B.C. public schools have been ordered to prepare report cards this fall, even if an ongoing teachers' strike means they could contain little more than students' attendance records and their instructors' names.

Deputy education minister James Gorman has sent an email to superintendents instructing them that if teachers refuse to issue report cards, the responsibility will fall to administrators.

"It is the ministry's expectation that a report card will be issued for each student this fall. If teachers refuse to produce report cards for their students the statutory obligation remains," the Oct. 18 letter said.

The BC School Regulation states at least three written reports and two informal reports must be delivered during each school year.

Gorman acknowledges that the reports may be incomplete, but states that they must contain, at minimum, the student's division, teachers, courses, attendance and grades for any classes taught by administrators.

"Parents should also be provided contact information to follow up directly with the teacher(s) if they wish to do so and to the extent possible," Gorman wrote.

Reports are a key source of information for parents, Gorman said, and an attempt must be made.

"In some cases, we know that parents are not receiving the information they need to ensure their child is progressing satisfactorily," he said.

Teachers have refused to complete administrative duties, including supervising recess and filling out forms, since the beginning of the school year in their fight for increased salaries, benefits and education funding.

According to the federation, teacher pay was third-highest in Canada during their last contract, but has now fallen to eighth.

But teachers fall under the BC Liberal government's "net zero" mandate, which states that pay raises and other workplace changes must not increase the overall cost of their collective agreement.

Negotiations with the BC Public School Employers' Association have so far been fruitless, and the BCPSEA is now filing an application with the Labour Relations Board to require teachers to prepare and distribute complete report cards for all students.

It is also asking for the power to demand reimbursement from the BC Teachers' Federation for salary and costs associated with the strike.

Earlier this month, Education Minister George Abbott said he is mulling the possibility of legislating an end to the job action, citing the potential absence of report cards as a key factor.

The first report cards of the year are due in mid-November.