Teachers in the Brisish Columbia province of Canada are to escalate their job action from next week. The action, by the British Columbia Teachers Federation (BCTF)  centres around class size and class composition. The government dismantled class size and other guarantees in 2002, an action which has been pursued successfully through the courts by the BCTF. Despite this the government is pressing ahead with its cuts.

16,163 classrooms in BC–a new record for the province–have four or more students with special needs. The BCTF says its members are fully committed to inclusive education but that it must be properly funded and staffed. Moreover overall class sizes have grown since the government first attempted to deregulate staffing levels in 2002 - with more than two hundred school closures. British Columbia has the worst funded education service in Canada on seven different measures.

Despite attempts by the government to drive a wedge between the teachers and parents, commentators seem clear that this action is not just about salaries (even though the teachers have suffered a two year pay freeze) but rather about proper funding for schools. As one parent told 'Someone has to make a point and unfortunately it has to be the teachers because no-one else is going to stand up for our children.'

In fact far from separating themselves from parents, BCTF President Jim Iker told reporters 'As teachers we care deeply about our students and we empathise with our parents who have to rework their schedules. Many of us are parents too and that is one of the reasons we are taking this action. We need to take a stand for public education in BC.' As the BCTF points out, parents are out campaigning with teachers for education funding: 'They are taking to the streets, protesting at MLAs’ offices, turning up the heat on trustees, and using social media to make their concerns heard.'

89% of BCTF members voted for the job action, which started with the withdrawal of administrative duties but is being escalated next week with rolling one day strikes across the province, starting on Monday 26th May.

To read more background on the dispute, read this by BCTF member Tobey Steeves.