Schools seeing shortage of phys. ed. teachers
TORONTO—A shortage of physical education specialists in Ontario elementary schools could have long-term repercussions for the overall health of the province’s students, suggested a report released earlier this week.
A survey from advocacy group People for Education said a dearth of teachers qualified to offer health instruction, particularly in more remote areas of the province, means students are falling well short of provincial curriculum guidelines on physical activity.
The survey of 1,000 schools across Ontario found only 45 percent had a specialized phys. ed. teacher on staff.
Those instructors often work part-time and often are unable to offer their services to all students, the report noted, adding remaining staff often feel ill-equipped or unable to take on the health lessons prescribed in the provincial curriculum.
Annie Kidder, executive director of People for Education, said the shortfall simply is a result of skewed priorities.
Everyone from the provincial government on down needs to adjust their thinking to give health education as much weight as reading, writing, and math, she said.
“We need to put health and well-being up there and say ‘this has to be a priority, too,’” Kidder stressed in a telephone interview.
“We could be measuring it,” she noted. “We could be setting targets and goals, and measuring our progress towards those goals, because health and well-being, they’re all interconnected.”
The report found some basic tenets of the health curriculum were falling by the wayside as a result of the teacher shortfall.
For instance, the government currently prescribes 20 minutes of daily physical activity for all elementary students.
But a survey of principals in the greater Toronto area suggests fewer than half the students are receiving even a portion of that time.
Those results came from an area that has more than its share of phys. ed. specialists.