By Jaxon McGinn
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Sunny South News
A new survey suggests the number of Alberta teachers planning to leave the profession for another job next year has more than doubled.
A summary of a pandemic pulse survey from the Alberta Teachers’ Association (ATA) conducted at the end of November suggests more than 37 per cent of respondents reported they probably won’t be teaching in Alberta next year.
Compared to an annual member opinion survey done last March, the number of teachers planning to retire was similar, at 16 per cent. Still, the percentage who said they are leaving for another job has doubled, increasing to 14 per cent. Seven per cent said they plan to go to a different province to teach elsewhere.
In an interview Tuesday, ATA President Jason Schilling said the numbers reflect what he’s already heard from teachers, some of whom plan to retire early because they are being asked to do more with the bare minimum, which is, “stretching everything.”
“They feel like this government doesn’t care about them, and they feel like this government doesn’t support the work that they’re doing in the middle of a pandemic,” said Schilling, adding the percentage of teachers who continue to feel high levels of exhaustion, stress, and anxiety after two years of the pandemic is worrisome.
Ninety-two per cent of respondents reported exhaustion, while 88 per cent reported high stress. The ATA said its survey provides a representative sample of more than 1,300 teachers and school leaders, with a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 per cent 19 times out of 20.
Katherine Stavropoulos, press secretary to Education Minister Adriana LaGrange, questioned the validity of the survey’s findings in a statement Tuesday, Jan 25, 2022, noting it represents only 2.8 per cent of the province’s 46,000 teachers. However, she said the ministry recognizes the past two years of the pandemic have been challenging.
“We continue to explore options to attract and retain teachers and teacher leaders to Alberta schools and look forward to sharing more information when it is available,” said Stavropoulos.
At a news conference Tuesday, Jan 25, NDP education critic Sarah Hoffman blamed the survey results on the UCP government’s refusal to give schools the resources they need.
Sue Bell, a recently retired Edmonton principal and teacher who worked in schools for almost 30 years, said she felt forced to leave the job to preserve her own physical and mental health at the NDP news conference.
“The breaking point began last year around September 20 or so when we had to take on the job of contact tracing at schools because, from that point on, I did not have a day off until we went online in December. I was on call 24 hours a day — no switching off, no downtime,” said Bell.