The union representing 4,000 education support staff in Surrey says the shortage of education assistants means some students are left alone with tablets for hours. (Pixabay file photo)

Surrey union decries ‘epidemic’ level shortage of education assistants in B.C.

Children sit with tablets for hours when EAs aren’t available, CUPE says

SURREY — After Surrey’s school district recently revealed a huge shortage of on-call teachers, the union representing education assistants say the situation is far worse for them.

On Nov. 22nd alone, 101 education assistant (EA) positions went unfilled in Surrey when staff were off sick or otherwise absent, CUPE 728 president Ryan Groundwater told the Surrey Now-Leader.

“The number of EA positions not filled grew from 44 in September to almost 800 in October,” said Groundwater, who represents the union representing 4,000 education support staff in Surrey, including 1,500 education assistants.

“And this month, we’ve already hit 700 EA positions not filled, with another nine school days to go.”

But it’s not just Surrey, Groundwater said.

“This is province-wide. It’s an epidemic.”

See related: ‘Troublesome’ on-call teacher shortage in Surrey

See related: Surrey must create 168 new classrooms, hire 300 teachers by September

Groundwater said the shortfall of education assistants means some cover five or six students at a time.

“Under these conditions, an EA may not physically be able to pay close enough attention to each student to catch behaviour before it escalates into a problem,” he said. “They are not able to give each student the attention needed.”

Groundwater blames the former Liberal government due to 16 years of “chronic” underfunding.

“We have to hold the former government accountable,” he said. “It led to these shortages… We have a more progressive government now but it will take time.”

Groundwater said the solution could lie in how EAs are paid.

“Currently full-time EAs in high schools work 32 hours and those in elementary schools work only 30 hours each week,” he explained. “By providing more hours for EAs so that they could earn a living wage, we would attract and retain more EAs in our system. Addressing incidences of violence in classrooms, of which EAs take the brunt, would also help draw more people into the field.”

Finally, he said he is “optimistic” there will be new funding in the NDP’s B.C. budget in February.

See also: ‘Schools need to be built now,’ says Surrey parent group

See also: Surrey to be short portables in September

The union’s vice president Marcey Campbell said she’s seen first-hand how the shortage affects children in need.

“I’ve seen so many kids that are basically left alone when their EAs are being pulled or not replaced. I’ve seen kids that have, unfortunately, sat in front of a tablet for a few hours because there isn’t that support for them,” she told the Now-Leader.

Campbell explained EAs support children with behaviour concerns, medical concerns, toileting or mobility concerns, children with disabilities like autism and ADHD and “even typical kids that sometimes just need a little bit of extra help are going unserviced.”

Campbell said while teacher shortages are often in the news, EAs tend to take a back seat.

“We’ve always kind of been on the back burner. That’s why we’re in this horrendous situation.”

The Now-Leader has asked the Surrey school district for comment.



amy.reid@surreynowleader.com

Like us on Facebook and follow Amy on Twitter

Just Posted

5 tips for talking to your kids about cannabis

Health officials recommend sharing a harm reduction-related message.

Victoria among Top 10 sunniest Canadian cities

Victoria ranks 6th in sunny days per year

Surge in requests for help, reports of sexual assault since #MeToo

Growing demand for Victoria Sexual Assault Clinic’s services in first year of #MeToo

Growing numbers of Vancouver Islanders get flu shots

In 2017 alone, more than 240,000 people got vaccinated

Victoria teen suffers whiplash in school ‘bubble’ soccer game

Middle school students injured in teacher-student competition

Find your future at Black Press career fair in Victoria

More than 70 booths expected at Bay Street Armoury on Oct. 25

ELECTION 2018: Vancouver Island politician ending unprecedented 40-year run

Mike Kokura served on the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District board since 1972

Private marijuana stores should shut down, Mike Farnworth says

B.C. has approved 62 licences, but they still need local approval

Court finds that company was ‘careless’ in cutting down 45 trees near Nanaimo

Western Canadian Timber Products ordered to pay $80,000 to private landowners

Dying motorcyclist from Coombs gets last-ride tribute

Friends grant Corinna Pitney’s wish ‘to hear bikes roar, to see leather and chrome’

HPV vaccine does not lead to riskier sex among teen girls: UBC

Girls are less likely to have sex now than they were a decade ago

VIDEO: Rescued eagle released in Ucluelet

“I’m very confident that he’s going to make it. He’s done very well.”

Koreas agree to break ground on inter-Korean railroad

The rival Koreas are holding high-level talks Monday to discuss further engagement amid a global diplomatic push to resolve the nuclear standoff with North Korea.

Most Read