 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., and it’s because it takes work to teach. Good teaching and good education take time. We need to invest in our teachers.


I’ve always believed that if you look after the teachers, the teachers will look after the kids.


SUZY HANSEN: So my question would be to the teachers sitting at the table. Do you often find yourself working over the hours of the contracted work that you have?


MEGAN NEAVES: Absolutely. There’s no way you could not do that. It would be impossible to retain your job without working outside the hours. The best part of my day is being in front of the kids and teaching, but in order for that to go well, or for me to feel like I’m doing a good job, I need to be home at night preparing my lessons, learning about each student, reading TIENET documents, and making sure I’m adapting for everybody in the classroom. We have such a diverse classroom that the same lesson is going to be delivered in different ways, and the way that they’re assessed is going to be in different ways, in order for them to be successful.


In order to plan for our diverse classrooms in a way that is also examining our own biases and also being reflective teachers, which is what makes us good ones, it does require many hours outside of our contracted time.


DANIELLE BARKHOUSE: For Dr. Boulter - I think I’m saying that right. Can you tell me about the changes in the educational curriculum that support student success, and the professional development and resources available for teachers teaching this curriculum?


CHRIS BOULTER: Thank you for your question. It provides a bridge, I think, from the last response from our partners at the NSTU.


We’ve certainly done a refocusing of the pedagogy, or the instructional approach, behind many subject areas. There are subject-specific approaches, and then there are more general approaches that we would encourage and support teachers in using - regardless of their area of expertise and the subjects they’re teaching.


You’ve heard the term culturally relevant pedagogy. That came up a little bit earlier. Culturally relevant pedagogy, or culturally responsive instruction, is an approach by which the student is at the centre. You get to know students, as has been described, and you really focus on responsive teaching and ensuring that you understand the needs of individual learners and that the next steps of instruction are greatly impacted by your understanding of individual student needs.


Another approach that we certainly support and provide professional learning on is universal design for learning, often referred to as UDL. Within UDL, the whole approach is that if you design something universally, right away you’ve included everyone within the approach. Some elements of universal design for learning approach, regardless of the grade level and subject area that you teach, involve ensuring that students have multiple means of expressing themselves.


The curriculum outcome may be specifically related to an area of knowledge, but how I express that and how other folks in the classroom express it can be very different. Rather than providing these rigid constraints around what knowledge looks like, within a universal design for learning approach, there are multiple means of representation, multiple means of expression, and multiple means of engagement. In other words, students bring their own interests, their own background to the classroom, and regardless of the subject area or grade level, we would want teachers to design lessons that allow for that diversity in terms of how they wish to express themselves and in terms of the students’ own background knowledge.


Those are two what I would call pedagogical or instructional approaches that are really important, and I think within a classroom where there’s a diverse range of learners and a diverse range of needs, the more opportunity that students have through how the teacher chooses to instruct, to represent their knowledge in ways that are meaningful for them, the more included they would be. In addition to that, I’d like to think that that’s going to help with all kinds of classroom-related matters, including how a classroom is structured, including how you would deal with behavioural needs, and just generally how you support students within a classroom.


Within that, there’s a variety of ways in which professional learning is applied and implemented. We’re so thankful for NSTU members who participate in the Summer Learning Academy. We know lots of teachers take time during the Summer to engage in professional learning. I attended a number of sessions myself last Summer. The planning is done in partnership with the NSTU and PSAANS as well, and we’re very thankful for the time teachers put into that.


In addition to that, there are a number of days throughout the year that are dedicated to professional learning that happens on-site. There’s a provincial conference day which just happened in October, and we know that the NSTU and other organizations such as PSAANS organize and implement all kinds of professional learning around a number of subject areas and put a lot of extra time into that. We’re very appreciative about that as well.


There really are a variety of means by which professional learning can take place. We know that up to two staff meetings a month can take place, and it’s very common for schools to use one of those two staff meetings a month, at least, to provide professional learning around different subject areas. In addition, the other thing I would mention is, going back to the coaching framework, in addition to having dedicated time outside of the instructional day to offer professional learning, we also really want to stress the coaching framework and the benefits that can have of really embedding that professional learning right into the classroom practice.


DANIELLE BARKHOUSE: My 12-year-old son actually has half-day Wednesday, no-school Friday for that. Speaking of student success, I’m just wondering: Can you tell us about how the department is working with the NSTU to increase opportunities for students to have more physical activity, because that is part of their success and is needed for children? As a mother of three, I think I understand that quite well.


CHRIS BOULTER: I certainly agree that physical activity leads to better engagement for all students. We know that through physical activity and through structuring lessons in that way, it also helps with classroom management. It’s very difficult for adults too to sit for long periods of time and to be passive learners. Obviously, that’s the same for students as well.


I’m really excited to share with you that we’re very close to implementing our physical activity framework. This is something that is mentioned within the education mandate. It’s something we’ve put a lot of work into. One pillar of the physical activity framework is how movement is embedded in every classroom. This is not saying that students have X number of minutes of physical education during the week. That’s already there. We already have that piece covered.


But what we really want to look at is how teachers design lessons and how we support teachers in designing lessons in ways that provide more and more opportunities for kids to get active, to get engaged, and to move throughout the lesson, regardless of the grade level and, again, regardless of the subject area. That could involve - I mentioned universal design for learning earlier. Students could express certain curriculum outcomes through movement and through experiential learning opportunities that are hands on.


In addition to that, starting last year, every school receives a healthy living grant of $5,000 plus $1 per student. We know schools have used those funds in all kinds of great ways related to getting students outside and moving.


We certainly have a big focus on treaty education and land-based learning. We’re currently developing a new high school course called Netukulimk 11. Netukulimk is a term that involves two-eyed seeing and melding western understandings of science with Indigenous understandings of science. That will be a land-based course that’s really focused on environmental stewardship - getting out on the land, doing experiments, doing measurements. We’re really excited about that. We’re planning on piloting that next Fall.


That’s a great example of integrating movement into a senior high, very subject-specific course.


THE CHAIR: Next on my list was MLA Coombes, but she has graciously passed her question over to MLA Hansen. MLA Hansen, you’re next.


SUZY HANSEN: I want to say that a campaign promise of this government was to implement all recommendations of the 2018 inclusion report. This time last year, an interim update was published. We know that there has been a lot going on since 2018, but I do want to say that since this last year’s report was published, as the critic for the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, I receive a number of phone calls and messages. Just last week, I received a few messages that said that teachers were pulled three days last week to fill in for classroom teachers because there was no substitute, so therefore they weren’t able to teach their program. Learning support teachers in elementary school are filling in, and the students are not getting the programming that they need.


Another message was in terms of how this affects their work. They didn’t get the schedule from resource. They didn’t know what students they were supporting. I understand this is dependent on their school and areas, but I just wanted to bring it to light that it’s because they were pulled to go to classes and fill in for teachers who were off sick. Filling in for those teachers, they had to go to other meetings. There were things they had to do. Teachers were filling in and stepping in in places and adapting in order for their school to run in the way that it needs to run.


There is every teacher in a classroom - there is absolutely someone in the classroom to make sure that these kids are in a space safely. My concern is because there have been a number of reports about literacy, and some on mathematics, and our main concern - and I understand this is teachers’ - is for the students to be successful. That is key to their learning piece when they’re in the classroom and having all of these things jarred up and things happening really takes away from that.


I want to ask, does this seem like something familiar to you as teachers? I’m seeing some nods. But I also want to ask, what are the NSTU’s thoughts about the slow implementation of the inclusion report? How do you feel about this, Mr. Lutes?


RYAN LUTES: Certainly, the teacher shortage that’s manifesting itself in a substitute shortage right now is absolutely having, I would say, the most effects on our inclusive education model. Our student support teachers, our resource teachers, our guidance counsellors, and just regular classroom teachers who maybe would be using their marking and prep time to support inclusivity in their classroom are all being pulled from that time to, once again, ensure that there is a teacher in front of the classroom.


One of the frustrations that teachers express to me is that there are all these great ideas that are coming out of the department, and they’re ways that we need to move. Mr. Boulter talks about culturally relevant pedagogy, which teachers believe in. We believe in making connections with kids, informing our practice based on the students who are in front of us, listening to what students are telling us in terms of what assessments they take and how they’re doing. Then we take that information and mould our next set of lessons to really delve into those kids in front of us.


[3:30 p.m.]


You can’t do that when your school is metaphorically on fire and you’re constantly trying to fill in the gaps. That’s what’s happening. Or when we talk about things like moving on treaty education or anti-Black racism, or all of the things that the teaching profession really wants to move on. It’s really near and dear to our hearts, but when you’re asking us to make massive pedagogical shifts, which we need to be making - but again, my focus is just making sure that I’m holding it together as a classroom teacher. I can’t do that. I can’t make big shifts in my pedagogy. I can’t implement the things that our kids deserve because I don’t have the time and my students aren’t supported to the degree that they should be. Again, that weighs heavily on teachers.


One of the concerns we’re hearing a lot from our learning centre teachers is that because of shortages in EPAs or EAs - depending on how they’re termed across the province - they’re not doing their learning centre teaching work. They’re being EAs for the day or they’re being EPAs for the day. Again, are the kids safe? Most of the time. Sometimes they would tell me that they’re not safe, or that there are moments where safety is an issue, but what are we losing? What expertise and services to kids are we losing when these folks are being pulled in all of these different directions?


I would argue that when everything’s going well, schools are excellent, wonderful places where kids are learning, and teachers are doing beautiful things in their classrooms to support kids every day. But when schools aren’t working - and they’re not right now - asking teachers to try to expand their curriculum or change things is just a really difficult ask. It’s not that teachers don’t want to. In their hearts they want to, but they just can’t do it because there are so many gaps that they’re trying to fill.


SUZY HANSEN: This also brings me back to when we think about assessments and other work that actually needs to be done that’s beneficial for each student. It makes me think about time preparation for individual program plans. We know that we need to make sure that all of the kids are learning in a way that they need to. How does that affect those types of assessments or those types of pieces moving forward? I want it directed to the department because they would have the information.


THE CHAIR: I’d like to ask one of the teachers to respond to that, please.




MEGAN NEAVES: Essentially, like I was talking about before, when we lose our prep time and have to cover for other people - I’m actually enrolled in my Culturally Relevant Pedagogy Masters right now, so I’m really working hard to implement that every day. But it does take time and it takes time to really reflect on your learners and what they tell you, and how to plan their lessons in a way that’s going to support their learning and build on what they already know and what they bring to the table.


As far as our individual program plans go, that takes a lot of work itself because not only are we just planning a lesson or an assessment for our large group of sometimes up to 30 students in the classroom, but we have specific individual IPP outcomes that are to build on the students - what they know already. We need to also build assessments and plan for assessments that they can be successful in, or challenge them in ways that enhance their learning.


Not only do we have to plan that, record it in TIENET, create the outcomes for the students and reflect on what they are successful in and what they aren’t, but also report on that. As well we incorporate adaptations for our different learners in the classroom, which the majority - we have a lot of students who have specific adaptations, but also create adaptations so the next teacher knows what that students needs to be successful based on what worked for us. It just comes back to the time, and if we’re left without time, then it is our most marginalized, most vulnerable students who are impacted every day.


THE CHAIR: MLA Ince, and then MLA Sheehy-Richard with about five minutes left.


TONY INCE: Given the current situation and all the challenges, I’m going to ask this question, which is going to add another layer. According to the Narrative Research poll

in 2022, 27 per cent of students surveyed faced discrimination, homophobia, racism, transphobia; 60 per cent of students surveyed had witnessed racism, discrimination, homophobia, transphobia. These numbers are unacceptable, when more than half of the respondents had witnessed discrimination in some form.


With those staggering numbers - and this question will go to the department - what immediate steps is the department taking to ensure that students don’t face these levels of discrimination?


ELWIN LEROUX: I know my colleague Dr. Boulter will be interested to share some comments. MLA Ince, racism is not okay in our schools, neither is homophobia, nor any other situation that excludes kids. That’s first and foremost.


As a community both of employees and of families, we have to help our children to understand: if something’s happening, report it. We have to help them understand where to report it - to their teacher, to their principal - because the best chance we have at educating and of eliminating is to actually let people know it’s happening.


I know that our regional centres of education and the CSAP work very hard, but there’s also work that’s yet to be done. I know that whenever someone is involved in an issue that relates to racism or discrimination, it’s taken incredibly seriously. It’s dealt with through the regional code of conduct. There are usually consequences. But our industry exists to teach, so beyond consequences, we have to restore relationships and help people understand that it’s never okay.


I will share with you one experience recently that I’ve had. As senior leadership at the department, we meet with regional executive directors and the superintendent of CSAP monthly. We’ve talked with the regions, and one has presented how they work with community differently so that community can report and understand how best to do that in relationship with schools and the central office. We saw that as a common experience that we should be all looking to differently.


Most powerfully, recently we shared an experience from Horton High School, where the regional executive director invited staff to come forward and explain how they dealt with it. Students at the school said that when racism happens, students go home, they come back, and it continues. That’s not okay. And they said, we have a better way: let us teach. Let us show them how we experience that when a peer makes a mistake.


So their entire approach to dealing with racism in school was educational - somewhat punitive, in that there was an in-school suspension or other - but that time wasn’t spent with someone home. That time was spent in a learning environment including restorative circle with kids who were harmed.


They shared that model - I almost get choked up talking about it, because the whole room was enamoured with the idea that there are better ways, kids can help us with this. Everyone said all of our high schools could be doing that.


Those are two quick examples, in the interests of time. I really appreciate you highlighting the issue.


THE CHAIR: MLA Sheehy-Richard, with about a minute to go.


MELISSA SHEEHY-RICHARD: Thank you for sharing that. It’s interesting that we were kind of following up on my question, because my hen-scratching didn’t compare notes over here with my colleague. But when we talk about the inclusiveness for teachers, students, and families through enhanced programming for student success, were there additional supports put in place for this? Could you provide us with an update? You have, like, 30 seconds.


CHRIS BOULTER: There certainly were. As I mentioned earlier, there were over a thousand dedicated inclusive education positions. Many of those positions were related to direct support for students in schools, including a number of student support worker positions.


The other thing I would mention is that we have established both an African Nova Scotian and treaty education framework. Those frameworks, very similar to universal design for learning, are not specific to one course or one grade level. These are frameworks as we build new curriculum and as we create new resources that permeate every course. As we look at what are appropriate new resources for a course or we look at developing and building a new course, first and foremost, and right at the front of the conversation, are those frameworks in regard to ensuring that new resources include elements of our African Nova Scotian learners’ framework, of our treaty education framework. No new resource, no new course construction or anything like that, would happen without those frameworks at the forefront of those conversations.


THE CHAIR: Thank you, Dr. Boulter. That concludes our question-and-answer period - a wonderful discussion this afternoon. We’ll now allow our guests to leave us with some closing comments. Our committee does have a bit of committee business to attend to.


Maybe we’ll go in reverse order this time and we’ll ask Mr. Lutes to begin, if he has any closing statements, and then we’ll go across the table.


RYAN LUTES: Thank you for this. It’s been an excellent conversation. I do want to leave you with words from teachers, because ultimately, I represent teachers but there’s no better spokesperson for the NSTU than our own members.


This is something that came in from a teacher that I think highlights the extent to which the crisis is impacting them and their schools. If you’ll indulge me for a second - and this is right from them. This isn’t edited. This is directly from the horse’s mouth:


I’ve been sick with a flu for nearly two weeks. In a working system, one consistent sub would be available to take over my class with minimal disruption in the day-to-day flow for the students. But in our broken system, teachers are being pulled from their precious prep time to cover for me and the many others who are currently sick at home. There is zero consistency in the classroom, and my colleagues are stretched past their breaking point.


As soon as I get back, the same will go for me. I’m planning already to not have any prep time, which means that all the work that has piled up in my absence will sit on my desk unmarked for however long, and the kids will be stuck with half-baked lessons from a teacher trying to hold it together.


We’re sick with viruses and we’re broken under the weight of an untenable workload. I can’t wait to see my students when I get back. They’re wonderful and hilarious and unique, and full of so much potential. But no matter how much skill, effort, and love I put into my work, they’re getting nowhere near the attention they deserve.


I hope that you’re able to hear the hope that teachers have, the love that they have for the kids, and the admiration that they have for the system. They are here because they want to make a difference. But they are not superheroes, and they are begging for your help.


THE CHAIR: Thank you, Mr. Lutes.


PAUL LENARCZYK: Thank you, Chair, and thank you everybody again for having us in here to speak to you. Thanks to all the other witnesses as well.


I kind of struggled with what to say for closing, but I think I’ll just leave it at this. You’ve heard so much about the workload and more and more being piled onto teachers’ plates, with the analogy of flying the plane and all that, and then the direct stories. I think the thing to have happen is to take some things off that plate.


All the important things that we’ve been talking about - the culturally relevant pedagogy, the universal design for learning, all of those new things - they’re wonderful and they’re important and they are what teachers want to do. It’s what our kids deserve. It’s what we want to do in the classrooms. But we can’t do all of that and all of the other stuff.


The year before last, I had an experience at the year-end staff meeting with a veteran teacher like myself - actually, probably longer in the system. We were told that teachers in HRCE were going to be teaching what they call seven of eight periods, because of contract reasons - anyway, less prep time at a high school. We were told by administration to just do that one more thing, and this veteran teacher said, no, I can’t - I cannot do one more thing. And she is a dedicated professional who gives everything to the students in front of her.


For us to be able to do that, for teachers to be able to give all of themselves, something has to give. Something has to go. Thank you very much.


ELWIN LEROUX: Thank you, Mr. Chair. On behalf of the department team, I’ll just say thank you very much for your questions this afternoon. We appreciate you taking the time to speak to such an important issue.


THE CHAIR: Thank you one and all for appearing before our committee today. We do have some business to attend to as a committee, so we’ll take a five-minute recess and we’ll allow the guests to leave, then we’ll reconvene.


[3:45 p.m. The committee recessed.]


[3:50 p.m. The committee reconvened.]


THE CHAIR: Order. We’ll ask all committee members to come to their chairs.


We are in committee business, outside of what we did before the meeting began. Is there any other committee business? That’s the question I would like to ask. (Laughter)


If there is no other committee business, I’ll announce that our next meeting is on December the 13th from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. - note the change. This will give staff time to make any changes they need to make for the Health Committee meeting that comes after that. Our guests will be from the Department of Labour, Skills and Immigration, including Immigration and Population Growth staff, and YMCA’s YREACH program, regarding supporting connecting newcomers to the workforce.


With no other business on the table, I will now call this meeting adjourned.


[The committee adjourned at 3:51 p.m.]