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B.C. teachers facing 'unsustainable' pressures due to staff shortages, union says

An empty teacher's desk is seen in this generic image of a classroom.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward An empty teacher's desk is seen in this generic image of a classroom. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

A "critical" shortage of teachers in B.C. is leading to increased workloads, mounting stress and an inability to meet students' needs, according to a first-of-its-kind survey conducted by the union.

The BC Teachers Federation released the results of its membership survey Tuesday, saying the results underscore that action is needed to address persistent staffing shortages in schools.

"Teachers are doing their best to make it work, but without significant staffing increases, the pressures on them are unsustainable,” union president Clint Johnston said in a statement.

"Our public educators believe passionately in providing students with the best education possible and could do so much more with the full support of school districts and the B.C. government.

The survey asked teachers to compare their workloads, stress and health this year to last.

Nearly two-thirds, 64.1 per cent, said their workloads have increased, and 65.5 per cent said their stress levels are higher. When it comes to health, 40.5 per cent reported a decline in their physical health and 40.4 per cent reported worsening mental health.

These factors, the union says, combine to increase the likelihood of burnout. The top two reasons teachers said they would consider leaving the profession were "inadequate working conditions" and "mental health concerns," according to the report.

Four out of five teachers said they have been personally impacted by staff shortages at their schools and in their districts. The number one impact of this, according to the survey results summary, is that they are "not able to get necessary support for (their) students." The concern that kids' needs are not being met is more pronounced when it comes to students with disabilities or diverse needs, the summary notes. A lack of support for these students was also cited one of the top three reasons BCTF members would leave teaching.

Other ways teachers said they were affected were a loss of prep time and being pulled away from their regular duties to cover shortages. They also reported foregoing needed sick days and personal days due to concerns over staffing levels.

Going forward, the union plans to repeat the survey every year in order to track trends.

The online survey was sent to a random sample of 13,053 union members, the report says. There were a total of 3,068 completed responses received. The BCTF had 39,558 members when the survey was sent out. Top Stories

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