Province should have reached out to school boards, Bluewater director says



By Barb McKay


Bluewater District School Board’s (BWDSB) director of education says the province should have engaged with Ontario school boards regarding changes to the curriculum, but has instead set a tone of mistrust and discipline.


Last week, Premier Doug Ford and Education Minister Lisa Thompson announced the scope of what they are calling “an unprecedented parental consultation into Ontario’s curriculum.” Through the consultation process, the government is looking on feedback to improve science, technology, engineering and math curriculum, but much of the focus has been placed on how the current health and physical education curriculum might be changed. In the meantime, the new health curriculum that was introduced in 2015 is being replaced with the previous curriculum that took effect in 1998.


Along with the parental consultation, the government has set up a submission platform for parents,, which the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario has dubbed the “snitch line.” The web-based platform is part of a new Ministry of Education Parents Bill of Rights and allows parents to anonymously report any concerns to the Ontario College of Teachers.


"We expect our teachers, principals and school board officials to fulfill their obligations to parents and children when it comes to what our students learn in the classroom," Ford said in a statement. "We will not tolerate anybody using our children as pawns for grandstanding and political games. And, make no mistake, if we find somebody failing to do their job, we will act."


Bluewater Director of Education Alana Murray said the government’s approach sets the wrong tone.


“We are disappointed that the government couldn’t reach out to school boards to see how we could work effectively,” she said on Friday. “I just think there’s another avenue.”


Murray said the board’s senior team would meet on Monday to discuss the announcement the direction that will be provided to teachers. She said a section of the new health and physical education curriculum that is being removed had been put in place after a long and involved discussion.


“There is a very important part of the health curriculum that is being sidelined (and what will be taught) doesn’t reflect the diversity of the students we have.”


Murray said the Bluewater board will work closely with teachers, the board of trustees and the teachers unions to understand how to proceed with the curriculum while still meeting its obligations related to human rights and equality. She said Bluewater is fortunate to have strong support from parents within the district.


“I am confident we will find a way to ensure our students’ needs are being met so they can be prepared for the world of tomorrow.”