Securing a Sustainable Future
Mr. Speaker, the path to opportunity begins in our earliest years. Each childís path is different, but we have a collective obligation to ensure every child is fully supported and prepared to advance along that path.
For many years, parents, educators and administrators in this province have been especially concerned about the approach to educating students with special learning needs. They told us they were overwhelmed by the amount of paperwork associated with the Individual
Support Services Plan (ISSP) and the Pathways model. We heard their concerns and took action to have the ISSP and Pathways model reviewed. In December, we outlined the actions our government will take in response to the recommendations of an independent report on the system. We have already commenced work on this initiative and this year, with an investment of $2.4 million, we will implement the action plan we announced in December to address those concerns.
Like the provinceís teachers, we also had concerns about the
teacher allocation formula. If we had followed the old formula, there would be 540 fewer teachers in the province in September than there were in 2003. Instead, we listened to parents and educators. We established an independent Teacher Allocation Commission and, in March, we announced the actions we are taking to implement key recommendations of that report. The new model represents a fundamental shift from a numerical formula to a needs-based approach. Allocations will now reflect programming and teaching needs.
We already took action in our first term to cap class sizes in Grades 1 to 3. In keeping with the recommendations of the Teacher Allocation Commissionís report, we are expanding the cap on class sizes to include Kindergarten, Grade 4 and Grade 7 in September, and other grades in the following two years. We are allocating $3.56 million this year to help school districts with their individual planning for school programming and teaching needs, which will include a more generous allocation of specialist teachers, principals and assistant principals as well as the creation of instructional education officers to support student achievement, school leadership and school development. With a total annualized investment of $32.8 million, we have laid a solid foundation for a new and far more progressive approach to allocating teachers.
To complement these initiatives, we are allocating an additional $500,000 to school districts for discretionary
substitute teacher leave. This funding will allow additional days for teacher professional development, family leave and student activities.
We are also allocating additional funding of $1 million to increase the number of school secretary hours. Additional secretarial staffing hours will provide a greater level of service to students, parents and other stakeholders. Benefits include more manageable workloads for current secretarial staff and more effective use of teacher time.
Advances in technology enable many students in our province to take courses they might not otherwise be able to access. We are delighted that the
Centre for Distance Learning and Innovation has seen significant growth in take-up of its secondary distance education programming since its inception in 2001. This growth has naturally meant higher costs to hire teaching staff, to resource schools to accommodate distance education students, to provide for optimum Internet connectivity in rural and remote areas, and to provide support enabling school districts to assist with distance education delivery. To accommodate this growth and ensure rural students can continue to access a broad range of courses, we are increasing the centreís program budget this year by $1.6 million.
Our government is committed to improving
infrastructure in K-12. Since 2004, we have allocated $111 million for infrastructure work in the K-12 system. In this fiscal year, we will build on that investment by allocating nearly $89 million for new school construction, maintenance and repair projects. That is more than triple the amount we allocated just three years ago.
As I mentioned earlier, our government is focused on building a skilled labour market to meet the emerging needs of industry and preparing and influencing our young people to take advantage of emerging career opportunities in our economy. Prior to 2006, Skilled Trades was an area of the high school curriculum that had not been renewed since the eighties. Throughout the past decade, space for these programs has been removed or reduced beyond levels needed to deliver the program effectively. The
Futures in Skilled Trades and Technology program is recognized by industry, apprenticeship and post-secondary officials as an important means of addressing predicted skilled trades shortages in our province. We are committing $750,000 this year and a further $750,000 the following year to move forward with infrastructure changes needed to restore this vital program.
The Skills Task Force identified the importance of supporting
apprenticeship to ensure Newfoundlanders and Labradorians acquire the qualifications they need for skilled trades. Many students exposed to skilled trades in high school choose to pursue apprenticeships in these rewarding careers upon graduation. We are providing funding this year to continue to support apprentices and their employers, to provide flexibility for education and training, and to enable more people to access apprenticeship programs. We are also expanding the Education Departmentís Advanced Studies Branch to a fourth centre, Clarenville, where officials will provide field support to apprentices, employers and post-secondary institutions.
College of the North Atlanticís industrial trades shops, some built as early as 1963, require modernization and refurbishment to keep pace with industry standards. Although the equipment in the shops is still useful for instructional purposes, there are significant gaps between current training equipment and modern industrial technology. Shop layout, materials and equipment must be aligned with current industry standards to ensure our graduates are fully prepared for the workplace. We are therefore allocating $1 million to modernize and refurbish the Collegeís trade shops.
As we prepare for new large-scale provincial development projects through labour market development initiatives, we recognize the central role that
Memorial Universityís Faculty of Business and the Marine Institute will play in preparing our people to take key positions on these projects. This year, we are allocating $1.11 million to expand several of the professional schools at Memorial including the Faculties of Business and Engineering and the Marine Institute to give more of our young people the opportunity to play important roles in the projects that will shape our future.
As announced in this yearís Throne Speech and last yearís Budget, we will fulfill our commitment to grant
Sir Wilfred Grenfell College full university status with a separate executive, senate and budget, while maintaining a common Board of Regents to secure a strong partnership between the Grenfell and St. Johnís campuses. We are allocating $500,000 to commence with the implementation requirements and establish a new governance structure within the Memorial University system.
To ensure our students continue to have access to the opportunities a post-secondary education provides, we are following through on our Blueprint commitment to continue the
tuition freeze at Memorial University and College of the North Atlantic for the next four years by allocating $5 million this year and some $56 million over the four-year term to provide this direct benefit to some 25,000 students.