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What are the issues in the Ontario teachers’ negotiations?

People walk the picket line in front of Lorne Park Secondary School Ontario on May 4, 2015.

Mark Blinch/The Globe and Mail

What's holding up the Ontario teacher talks?

Union leaders for secondary and elementary school teachers have repeatedly pointed to a few sticking points at contract negotiations over the past few weeks. Here are some demands they say the province has made that their members aren't ready to accept:

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  • Managing teachers’ preparation time: Sam Hammond, president of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario, has said managers want to “micromanage” teachers’ non-classroom work hours, which is time dedicated to preparing lessons and other work supporting teaching time, rather than leaving it self-directed.
  • Controlling student testing: Rather than letting teachers decide what kind of diagnostic testing their pupils need, school administration would help make those decisions under the contract offer, Mr. Hammond said. “Their professional judgment should be respected on that,” he said. The head of the Ontario Public School Boards Association, Michael Barrett, said principals used to be part of that process and should now be again.
  • Supervising students out of the classroom: This proposal would affect occasional teachers in particular, as it would ask them to spend more time watching students at recess and lunch than they do now, Mr. Hammond said. But, in those non-classroom hours, the teachers fear that the new rules could be overly broad, requiring them “to do whatever’s required by an administrator.”

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  • Increasing class sizes: Right now, Ontario schools are strictly required to maintain a certain average class size in each program. The province and Ontario Public School Boards Association want to eliminate those class size “caps” to give them more flexibility, according to the boards association. Teachers are balking at the idea of bigger classes – and the idea that there would be no upper limit at all, said Paul Elliott, president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation.
  • Spending more time supervising students: Teachers have been asked to increase the hours they spend supervising students in hallways and over lunch, in some cases more than doubling the time. The board association says this would help boards cut down on hiring extra staff.
  • Managing teacher time: Teachers believe that the province wants to impose new controls on their non-classroom time, though they are not sure exactly what the effect would be. They see this as their “self-directed time” and something better left to their professional judgment, Mr. Elliott said.
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