Students and educators rely on broad range of non-teaching staff
October 12, 2017
Teachers do not work alone, and a school community consists of more than individual classrooms.
Every day, individuals from a variety of backgrounds and experience come together in schools to help students achieve their academic and personal goals. From the office staff, to hall monitors, to educational assistants and community agencies, the people in the school community often go beyond their assigned roles, connecting with students and providing informal support and guidance.
Vital staff beyond teachers is an excerpt from People for Education’s 2017 Annual report on Ontario’s publicly funded schools, and is based on survey results from more than 1000 Ontario elementary and secondary schools. In the survey, we asked principals about access to psychologists, social workers, child and youth workers, and speech-language pathologists.
Limited access to professionals and para-professionals
“Based on the increasing mental health issues students are facing, there just isn’t enough time for our social worker/psychologist to meet the demands of all the students needing support.” Secondary school, Peel DSB
The survey results show that in 2017:
- 61% of elementary schools and 50% of secondary schools report that they do not have sufficient access to a psychologist to adequately support students.
- 47% of elementary schools and 36% of secondary schools report that child and youth workers are not available.
- 49% of elementary and 81% of secondary schools report they do not have sufficient access to a social worker to adequately support their students.
School psychologists assess students’ special education needs, as well as diagnosing mental health issues, providing intervention, and assisting teachers in supporting struggling students. In their survey comments, principals reported significant concerns about providing mental health support.
There is also substantial regional variation in access to psychologists, with almost half of northern schools reporting no services available.
In some cases, students can only access special education services after a professional assessment, which can take up to 20 hours to complete. The pressure to complete these assessments limits psychologists’ ability to provide other services such as counselling and consultations with teachers.
Child and youth workers (CYWs)
Child and Youth Workers support students experiencing personal crises or behaviour problems. The survey results indicate that many schools have limited access to CYWs, with only 35% of elementary and 45% of secondary schools reporting regularly scheduled access.
Social workers support students with social, emotional or behavioural difficulties. While 49% of elementary and 81% of secondary schools report regular access to a social worker, many principals report that they do not have sufficient access to meet the needs of their students.
Speech-language pathologists provide oral communication assessments, in-service teacher learning, and speech-language therapy for students. The survey results show that 51% of elementary and 10% of secondary schools report regular access to these professionals.
Unique challenges for French-language school boards
In French-language school boards, the issue of access is compounded by language barriers. In some communities, schools report that they only have access to Anglophone professionals and para-professionals.