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June 1998

College Stands Firm on Unqualified Teachers

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The surplus of unemployed teachers leaves no excuse for hiring unqualified teachers

By Denys Gigučre

The College of Teachers has warned school boards that send unqualified instructors into classrooms that they may face court action if it is required to end the practice.

College Registrar Margaret Wilson has made it clear the College is willing to take strong action to ensure that Ontario’s students are taught by qualified teachers. She says the latest push to keep unqualified teachers out of Ontario classrooms is a service to parents, students and qualified teachers alike.

Ensuring that all teachers in publicly-funded schools in Ontario are qualified is a key part of the College’s mandate. The College is also responsible to the public and teachers for ensuring teachers receive the training they need to provide Ontario’s students with an excellent education now and in the future. Teachers’ self-governing body also sets standards of practice and learning for teachers and accredits teacher education programs and providers.

The College has had to tackle the issue of unqualified teachers often in its first year. It took a well-publicized stand against sections of Bill 160 which appeared to allow the use of unqualified instructors to replace teachers. The government withdrew those sections on the advice of the College.


College Registrar Margaret Wilson issued stern warnings in a letter to school boards across the province after she started receiving calls from parents upset that their children were not taught by qualified teachers.

Parents complained that the Dufferin-Peel Roman Catholic Separate School Board, one of the largest boards in the province with more than 4,500 teachers, regularly called in unqualified supply teachers to teach their children. The College requested a list of occasional teachers frequently employed by the board and is reviewing it to ensure compliance with the legislation.

"As a regulatory body, the College has an obligation to protect the public interest," said Wilson in a letter to the Dufferin-Peel board. "As an employer, the Dufferin-Peel Roman Catholic Separate School Board must ensure that all persons who require membership in the College as a condition of employment are in good standing with the College."

"The surplus of unemployed teachers leaves no excuse for hiring unqualified teachers," said Wilson. "We’ve got three faculties of education in the Golden Horseshoe – Brock University, York University and the University of Toronto – and there are hundreds of young, qualified teachers who would jump at the opportunity to teach."


During the debate on Bill 160, the College insisted that only teachers are specially trained to teach children and adolescents. Computer technicians, musicians, athletes and people with any other background are not, unless they have successfully completed a teacher education program.

The College also pointed out that it could not ensure that the training of unqualified teachers meets the standards set by the College for the teaching profession. In particular, it can not ensure that unqualified teachers adhere to a rigourous code of ethics or are subject to professional discipline if they breach this code.

"The profession of teaching is a serious and special one," said Wilson. "Only qualified teachers have the skills and experience needed to understand the curriculum to be delivered and know how to teach students."

The Registrar also raised her concerns on the issue in a number of meetings with directors of education during the College’s first year. She drove the point home again in letters to school boards across the province in mid-February after College records identified over 2,200 teachers in Ontario classrooms who were not members in good standing with the College.

"There are many reasons why these teachers are not members of the College," said Wilson. "Some teachers have had their certificate suspended for non-payment of fees, while others have never registered, or have interim certificates that have expired. A small number never had the qualifications to teach in Ontario in the first place."

About three-quarters of the teachers who did not appear on the College’s registry have now registered. The College continues to work with school boards to ensure that the remaining teachers become members in good standing of the College, renew their interim certificate or get the training they need to meet College requirements.

The Education Act is very clear on the issue of unqualified teachers. It states "no person shall be employed in an elementary or secondary school to teach or to perform duties for which membership in the College is required under this Act unless the person is a member of the Ontario College of Teachers."

This provision also applies to directors of education, superintendents, consultants, principals, vice-principals, full time, part-time and occasional teachers, as well as new graduates from faculties of education recruited to work as supply teachers shortly after their graduation.

"This is very important for the profession," said Wilson. "School boards may employ unqualified personnel as teachers in emergency situations, but they must demonstrate that they have made the necessary efforts to fill the positions with qualified teachers. It may also happen that teachers with a specific set of skills are in short supply and other temporary teachers may be hired after the board has received permission from the Minister of Education and Training."


The recognition of the teaching profession is a privilege long overdue for teachers, Wilson points out. Doctors, nurses, lawyers, architects and engineers have been recognized professionally in Ontario for decades, while teachers had to wait for more than 30 years, until 1996.

"Most people would not go to a doctor, a lawyer or an engineer who is not recognized by his or her professional licensing body," said Wilson. "The education of children is just as important. Qualified teachers know their students and their needs, learning styles, abilities and learning backgrounds. They are able to use this knowledge to diagnose learning difficulties and identify learning needs and adapt the program to meet these needs.

"Students have the right to be taught by teachers who are qualified and accountable for their practice."