Shortage of professional services in Montréal schools

Many students with difficulties go without help while professionals burn out

MONTREAL, March 11 /CNW Telbec/ - The shortage of professional services in all Montréal school boards, Francophone and Anglophone alike, is increasingly critical while thousands of students do not receive the help they need and while many professionals and teachers are exhausted and overwhelmed by the situation.

This is the dismal portrait that emerges from an exhaustive consultation conducted last December by the Fédération des professionnelles et professionnels de l'éducation du Québec (FPPE-CSQ) with its members. The president of the Federation, Mr. Jean Falardeau today announced the consultation findings for the Montréal region. He was accompanied by the president of the Syndicat des professionnelles et professionnels du milieu de l'éducation de Montréal (SPPMEM), Ms. Sophie Massé, the president of the Syndicat des professionnelles et professionnels de commissions scolaires de l'ouest de Montréal (SPPOM), Ms. Diane Jacques, and the secretary of the Executive Council of the Conseil exécutif du Syndicat des professionnelles et professionnels des services éducatifs de la région de Montréal (SPPSERM), Ms. Linda Schwartz.

Students suffering in silence

The president of the FPPE-CSQ claims that no school board in Montréal's territory is exempt from the sad reality of a serious shortage of professional services.

"In all the school boards, people are criticizing the shortage of professionals: psychologists, speech therapists, psychoeducators, spiritual care and guidance and community involvement animators, and guidance counsellors. Those currently on the job denounce the fact that they are literally overwhelmed by the needs that have to be met and that they can only intervene in the most urgent cases, ignoring other students in difficulty who suffer in silence," explains Mr. Jean Falardeau.

Schools caught up in a vicious circle

Mr. Falardeau adds that in certain cases, the wait time is so long before students receive professional help, that some get to secondary school without ever having been seen.

"The situation is alarming everywhere. All you need to do is read our members' responses to our consultation to note that the horror stories are many, and that unfortunately, students are the ones paying the price. A price that translates into multiple failures at school and the temptation, sooner or later, to drop out of school. Our Montréal schools, like schools everywhere else in Québec, are caught up in a vicious circle as far as help for students in difficulty is concerned. In fact, with barely enough time to take care of the most urgent cases, professionals abandon the others. These students, theoretically at grips with lesser problems, also wind up dealing more complex issues because their difficulties worsen over time, which ultimately increases the number of priority, urgent cases," explains the president of the FPPE-CSQ.

Future jeoparized for many students

Mr. Falardeau readily talks about the dramatic situations experienced in the schools.

"Some students must wait for many months, if not years before being assessed, and once they are, there are no resources to ensure they are monitored and helped. Their parents experience the satisfaction of understanding the problem but also the dissatisfaction of knowing that it cannot be solved. Ridiculous circumstances may not be lethal, but in this case a ridiculous situation is indeed jeopardizing the future of many students because they are not receiving the services they are entitled to," states Mr. Falardeau.

A situation that may well deteriorate

SPPMEM president, Ms. Sophie Massé emphasizes that this chaotic situation cannot continue indefinitely.

"We are experiencing a double-edged drama. The one that students left to their own devices are experiencing, but also the morale-sapping drama that tired, exhausted, overworked professionals endure when constantly confronted with their inability to measure up to the task despite all of their efforts and desire to succeed. In this context, it is obvious that if nothing is done to boost professional resources, it won't be long before many abandon the public education network, making the load heavier for those who remain," warns Ms. Massé.

Shortage of resources contributes to dropping out

SPPOM president Ms. Diane Jacques doesn't doubt that the alarming student drop out rate is directly linked to the lack of professional services.

"The Minister of Education, Recreation and Sports and the members of her government may claim they wish to combat dropping out, but as long as they fail to react to the shortage of professional resources in our schools, their efforts will not yield the desired results. The facts demonstrate that more and more students in our schools need professional help whereas the resources are not being augmented and are even reduced in some cases. We are doing exactly the opposite of what needs to be done to help these students," deplores Ms. Jacques.

A similar situation for adult education

Lastly, the secretary of the Executive Council of SPPSERM, Ms. Linda Schwartz says that it is not by spending one day per week in a school that a professional has enough time to provide students in difficulty with adequate support.

"Professionals are less and less able to provide direct student services. Increasingly, they are forced to intervene indirectly by advising teachers on actions that need to be taken. It's unfortunate, but they don't have a choice because the time available to them to respond to so many needs prevents them from taking any other kind of action. Adult education is in the same situation," concludes Ms. Schwartz.

Profiles

The CSQ represents about 170,000 members, including 100,000 in the public sector. It is the largest education union in Québec. The CSQ is also active in health and social services, childcare services, and the municipal, recreational, cultural, community and communications sectors.

The Fédération des professionnelles et professionnels de l'éducation du Québec (FPPE-CSQ) represents 20 unions bringing together 6,000 members working in virtually all of Québec's French-language, English-language, Cree and Kativik school boards. Its members belong to various personnel categories, in administration, pedagogy and direct student services.

SOURCE CSQ

For further information: For further information: Claude Girard, CSQ Information officer, Cell: (514) 237-4432, girard.claude@www.csq.qc.net


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