A just-released provincial government report shows the average Langley public school class had more students than the B.C. average last year.
The “overview of class size and composition in British Columbia Public Schools” report was produced by the provincial Ministry of Education.
It shows that, as of Oct. 31, 2015, in the Langley school district, the average kindergarten class was 20.9 students, higher than the provincial average of 19.7.
The average Grade 1 to 3 class was 22.6 pupils, larger than the provincial average of 21.8.
The average 4 to 7 class was 27.6, bigger than the provincial average of 26.0.
In the Grade 8 to 12 category, the average Langley class size was close to but still slightly bigger than the provincial average at 23.8 compared to 23.4.
In response to a Times request for comment on the local class size figures, Langley School District Communications Manager Ken Hoff said, based on the provincial report, “the Langley School District sees itself as fairly comparable to other Fraser Valley and Metro class size averages.”
Langley Teachers Association (LTA) president Gail Chaddock-Costello said the provincial numbers show Langley schools “are the worst overall, collectively, in the province.”
An LTA analysis said Langley had the second worst kindergarten class size in B.C., tied for second worst in grades 1-3, and tied for fifth worst in Grades 4-7.
Chaddock-Costello said the figures were also skewed downwards because the provincial government included smaller-than-average classes like the international baccalaureate, French immersion and special education pro grams in the averages.
She added the provincial numbers don’t reveal the number of classes with more than 30 students in the Langley district.
Based on grievances filed by teachers last year, Chaddock-Costello said the LTA estimates 21 Langley classes had from 31 to 36 students.
The report also doesn’t give a district-by-district accounting of the increasing number of special needs students in the classroom, Chaddock-Costello said.
“We (in Langley) have larger and larger case loads,” she said, adding “there is not, I can assure you, a commensurate increase in specialist teachers.”
A BC Teachers Federation press release said the number of classes in BC with four or more children with special needs has risen to 16,516, the most ever.
The number of classes with seven or more children with special needs has also gone up to an all-time high, 4,163, the BCTF said.
“When classes become too large and overly complex, all students lose out on time with their teachers” BCTF President Jim Iker said.
“It is time for this government to stop the cuts” Iker added.
Provincial Education Minister Mike Bernier responded by saying a $100 million learning improvement fund has hired an additional 312 full time teachers, increased another 616 from part time to full time, and upgraded almost 3,000 support staff from part time to full time as well.
“We’ve been working well with the BCTF on major education initiatives like the new curriculum, so it’s disappointing to see them making broad political conclusions from a province-wide report on class size and composition,” Bernier said.
“This year we are investing a record $5 billion in the education system in B.C. and that includes extra funds to districts to support each and every student with special needs,” the minister added.
Education ministry figures show most classes over 30 students tend to have no more than 31 students and are bigger to accommodate student course choices in Grades 11 and 12.
The ministry also said the number of classes with over 30 students has been dropping “dramatically” for over a decade, falling from 9,253 in the 2005 – 2006 school year to 1,077 in 2014 – 2015.