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New Era Uncertainties

The decade-long teacher surplus in Ontario is over, with new teachers once again in high demand. However, uncertainty prevails on the impact of class size on early-career teacher employment.

By Frank McIntyre, David Tallo and Elizabeth Malczak

Illustration of a teacher pointing to an easel. Three students sit in classroom desks behind the teacher.

New Ontario teachers report more success joining Ontario district school boards in the 2018–19 school year than at any time over the last 12 years. The College's latest Transition to Teaching survey finds unemployment among first-year Ontario graduates now down to just five per cent. Teachers in years two through five average three per cent unemployment. These rates are far below the 34 and 21 per cent rates recorded as recently as 2014. First-year unemployment is even below the seven per cent rate recorded back in 2008.

The Ontario district school board share of first-year teacher hires is up, with 86 per cent of all education graduates who entered the profession in 2018–19 hired by Ontario English- or French-language board employers. Out-of-province teaching fell from 13 per cent in our 2017 survey to just six per cent in 2019. Ontario independent school teaching is also down over two years, from 15 to six per cent.

Despite the strengthening Ontario labour market, early-career employment is still precarious for many early-career teachers — especially among English-language teachers. Secondary school class size and e-learning initiatives may well prolong the time it takes for new teachers to find permanent jobs in Ontario schools.

The labour market for Ontario teachers surveyed in 2019 is radically different from that of five years ago. In the 2013–14 school year, far more early-career teachers competed for occasional roster, long-term occasional (LTO) and permanent teaching jobs than in 2018–19. In 2014, almost 33,000 Ontario graduates licensed during the preceding five years were teaching or actively looking for teaching jobs in the province. An estimated 7,700 of them were unemployed. Five years later, the comparable labour market-active group had dropped in size more than 30 per cent to about 22,500. With average unemployment plummeting from 24 to four per cent, the estimated number unemployed is now just 800.

Infographic illustrating statistics about education in Ontario. Long description follows.

A bar graph titled Unemployment Rates for English-Language Teachers contains five sections and shows the percentages in 2017, 2018 and 2019.

The first section titled 'Primary-Junior' displays the following data:

The second section titled 'Junior-Intermediate (Math or Science)' displays the following data:

The third section titled 'Junior-Intermediate (Excluding Math, Science)' displays the following data:

The fourth section titled 'Intermediate-Senior (Math, Science)' displays the following data:

The fifth section titled 'Intermediate Senior (Excluding Math, Science)' displays the following data:

Similar sharp declines in unemployment occurred among newly licensed teachers in Ontario who completed their teacher education outside of the province. By 2019, this group had also dropped significantly in size, their unemployment rates were down and our estimate of unemployed teachers among them plummeted from the 2014 level of about 3,900 to under 600.

Unemployment among new teachers should remain low over the next several years for a few reasons. Provincial elementary-secondary enrolment numbers are gradually increasing. Far fewer new teachers are joining the profession compared with the levels that drove the teacher surplus in past years. And the number of teachers retiring over the next several years will be higher than they have been in more than a decade.

School boards can expect continued shortages of French-language and French as a Second Language (FSL) teachers. Recruitment challenges will also increase for boards trying to fill English-language daily occasional rosters, and regional and subject-specific LTO and permanent vacancy shortages may also emerge.

Infographic illustrating statistics about education in Ontario. Long description follows.

A bar graph titled Annual New and Annual Retiring Teachers compares the number of new teachers to retirements from 2006 to 2022 forecast.

Ontario graduates across all divisions report more employment in 2019. The unemployment rate for first-year teachers in all divisions was in the mid-teens in 2017. By 2019, unemployment among primary-junior, junior-intermediate and intermediate-senior qualified teachers was down to six, three and four per cent respectively, and technological education teachers report no unemployment for the second year in a row.

Unemployment rates vary across language of instruction for first-year teachers. No Ontario-resident, French-language-program graduates report unemployment for the third year in a row. FSL teachers are also all employed. English-language teacher first-year unemployment stands at seven per cent, down considerably from 19 per cent in 2017.

Differences are evident across divisions and subject qualifications for English-language teachers. Primary-junior, English-language teachers report nine per cent unemployment. No junior-intermediate teachers with math or science qualifications report unemployment for the second year running, and intermediate-senior qualified teachers with math and/or science stand at just four per cent unemployment. When it comes to full-time employment, educators with these subject qualifications continue to have an advantage over other English-language, junior-intermediate and intermediate-senior teachers, who report seven and eight per cent unemployment respectively.

Ontarians who complete teaching degrees in other countries and teachers educated in other Canadian provinces both report less unemployment in 2019 than in previous years. However, teachers new to Canada with education degrees from other countries report 40 per cent unemployment in 2019, up from 35 per cent a year earlier.

Infographic illustrating statistics about education in Ontario. Long description follows.

A bar graph titledEarly-Career Teachers with Permanent Contracts contains three sections and shows the percentages in 2017, 2018 and 2019.

The first section titled 'French-Language District Board' displays the following data:

The second section titled 'FSL-Qualified in English District Board' displays the following data:

The third section titled 'English-Language Teacher, English District Board' displays the following data:

Despite the generally positive job environment for future Ontario education graduates, many teachers still experience challenges moving from precarious jobs to permanent contracts. Career patterns vary significantly between French- and English-language teachers. English-language teachers employed by school boards take the longest time to find full-time employment.

Teachers hired by French district school boards quickly move on to permanent contracts. More than half find full-time jobs in the first year after licensing, and four out of five teachers do so by year three. Similarly, one in three FSL-qualified graduates teaching in English district school boards land permanent contracts in the first year, and by year five, four out of five have full-time employment.

Just six per cent of English district school board teachers who do not have FSL qualifications find permanent employment in year one, and less than half do so by year five. This very slow career progress is an outcome of the much larger and longer lasting over-supply of English-language teachers over the past decade. French-language teacher over-supply was very short in duration and replaced by a new shortage several years ago.

A further contributor to the slow career progress among English-language teachers is the staged hiring process in English district school boards that requires extensive occasional roster teaching before one can be considered for long-term and permanent teaching contracts.

Eligibility-to-hire status is non-transferable across district school boards. Teachers on occasional rosters, or who hold LTO contracts, must wait until a permanent vacancy arises in their own district board for which they have the qualifications and sufficient seniority to compete. Even highly experienced occasional teachers cannot apply for positions for which they are qualified outside of their own boards.

Many survey respondents expressed concerns about the impact of secondary school class size and compulsory e-learning initiatives on their prospects for permanent contracts in the years ahead.

Infographic illustrating statistics about education in Ontario. Long description follows.

A section titled Unemployment Rate for First-Year Teachers contains four donut charts showing percentages in 2017, 2018 and 2019.

The first donut chart titled 'Primary-Junior' displays the following data:

The second donut chart titled 'Junior-Intermediate' displays the following data:

The third donut chart titled 'Intermediate-Senior' displays the following data:

The fourth donut chart titled 'Technological Education' displays the following data:

Said one respondent: "I was pleasantly surprised in my first year as a teacher. I applied for an LTO the first week of September and started right away. Changes to classroom sizes will certainly affect my ability to obtain a permanent contract in the near future, but I remain hopeful."

Government estimates vary widely on the number of teaching job losses that will result from plans to not replace some retiring teachers over the next four years. At the high end, many early-career teachers would be limited to unpredictable occasional roster and LTO contracts much longer than otherwise anticipated. Secondary-level English-language teacher shortages would emerge much more gradually than supply and demand demographics indicate.

Class size increases are under way in 2019–20 and are already having an effect on early-career teacher contracts. Discussions around the depth of teaching job losses over the next several years are ongoing and uncertainty prevails on the full impact on early-career teachers.