The 2020-2021 school year took place, in large part, virtually for a great number of students across Québec. The failure rate at the high school level surged due to the pandemic. When comparing the previous year’s rate for certain subjects, it even doubled.
The 2021 school year began without seeing sufficient measures introduced to bolster educational success or support students with special needs. This is of great concern for the CSQ and its federations in the school network. “The few additional resources show a lack of consideration from the Ministry of Education regarding what the consequences of the pandemic will be on our young people’s success,” says CSQ president Éric Gingras.
It is important that we take stock of the pandemic’s repercussions on academic achievement and learning, from primary school to adult education, to reach students from all sectors more effectively. Once we’ve ascertained the current situation, we can implement appropriate measures, such as the adoption of specific intervention plans designed for young people and adults who attend school.
“To improve our interventions, we need to establish a clear diagnosis of the pandemic's repercussions and find out what needs fixing at ground level,” says Éric Gingras. “And that has to lead to a coherent action plan.”
FPPE-CSQ1 president Jacques Landry agrees: “We’re seeing too many students with faltering mental health. We need to give them a little breathing room, a renewed sense of hope. It is necessary to put in place a school network-specific mental health action plan to address rising anxiety and rekindle student motivation. We need to listen to them, take preventive action and guarantee access to psychosocial resources.”
Two areas in particular would provide students with some breathing room: fostering their presence at school as much as possible, while following public health guidelines, and ensuring equal opportunities by helping young people and adults who dropped out go back to school, with a special focus on more vulnerable students.
How about some fresh air?
After months of upheavals, the school network personnel need to catch their breath. “Faced with labour shortages at all levels, the existing personnel needs the space, time and means to carry out their work properly,” says Éric Gingras.
“We need, now more than ever, a long-term vision in education and sufficient resources to make up for lost time and to meet the needs of our students,” adds FSE-CSQ2 president Josée Scalabrini. “Teachers must be able to count on both the Ministry of Education and management teams to give them preparation time and time to support their students.”
Support workers across the school system need some breathing room too, according to FPSS-CSQ3 president Éric Pronovost. The Federation’s survey, carried out a year into the pandemic, revealed that 86% of respondents saw their tasks increase (52% significantly and 34% slightly).
And the labour shortage in the school network hasn't helped. But solutions do exist, says Éric Pronovost: “Offering permanent full-time positions would make education a more attractive field and would ensure
some kind of stability for students who build relationships with us.”
Safety for one and all
Better air quality is crucial to guarantee the health and safety of students and staff. And when it comes to ventilation in our schools, the CSQ and its federations are rather sceptical about the government’s plan.
Even though carbon dioxide sensors to measure air quality in schools — therefore reducing the risk of COVID-19 transmission — are essential, installation had not been completed when the school year began. It will only be completed later in the fall of 2021.
“It is not normal for our staff not to be able to know if their working conditions comply with minimum standards,” sums up Éric Gingras.
1 Fédération des professionnelles et professionnels de l’éducation.
2 Fédération des syndicats de l’enseignement.
3 Fédération du personnel de soutien scolaire.