Ontario’s teacher shortage is over, says the Ontario College of Teachers, the licensing body for the province’s teaching professionals.
College data shows that an increased supply of newly qualified teachers and a return to lower retirement rates has dealt with the crisis in teacher numbers that the College first brought to the public’s attention eight years ago.
However, in a report in its quarterly magazine published today, the College says that shortages remain in some specialties â€“ French, physics, chemistry, math, business studies and technological education.
Even with recent provincial government funding that will spur the hiring of new teachers to meet literacy, numeracy, physical education and arts programming needs, the existing supply meets most projected needs.
Professionally Speaking, the College’s magazine, first published reports in 1997 warning of a looming crisis in the supply of qualified teachers. A sharp rise in demand was predicted from 1998 through 2005 due to a spike in retirements among teachers hired in the â€˜60s and early â€˜70s. Further study showed that the problem was widespread. As a result, the College urged the province to fund 10,000 extra spaces over five years in Ontario’s faculties of education.
â€œWe’re pleased to say that government and teacher faculty response to the situation helped to attract the high quality teachers Ontario’s students required,â€ says College Registrar Doug Wilson. â€œBut our most recent Transition to Teaching study now indicates that many newly certified teachers are struggling to find full-time work.
â€œThere are excellent, full-time teaching opportunities for work in northern and remote areas of the province that people sometimes overlook,â€ Wilson says.
College data shows:
* the annual retirement rate is now headed steadily downward
* government-funded spaces for one-year teacher training at Ontario education faculties jumped from 5,000 in ’98-99 to 6,500 in 2000-01, a level that continues today
* fewer teachers are leaving the profession in the early years of teaching. Only one in 13 leave in their first three years
* new teacher education programs have emerged in the province
* interest in teaching has surged â€“ 15,000 apply to faculties now compared to 8,000 in ’97-98
* US border colleges have added to the supply. In 1998, American-based teacher education programs provided 500 teacher candidates per year. By 2002, the number of US grads applying for College membership in Ontario rose to 1,300.
* school boards also have access to a growing pool of retirees who can work for up to 95 school days a year without affecting their pensions
* College membership has grown from 172,000 in 1998 to 193,000 in 2004. Teachers must be licensed by the College to teach in Ontario’s publicly funded schools.
New teachers say they’re finding it increasingly difficult to find full-time work. So far, most are employed full-time by their third year. Internationally trained teachers report even less success in finding full-time teaching jobs.
â€œNew teachers specializing in the high need subjects stand a 50 per cent better chance of finding work following graduation,â€ Wilson says.
There is also evidence that school boards are challenged to fill school leadership roles. So far this decade about 1,000 teachers a year have completed their Principal’s Qualification certification. However, over the last few years, the College has granted roughly 175 Temporary Letters of Approval to school boards each year to enable boards to fill principal and vice-principal positions with people who do not have the qualifications for those roles. The leadership shortage is most severe in French-language school boards.
With the threat of general teacher shortage successfully met, the author of the College report, Frank McIntyre, says that the persisting shortages for qualified teachers in specialized roles can be solved if the provincial government and faculties of education respond as effectively as they did to the general shortage.
â€œTargeted recruitment and support can help to relieve these remaining pressures facing Ontario’s school boards,â€ says College Chair Marilyn Laframboise. â€œMore must be done to attract and support French-language teacher education candidates and people with science, math and technical backgrounds and to assist northern boards who find it particularly difficult to hire the staff they need.â€