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Consultation, Collaboration and Participation: A teacher’s right and an employer’s obligation – by Stephanie McLellan

The powers relating to the participation of teachers are at the heart of your working conditions and of the profession. We find as many issues of application and negotiation  as we do of a pedagogical and professional nature.

Chapter 4 of the Collective Agreement lists the various committees and subjects on which teachers have the right to be consulted. Teachers’ involvement in decision-making or consultation takes place at the school board-level at various parity committees such as Special Needs, Labour Relations, Educational Policies, Professional Improvement, etc. At the school-level, decision-making or consultation takes place primarily at the Teacher or School Council, In-School Special Needs Committee and Governing Board.

Consultation consists of giving an opinion and advice. To be a true consultation, the following basic principles must apply:

  • All pertinent information must be provided.
  • A reasonable amount of time to form an opinion or to take a position must be given.
  • A clear description of the project/topic must be obtained prior to the decision.
  • An opportunity must be given to express an opinion prior to the decision.
  • A real possibility of influencing the authority must exist.

Just going through the motions to say that consultation occurred is insufficient, especially when the decision has already been made!

Often, you can find objects of participation relating to the Education Act in the Collective Agreement. Provincial or local parameters are negotiated to ensure that either the teachers in the school or the local union are involved at the board-level or school/centre level. The Education Act gives teachers a variety of powers that range from limited to extensive. It is therefore important to understand the situations in which teachers must be consulted, involved directly, or asked to make suggestions.

The objects of participation under the Education Act are threefold and the collective power of teachers is exercised through these three levels of representation. Participation is exercised according to a progressive “intensity”:

  1. Formal consultation:
  • BSR application, program for student services and special education services, end-of-cycle internal exams, rules governing promotion of students, policy concerning the organization of educational services for students with special needs, etc.
  1. Participation in the development of a proposal:
  • the anti-bullying and anti-violence plan, rules of conduct and safety, approach for implementing the BSR, subject-time allocation, operating rules of centre, etc.
  1. Preparation of a proposal by teachers:
  • criteria for the introduction of new instructional methods, choice of textbooks and materials, standards and procedures, etc.

You can ask your local union for more information regarding the objects of participation for teachers.

Teachers are an integral part of the decision-making process at both the school board and school/centre levels. Youhave the right to be consulted, to participate, or to collaborate depending on the circumstances or topic at hand. You must exercise that right to ensure that the teachers’ valuable expertise is not lost. It is essential to use the means available to you in both the Collective Agreement and the Education Act to ensure that your voice is heard and that you play a role in shaping your working conditions.

 

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