Saskatchewan NDP deputy leader and education critic Trent Wotherspoon was in Prince Albert Tuesday, to discuss with citizens their concerns about education in the province.
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Trent Wotherspoon, NDP deputy leader and education critic, was in Prince Albert on Tuesday to discuss education concerns with citizens.
“I’m here today meeting with one of the school boards, with a group of teachers, parents,” Wotherspoon said. “I’ll also be meeting with some municipal leaders.”
The official Opposition has been concentrating on reaching out to people in Saskatchewan about their concerns throughout the summer and into the fall.
“It is sitting down with those educational partners and municipal leaders where you really get a sense of the local needs of a community and certainly I have been enjoying my meetings thus far here today in Prince Albert and look forward to the rest of the meetings,” Wotherspoon said.
Wotherspoon was meeting with parents, teachers, school boards administrators and other educational partners to discuss education and the classroom setting.
“It is fair to say that right across the province I am hearing some distinct pressures that aren’t being met by the current government -- specifically the pressures in the classroom and on students such as growing class size and supports that have been cut by the current government,” Wotherspoon said.
Large class sizes and cutting back educational assistants puts pressures on all the students and teachers, Wotherspoon said.
“Whether it is the student who requires an educational assistant or some special intensive needs or whether that reduction of the educational assistant further strains the classroom, whether we have unmeet needs and supports in place for our English as an additional language students in our growing province,” Wotherspoon said. “What I’m hearing is we have growing class sizes, we have had supports that have been cut by the government and as a result there is a strained environment for students and certainly for teachers.”
He believes, after meetings with numerous educational partners, that the current government is not listening to the people.
“They haven’t consulted,” Wotherspoon said. “They have driven ahead with their own agenda and have failed to consult with those who are on the ground in education -- whether it be the teachers, the school boards or the parents.”
There have also been concerns about the current assessment system and curriculum changes, Wotherspoon said.
“I’m going to continue to consult on that front and look at the perspectives from our educational partners,” Wotherspoon said.
Not consulting with the people is a mistake on the part of the current government, he added.
“I’ve also heard that the government has pushed rapid curriculum change without putting the supports in place without making sure it is properly implemented, to make sure teachers are supposed in being able to deliver that curriculum as successfully as they can,” Wotherspoon said. “Really the curriculum is only as successful in its implementation as it can be if we are properly supporting that implementation with our teachers. It is fair to say we have a tremendous opportunity in the province where we have a strong economy, where we have a growing population, but we need to do is make education our priority and we need to make sure that government is listening and working with its educational partners.”
The focus should be on students’ success, Wotherspoon said.
“This government has failed to listen on many fronts and has pushed forward with its own agenda,” Wotherspoon said. “We need to make sure we are building on a smart growth plan in education. Quite simply, the government’s approach of cutting educational supports, and growing class size is causing strain on teachers and students isn’t a sustainable or smart approach moving forward.”
During his time in Prince Albert, Wotherspoon said he saw a lot of passion from the teachers and school divisions.
“I would like to say there is tremendous work going on in Prince Albert by the teachers and school divisions, some exceptional initiatives,” Wotherspoon said. “I really think that teachers, school boards and school divisions are working harder than ever and they are holding up their end of the bargain. We need to make sure government is holding up its end.”
While Wotherspoon has been visiting constituents about educational concerns, Provincial NDP Leader Cam Broten has also been touring the Saskatchewan, focusing on seniors and health care.
“(He has) brought together local communities and heard the voice as to what sort of supports are in place for seniors, in seniors care, what sort of options and what is the state of seniors care across Saskatchewan,” Wotherspoon said. “I know it has been alarming in many communities to see the sad state of seniors care and it is certainly one of our big priorities as a caucus.”
The NDP caucus is focused on seniors, health care and education in the province, Wotherspoon said.
“Certainly that is reflected in the outreach we have conducted across the province,” Wotherspoon said. “We have a lot of concerns about what seems to be a short-sighted approach to privatize aspects of health care and in the end undermine our health-care system. Cam speaks to this very well, but without a doubt the undermining of our public health-care system and the contracting out we are seeing in health care and a lot of our other services in our crown corporations is a big concern.”
This approach not only risks losing control in the long-term, but may also risk costing the province significantly, he said.
“It would be fair to say it is important right now when you look at the pressures in health care that choosing a fractured privatized system where you are fracturing the public system is not your best utilization of resources,” Wotherspoon said. “What we really need to do to get the best bang for our buck is organize our system in a way that will be as efficient and effective as it can be over the long term. Fracturing our public health-care system by piece mealing it or breaking pieces off through the privatized contracting we are seeing isn’t a sustainable smart plan for the long term.”
Wotherspoon enjoyed his time in Prince Albert and hearing the citizens concerns.
“It is always a pleasure to be here in Prince Albert,” Wotherspoon said. “We really do appreciate the contact, emails and phone calls I get throughout the Prince Albert region on a whole host of issues including economic activity and making sure we are making the best choices or whether it relates to municipal issues or our education system. I really do appreciate the relationship I’ve built and hope to build with many more throughout the region.”