OTTAWA – Safe and caring schools are a top-of-mind priority for the Canadian Teachers’ Federation (CTF) as it highlights this year’s World Teachers’ Day on Oct. 5. The Federation chose the theme because of a growing concern expressed by its Member organizations about violence in school.
“All teachers and students have the right to a safe and caring environment,” says CTF President H. Mark Ramsankar. “Sadly, our Member organizations indicate incidents of classroom violence against teachers are on the rise with a few reporting an increase at the elementary level. Many students and teachers go to school fearing they will be the next victims of threats, intimidation, and violence at the hands of other students. This shouldn’t happen in a place of learning and work.”
Ramsankar believes the increase in violence is symptomatic of larger societal and systemic problems: “Too many schools lack the necessary supports and resources children with behavioural issues require. This reality is omnipresent in Francophone, Anglophone, and Indigenous communities as well as in the many immigrant communities all over the country.”
The CTF President also highlights the toll this can take on teachers. Constant and unreasonable expectations, heavy workloads, threats of violence by students, lack of educational support, and limited access to often inadequate mental health services for students can lead to increased work-related mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, and burnout.
“Austerity measures in education have exacerbated challenging situations in schools and the reality is that too many now face diminishing resources and larger class sizes. Teachers’ heavier workloads can result in less time to devote to the educational needs of students and/or an increase in work-related stress leading to burnout,” explains Ramsankar.
“Although most students with mental health challenges are not violent, those who struggle with aggressive behaviours desperately need professional help. Yes, teachers want to be part of the solution, but we cannot do it without support including access to professional services for all students.”
In a 2014 CTF national survey, 90.6% of over 5,000 teachers who responded indicated safe and caring schools as a major priority for the Federation’s advocacy efforts during the 2015 federal election. Over 95% of teachers indicated that student mental health and well-being was the top priority.
In another CTF survey conducted in 2014, 95% of more than 8,000 teacher respondents experienced stress because it is harder to find time to meet the individual educational needs of students. Teachers also said they don’t have adequate supports and services to address the broad range of special needs in their classrooms.
In a 2012 CTF survey of nearly 4,000 teachers conducted in collaboration with the Mental Health Commission of Canada, 89% of respondents said there is a shortage of school-based mental health professionals.
Founded in 1920, the Canadian Teachers’ Federation is a national alliance of provincial and territorial Member organizations that represent over 232,000 teachers across Canada. CTF is also a member of Education International. @CanTeachersFed and @EnseigneCanada.
H. Mark Ramsankar, President
Francine Filion, Director of Communications, 613-899-4247 firstname.lastname@example.org