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December 1999

Retirements Open Doors to
Record Number of New Teachers

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In the early 1990s, thousands of Ontario teachers were out of teaching or teaching out of Ontario. They formed a significant pool that school boards have tapped to replace the 15,000-plus teachers that have retired over the last two years. But when the next big wave of retirements hits Ontario education in 2002, the pool is going to be dry.

By Frank McIntyre

The Ontario College of Teachers registry reveals dramatic results from the increased public awareness of Ontario’s teacher shortage and the vigorous recruitment efforts of school boards across the province.

For most of this decade, large numbers of graduates from Ontario faculties of education scattered to teaching jobs around the world or went into other occupations. But for the last two years, record high numbers of teacher education graduates have immediately joined the province’s teaching profession.

Over the same period, an extraordinary number of former Ontario teachers and graduates who were not actively teaching in the province entered or re-joined the profession.

More than 22,000 teachers obtained new Ontario teaching licenses in 1998 and 1999. About 7,400 of them are former teachers and previous Ontario graduates who responded in record numbers to school boards’ urgent searches to replace the more than 10,200 teachers who retired in 1998, followed by 5,000 more so far in 1999.

The Ontario reserve pool of inactive or expatriate teachers has now largely been tapped. This pool will not be replenished to any significant extent through 2001 since annual teacher retirements will remain substantial, as we reported in the December 1998 issue of Professionally Speaking. With the reserve drawn down, it will not be as large a part of the staffing solution in 2002 when the 85-factor retirement window closes and the next spike in retirements occurs.

A study of new licences issued by the College finds that 12,434 teachers joined Ontario’s teaching profession in 1998 with a further 9,842 by September 1999. In addition to this much-needed influx of 22,276 new teachers, a further 1,962 teachers who previously held interim qualifications obtained their regular Certificates of Qualification.

These rates of entry and re-entry to the profession have not been seen since the enrolment explosion of the 1960s. The current average of more than 11,000 new teachers each year compares with levels of 4,500 to 8,000 in the 1980s.


The extraordinary number of new and returning teachers creates a need for greatly enhanced mentoring support in schools across the province. This study captures just two years of the massive transition to a new generation of teachers. Much more turnover is to come as retirements continue at unusually high levels. In addition, many occasional teachers obtained regular teaching positions for the first time in 1998 or 1999, so there are numerous new faces in staff rooms throughout Ontario.

This infusion of new blood brings welcome energy and current teacher education perspectives to many schools. At the same time it means large numbers need support from a declining group of experienced colleagues as they gain their professional voice and seek mentoring to sustain and recreate the professional cultures in our schools.


Current graduates of Ontario’s faculties of education are the largest single source of new teachers. Approximately 90 per cent of Ontario’s graduates of the past two years entered the teaching profession in Ontario by joining the College of Teachers. Although the College database does not include employment information, most of the 5,153 new graduates of 1998 and 5,290 new graduates of 1999 who took the step of paying to register with the College immediately following graduation are likely teaching in the province on either a regular or occasional basis.

This is in stark contrast with earlier years. Ministry analyses of data from the mid-1970s and 1980s, for example, indicate first-year employment of Ontario graduates ranging from lows of 30 per cent to highs of 60 per cent.


Despite this high participation rate, current graduates make up less than half of the new teachers certified through the College in the past two years. Another 3,700 are former graduates of Ontario’s faculties who obtained their BEd degrees in the preceding five years.

Coincidentally, another group of 3,700 former Ontario teachers returned to the profession in the same time period. In all, these recent inactive graduates and former teachers constitute a very substantial one in three of the teachers who obtained a current teaching licence since 1998.

These formerly qualified teachers and Ontario teacher education graduates represent a tremendous staffing opportunity for school boards throughout the province given the historic high retirement rate of the past 18 months.

The data from the College registry suggests, however, that this supply source will only be available once in such large numbers in this key decade in which almost half the Ontario teaching force retires. These previously qualified teacher numbers declined from 1998 to 1999, a trend to be expected with such a finite staffing source.

Although many boards report continuing teacher vacancies in 1999, especially for occasional teachers, graduates of the preceding five years who have now joined the profession declined from 2,724 in 1998 to 976 in 1999. With most current graduates now entering the profession immediately after graduation, this source will not re-occur in the near future. Although not quite as dramatic, the former teacher numbers declined as well, from 1,959 in 1998 to 1,741 in 1999.

When the next retirement peak arrives in 2002, boards will not find another large pool of inactive teachers who can be persuaded to come back to teaching.


Graduates of faculties of education in other Canadian provinces are another important source of new Ontario teachers. This group of 1,879 new teachers in 1998 and 1999 includes graduates from all provinces, with Quebec and Nova Scotia most prominent among them.

A number of out-of-province universities contributed most to Ontario’s new teachers, including McGill (194), Memorial (131), University of Alberta (126), University of New Brunswick (82), St. Francis Xavier (82) and Laval (71). These include a mix of Ontarians who chose to study outside the province and individuals migrating to Ontario from their home provinces.


The remaining 11 per cent of new Ontario teachers gained their teaching degrees in other countries. U.S. colleges are now the single largest source of teachers educated outside Canada.

Since January 1998, 1,401 graduates of U.S. teacher education programs have gained Ontario certification through the College. Many of these new teachers are Ontarians returning home to teach, most likely directly following graduation. As reported in the June 1999 issue of Professionally Speaking, with the teacher shortage in Ontario, demand for entry to the profession once again well exceeds the capacity of our faculties of education. Some New York state teacher education programs vigorously recruit in Ontario. Although most claim their programs meet our licensing requirements, some graduates have been required to do additional coursework to be certified in Ontario.

Three out of four of the new Ontario teachers who are U.S. graduates in the past two years obtained their teaching degrees at one of five New York border colleges or at the University of Maine in Presque Isle.


The remaining five per cent of new Ontario teachers are drawn from teacher education institutions in countries outside Canada and the United States. An impressive 1,153 new teachers from all regions of the world obtained their first interim certificates in 1998 and 1999. A further 605 teachers from abroad converted interim licences to Certificates of Qualification in the past two years.

Over the past two years, the College has certified new teachers in Ontario from 75 countries. The largest number came from teacher education institutions in Australia (347), the United Kingdom (307), India (72), Poland, (57), Hong Kong (46) and Romania (31). The United Kingdom and Australia together account for more than half of the new teachers educated outside North America. European schools follow, with 17 per cent. Other regions of the world account for from four per cent to 10 per cent of the new Ontario teachers educated outside Canada and the U.S.


The home addresses of new teachers confirm that most regions of the province are affected by the high rate of turnover. Overall, new teachers in the past two years make up 13.2 per cent of Ontario teachers who hold Certificates of Qualification. With the one exception of Northwest Ontario where this turnover measure is just 4.7 per cent, each region is significantly affected, ranging from 12 per cent in Southwest Ontario to a high of 15.5 per cent in Toronto.

Frank McIntyre is the College’s human resources consultant. He can be reached at fmcintyre@oct.ca.