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Shop concerns persist
Even though the B.C. Education Minister has admitted there are safety concerns in shop classes, his words rang hollow for a member of the BC Technology Education Association who’s been pressing the government to improve safety for more than three years now.
In a back-to-school media conference call on Tuesday, when Minister George Abbott was asked about the growing concern of large class sizes for industrial education, he acknowledged the difficulties shop teachers face.
Shops that were designed for no more than 24 students are running anywhere from 25 to 35. As well, in an environment that regularly operates heavy duty equipment, some classes also have additional untrained educational assistants in them, requiring even more teacher supervision.
Abbott, who met with the BC Technology Education Association in January, said he’d like to see more shop-specific training for educational assistants, and said the size issue is something the ministry continues to look into.
“I do think the technology association made some really good points to me and the ministry about safety in shop classes,” said Abbott.
However, due to last year’s “heated” labour relations between the teachers’ federation and the ministry, he said conversations ceased, and the government has not yet moved ahead with any plans for improvement.
For Eric Munshaw, a middle school teacher in Chilliwack, and member of the BC Technology Education Association, that’s not good enough.
It’s not just a concern, it’s unsafe, he said. But unfortunately, “I think it will take an accident or two to really bring it to the surface.”
Munshaw doesn’t believe improvements will be made until next year at the earliest.
“The problem is all the class lists have already been made, all the teaching assignments are made, we’re starting next week with stuff that really can’t be changed easily through the school year,” said Munshaw.
“I’d be gobsmacked if they made a change partway through the school year. It would take weeks to set up, teaching loads would have to be redistributed, it would be a nightmare.”
Munshaw questions if he’ll see improvements before the end of his teaching career.
“My spidey sense tells me nothing will happen until the election in the spring,” he said. “There may be a change in philosophy with a change in government, who knows. In the meantime, I expect numbers will continue to build.
“For me, if it doesn’t change this year, it will be the end of my career I think. I just feel like I’m charging at windmills here.”