Policy Change Responding to Parent, Student Concerns

Sport and other school teams, performance activities like band and drama are among those exempted from the three-day limit on school and class trips, Education Minister Jamie Muir said today, Sept. 16. The three-day limit is part of an interim policy for school boards addressing the best use of instructional time.

“Today we are responding to the concerns we’ve heard from parents, students, school boards and others regarding our efforts to limit how much time students spend outside of the school on non-curricular related activities and trips,” said Mr. Muir. “We appreciate their concerns, particularly as they relate to the policy’s impact on sport and band activities. We regret the confusion.”

The interim draft policy on the use of instructional time was distributed to school board superintendents in August.

“The interim direction about limiting school trips to three days will not encompass school-sponsored activities,” said Mr Muir. “At the same time, I would like to reiterate the intention of the policy is to ensure schools are thinking of how best to use instructional time.”

A new interim draft policy was distributed to school boards today, Sept. 16, clarifying the exemption.

The Department of Education’s Learning for Life II: Brighter Futures Together plan focuses on promoting success for all students. Parents, teachers and others attending the Partner’s Forum, in February, asked the Department of Education to focus their priorities on both the quality and quantity of learning.

“We need to ensure the best use of the limited time we have with our students,” said Mr. Muir. “Learning time is precious. We have to protect and preserve that time. That’s what we are working to do. Student learning depends on it.”

As part of the department’s ongoing consultations with school boards and the Nova Scotia School Boards Association, the draft policy on the instructional use of time will be discussed Thursday, Sept. 22 at a meeting with school board superintendents.

The three-day limit will continue to apply to activities that are not related to the curriculum. The remainder of the policy addresses how boards should deal with class time interruptions, including storm days and movies in the classroom. It will also be used to address how to best use class time in December and June.

“It’s critical that we work this through with the school boards,” said Mr. Muir. “At the same time, we remain firm in our position that students need time to learn and teachers need time to teach. The overall reaction to the provincial assessment results is clearly a demand for improvements in our system. Addressing the use of instructional time is part of that response.”

The department will work with the boards and collect data over the course of the year that will help to formulate the long-term direction. A final policy is expected during the 2006-07 school year.