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December 1998

Cover Story
Teacher Shortage Looms

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Almost Half of Ontario Teachers to Retire
in the Next 10 Years

For the first time ever, data in the College registry allows researchers to predict not only how many teachers will retire soon, but what they are qualified to teach and where in the province they live. And the data shows that shortages will hit almost every subject area and every part of the province very soon.

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By Frank McIntyre

A study by the Ontario College of Teachers shows that the profession must prepare for a massive turnover in the province’s teaching population. The College’s databank shows that an astonishing 41,000 teachers will retire in just five years and more than 78,000 of the College’s 171,500 members will reach retirement age over the next 10 years.

Ontario’s school boards are already scrambling as teacher shortages begin to emerge in specialized areas – French as a Second Language, Maths, Sciences, secondary technology subjects and teachers able to provide leadership in the uses of computers in our schools. These current staffing pressures are just the leading edge of much deeper and more widespread shortages that could emerge as the fast-growing wave of teacher retirements engulfs boards across the province over the next decade.

The College’s regulatory role includes alerting the profession to teacher shortages that may emerge across the province. Unexpected shortages and inadequate planning could severely limit the capacity of boards and independent schools to recruit appropriately-qualified teachers for Ontario’s classrooms. Such shortages could impinge on programs and ultimately affect quality of education.


For the first time ever in the history of forecasting teacher supply and demand, the College registry allows us to look at the entire supply of Ontario certified teachers. Whether actively working or not, living in Ontario or elsewhere, employed as a teacher or otherwise, in publicly-funded or independent schools, teaching full-time, part-time or supply, everyone certified to teach in Ontario is recorded in the College registry.

The College has examined the age distribution of the 171,500 teachers in good standing with the College as of September 1998, with particular attention to the 164,500 teachers who have Certificates of Qualification and live in Ontario.

The unique age structure and sharply rising rate of retirement among Ontario teachers is well documented. The new 85-factor retirement incentive available until the close of 2002 is further accelerating the retirement rate among Ontario teachers. The Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan Board reports that more than 10,000 teachers had decided to retire by October this year.

A return to 90-factor retirements in 2003 would slow the retirement rate for a time for those who miss this special retirement window. But even if this does happen, incentives to retire at 55 or shortly thereafter under the regular provisions of the pension plan will remain compelling for many teachers. High rates of retirement will continue until the teachers of the hiring boom in the 1960s have retired and the much smaller cohorts of teachers hired in the 1970s reach retirement age toward the end of the first decade of the 21st century.


In this College study, we project Ontario teacher retirements at five-year (2003) and 10-year (2008) intervals. Certification categories, teaching subjects and region of Ontario residence are all examined to draw out possible staffing implications across the province. The study demonstrates clearly that the profession must prepare today for a massive turnover in the Ontario teacher population.

Our analysis does not consider employment status. The population studied is all teachers with Ontario certification, a group that is much larger than those employed as full-time teachers in publicly-funded school boards. Nevertheless, given the share of the registered teachers who are currently employed as teachers, boards should anticipate retirement attrition at both elementary and secondary levels of about one in four teachers over five years and one in two by 10 years from now.


All regions of the province are affected by the impending supply problem. We looked at the home addresses of College-registered teachers and examined the age distribution of teachers in six broad regions of the province – Central, Eastern, Southwestern, Northern and Northwestern Ontario, as well as Toronto. Although there is some variation, the pattern of one in four retirements in five years and one in two in 10years holds for every region of the province. For the north, south, east and west, an operating assumption must be that one-half of all qualified teachers will retire by 2008.


The shortage of qualified French teachers has long been a problem for Ontario school boards. Boards that are under pressure to meet parent demand for French programs should not take any comfort from the fact that teachers with French as a First Language basic certification are somewhat younger than the teacher population as a whole.

The five-year retirement projection for this group is approaching one in five and the ten-year projection shows a little more than one in three French First Language teachers retiring.

More than 1,800 French First Language certified teachers are to retire by 2003 and 3,700 by 2008. For Eastern and Northern Ontario, where the greatest number of French-language teachers reside, the 10-year retirement rate is closer to 40 per cent, with 2,900 teachers retiring over the decade in these regions.

French First Language certified teachers are also a source for French as a Second Language teachers in English-language district school boards. Demand for these teachers from both language systems is already outstripping supply. As well, some teachers with French First Language certification take up English language positions.

There are fewer than 450 French First Language candidates enrolled in 1998 in Ontario’s faculties of education. Without a change in demand, or a quick turnaround in enrolments, the short supply already felt by many boards will quickly become a major staffing problem for English and French-language boards alike.


The age distribution of secondary level Technology teachers reveals an earlier than normal retirement peak. More than 1,500 – one in three – secondary Technology teachers are expected to retire in just five years. Nearly 2,500, or 52 per cent, retire in 10 years.


Most core secondary school teaching subjects are heading for the same extraordinary 10-year turnover. History, Mathematics, Geography, Science, and English are all heading into a decade that will see about four in 10 Junior-Intermediate or Intermediate-Senior teachers with these qualifications retire.

The decade will bring the retirement of 6,300 secondary English teachers, 5,200 teachers of History, and a huge turnover in many other core subjects: Science–4,500, Physical and Health Education–4,100, Mathematics–3,600, Geography–2,900 and French–2,600.

For the time being, the greater numbers of general subjects teachers provides staffing flexibility that eases secondary principals’ ability to adjust to retirements. Nevertheless, the retirement rates are so high in History, English and Geography that the teaching profession should encourage high school and university students with these subject interests to look at teaching as a great career opportunity.

Ontario teacher education was not well-prepared for the teacher hiring blitz required for the school enrolment explosion in the 1960s. As we approach the dawn of the new century, there is little excuse to be caught off guard in planning assumptions.

The 85-factor early retirement program is assisting the profession with adjustment to the profound policy changes that are under way, especially in our high schools. At the same time, the accelerating retirement rate adds to boards’ future recruitment challenges.

Past teacher surpluses and some of the changes under way in Ontario education have brought interest in teaching careers to an artificially low level. Teacher education applicants to Ontario faculties of education grew slightly in 1998 from a recent historic low in 1997. As teacher-hiring news replaces teacher-layoff news over the next few years, interest in the profession may rebound.


Retirements of teachers with principal qualifications are growing at a faster rate than the general teacher population. As would be expected, principal qualifications and principalships are often achieved when one is well into a teaching career. Our study reveals that 44 per cent of teachers with principal’s qualifications are likely to retire within five years and fully 64 per cent within a decade.

Frank McIntyre is the Ontario College of Teachers human resources consultant. He will be reporting on other aspects of teacher supply and demand in future issues. He can be reached at