B.C. Education Minister Rob Fleming at a funding announcement for new school playground equipment, March 2019. (B.C. government)

Building a better learning environment for B.C. students

Minister’s message for Education Week, April 23-27

By Rob Fleming

Today’s students are benefiting from more opportunities to reach their full potential than ever before.

That’s why this Education Week, I’d like to share some of the great things happening in B.C. classrooms that are making a huge difference in children’s lives.

Since forming government 20 months ago, we’ve been working every day to create more opportunities for people in our province, so that everyone can enjoy a good life in the community they call home. A big part of that has been improving our education system so that all children receive the same high-quality education and opportunities – whether they live in Prince George, Surrey, Haida Gwaii, Nanaimo or Cranbrook.

To do their best at school, kids need comfortable, safe spaces to learn and a supportive, inclusive environment. Students are now benefiting from the largest funding increases in B.C.’s public education system ever, with nearly $1 billion in new money to give students more support in the classroom, and $2.7 billion in new capital funding to improve their learning environments.

Because of our strong economy, more families are choosing to make B.C. their home. Our public schools are growing, with more kids than ever entering our classrooms. We acted quickly to ensure school construction projects got underway, with more than $1 billion invested since September 2017. This historic funding will add thousands of new seats, so we can get kids out of portables in some of our fastest-growing communities.

By hiring 4,000 new teachers and 1,000 new educational assistants, students are also now benefiting from smaller class sizes. I often hear from parents who tell me they see a huge difference in their child’s learning development because they have more one-on-one time from their teachers.

We’ve also worked at an incredible pace to approve seismic projects twice as fast as the last government, with 29 projects announced in just 20 months one-third of them completed or underway.

When parents told us they faced impossible fundraising burdens to ensure their kids have something as fundamental as a school playground, our government created a new annual $5 million playground equipment program. To date, we’ve funded new playgrounds at 101 schools, benefiting 25,000 children throughout the province.

Kids today are facing challenges and pressures that are much different than they were a generation ago. That’s why we’re making sure all school districts have resources for mental health and wellness. This year, we brought together 550 mental-health professionals during our second annual school community mental-health conference so we can develop better strategies to get kids help when they need it.

To do their best at school and in life, it’s critical that all students feel safe at school, with the freedom to be themselves. To make sure all classrooms are welcoming and inclusive, we also expanded Expect Respect and a Safe Education (ERASE) – a comprehensive training guide and strategy for students, parents and teachers, with an anonymous safety reporting tool to fight bullying and the lure of gangs. And I’m proud to be able to now say that every school in the province has sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) inclusive policies in place, to help protect kids from being bullied because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Recently, we announced our commitment to make sure all public schools in B.C. will provide students with equal and stigma-free access to menstrual products in school washrooms by the end of 2019, just like toilet paper and soap.

Education is the most powerful tool for reconciliation with Indigenous peoples. That’s why we’re also focused on ensuring all Indigenous students see themselves reflected in their classrooms. Embedding Indigenous knowledge, history and languages into the curriculum at every grade level, across all areas of learning, has benefited all children and brought the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Calls to Action to life. It’s encouraging to see Indigenous kids graduating at the highest rate in B.C.’s history, and we’re going to continue working with local Indigenous communities to ensure all Indigenous children thrive in school.

Putting students at the centre of everything we do is starting to pay off, and this is only the beginning.

We couldn’t have done it alone. This Education Week, I’d like us all to applaud the hard work of educators, school administrators, support staff and other partners for helping to build a better, brighter future for all students in B.C.

Rob Fleming is B.C. minister of education and MLA for Victoria-Swan Lake.

Just Posted

Seabird Island opens 50th annual festival

The weekend festival will see First Nations teams compete in soccer, three-pitch and canoe races

Lofty plans for Chilliwack school district revealed

Chilliwack school district draws up plan to add 2,900 student seats in five years

Agassiz study to look at drone use for pesticide application

The study will be the first in Canada to use drones to apply pesticides to farm fields

Chilliwack’s pediatric observation unit gets financial shot from trades workers

Unions and contractors donate more than $30,000 to Fraser Valley Health Care Foundation

Delays en route for Highway 7 in Harrison Mills

Road resurfacing will cause month-long delays for drivers travelling through Harrison Mills

VIDEO: Powwow shares culture at Seabird Island Festival

The 50th anniversary of the festival saw its first powwow

Raptors beat Bucks 100-94 to advance to franchise’s first-ever NBA Finals

Leonard has 27 points, 17 boards to lead Toronto past Milwaukee

Third person charged in death of B.C. teen Bhavkiran Dhesi

Inderdeep Kaur Deo facing charge of accessory after the fact to murder

Kamloops girl, 9, recovering from carbon monoxide poisoning now out of ICU

Her mother who was sleeping in the same tent with her did not survive

UPDATE: Surrey RCMP say boy, 11, missing for two days found safe

Dominic Mattie was last seen at 5 p.m. in the 13500-block of Gateway Drive in Surrey

‘I think he’s still alive’: B.C. mom pleads for help finding son last seen a month ago

Family offering $5,000 reward for information leading to the safe return of Tim Delahaye

New poll suggests one-third don’t want politicians to wear religious symbols

Local politicians shouldn’t be allowed to wear hijabs, crucifixes or turbans on the job, survey suggests

Raptors fans far from home adjust plans to watch pivotal playoff game

Raptors currently lead the playoff series 3-2, and a win Saturday would vault them into NBA finals

Most Read