Special needs shortages in local schools

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Tashi Farmilo

OUTAOUAIS – The Outaouais’ education professionals affiliated with the Syndicat du personnel professionnel du milieu scolaire de l’Outaouais (SPPMSO) and the Fédération des professionnelles et des professionnels de l’éducation du Québec (FPPE), joined colleagues from across Quebec to draw attention to the growing shortage of professional education services. This shortage is significantly impacting students, particularly those with special needs.

Under the theme “Attention à vos enfants, c’est peut-être le vôtre qui sera privé de services professionnels” (Watch out for your children: it could be your child who’s deprived of professional services), members of the SPPMSO staged a protest outside the office of Suzanne Tremblay, Hull MP and government assistant to the Minister of Education. Their goal was to stress how government decisions directly influence the learning, progress, and success of students in public schools.

“The Quebec school system is facing a serious crisis, struggling to attract professionals to fill vacant positions and meet the needs of our students,” explained Annie St-Pierre, president of the SPPMSO. “There’s a concerning scarcity of qualified professionals in the Pontiac, and a notable preference for the private sector due to its more favorable compensation. Within the education system, numerous challenges and adversities arise from the combination of reduced remuneration, limited support structures, and heightened pressure and stress,” she added.

St-Pierre emphasized the importance of quick solutions. “With ongoing renegotiations of collective agreements for teachers and other staff, it’s crucial to find quick solutions to address this crisis and ensure accessibility to professional public services for all students,” she explained.

According to the latest figures from the Ministry of Education, Quebec is facing a shortage of over 180 psychologists, 176 speech therapists, and 192 psychotherapists. The FPPE estimates there are more than 1,000 vacant professional positions across direct services, pedagogical services, and administrative services. This shortage is unprecedented in the history of Quebec’s public education system.

Meanwhile, bargaining table discussions concerning the collective agreement of education professionals have reached an impasse.