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Thomas urged government to help adult learners

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OPSEU/SEFPO President Warren (Smokey) Thomas says that while government has poured significant investment and energy into helping students stay safe and healthy during the pandemic, adult learners are being left behind.

“As you read this, thousands of adults across Ontario are struggling against huge odds to become productive and prosperous members of our communities. New to our country, and often with very little in the bank, they are pouring their hearts and souls into learning English,” wrote Thomas in a letter to Todd Smith, Minister of Children, Community and Social Services.

“But the front-line instructors OPSEU/SEFPO represents — working in English as Second Language (ESL), Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC), Literacy and Basic Skills, and Intake and Placement — report that adult learners have been forgotten during the pandemic. Many are being left behind and, tragically, dropping out.”

The letter urged Smith to act in four major areas:

  • Technology support
  • Health and safety protocols
  • Clear direction on in-person/virtual learning, class sizes, and learning expectations
  • Funding assurances.

March 5, 2021

Hon. Todd Smith
Minister of Children, Community and Social Services
Hepburn Block, 6th Floor
80 Grosvenor St., Toronto, ON, M7A 1E9
MinisterMCCSS@ontario.ca todd.smithco@pc.ola.org

Re: Adult education system in urgent need of emergency investment and clear direction

Dear Minister Smith,

As you read this, thousands of adults across Ontario are struggling against huge odds to become productive and prosperous members of our communities. New to our country, and often with very little in the bank, they are pouring their hearts and souls into learning English.

But the front-line instructors represented by OPSEU/SEFPO — working in English as Second Language (ESL), Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC), Literacy and Basic Skills, and Intake and Placement — report that adult learners have been forgotten during the pandemic. Many are being left behind and, tragically, dropping out.

Minister, the time for action is now. Your government is investing significant time and resources in making sure young learners get the safe classrooms and technology support they need. It’s time adult learners and the front line workers instructing them get the same investment. They need action on:

  1. Technology. Many adult learners can’t afford the devices and Internet connections required for virtual learning. Government is providing devices and connections to young learners who need them – adult learners need and deserve the same support.
  2. Health and safety. Adult learners are not being provided the same level of pandemic-related safety protocols and procedures as young learners. This is especially dangerous because adults are at higher risk of COVID-19 than children and teens.
  3. Clear direction. The Ministry of Education provides school boards with clear direction for young students on virtual or in-person learning, maximum class sizes, and learning expectations. Without similar direction from your ministry, adult learners and adult educators now face an unfair patchwork of different conditions across the province, leading to layoffs and drop-outs.
  4. Funding assurance. Adult education funding is based on the previous school year’s enrolment. But with the large pandemic-related drop in immigration, enrolment this school year is down significantly. School boards and adult education workers need your assurance that they will not face a large funding cut next school year, requiring program and job cuts.

The OPSEU/SEFPO members working in adult education stand ready to work with you to resolve these problems as quickly as possible. I look forward to your prompt response.

Sincerely,

Warren (Smokey) Thomas
President, OPSEU/SEFPO