Education dispute ignores Generation Squeeze

By Paul Kershaw, Human Early Learning Partnership scholar of social care, citizenship and the determinants of health at UBC
Vancouver Sun

Class size is a sticking point between the B.C. government and the B.C. Teachers’ Federation. It affects teachers’ working conditions, the quality of education received by children in kindergarten through Grade 12 (K-12), as well as the province’s bottom line.

The dispute about class size is inevitably influenced by classroom characteristics. Take extra support needs, for example. A class of 24 kids in which seven have extra support needs will be far more challenging for a well-trained teacher than will be a class of 24 in which just two or three children require additional support….

Because the generation raising kids is squeezed, 30 per cent of their children reach kindergarten struggling to hold a pencil, or follow instructions, or get along with peers, or know many of their letters – all age-appropriate tasks. Most of these children live in middle- and upper-income homes and neighbourhoods.

So long as 30 per cent of children arrive at school struggling in these ways, there are seven kids with extra support needs in a class of 24. Ample research evidence reveals there is no reason for this number to reach even three children.

The proportion of B.C. kids struggling when they enter school has been pretty consistent for over a decade. This means K-12 classrooms are now filled with a surplus of vulnerable children. Many classes may have four additional children requiring extra support that we could have prevented through family policy investments well before the children started school….