By Sophie Massé,
The Fédération des professionnelles et professionnels de l’éducation du Québec (FPPE-CSQ) conducted a survey to get a clearer picture of its members’ work with 4-year-olds and their parents.
The professional staff in question, mainly preschool education consultants (PEC), assist, inform and support the parents of 4-year-olds in their role as educators to ensure their child’s overall development. They work within the framework of the Passe-Partout program, which is offered in several school boards of the province and which greatly contributes to a first, successful school transition. Also included are professionals-which unfortunately far too few—such as speech therapists, psychologists, psychoeducators and remedial teachers who conduct early childhood screenings and interventions. Education consultants are also called upon to support, train, and assist junior kindergarten and kindergarten teachers.
The survey results lead the FPPE to issue four main recommendations:
- Formalize and ensure the coordination of measures to support a first, successful school transition within the continuum of the education services provided by Quebec’s Ministère de l’Éducation.
It is acknowledged, by the Commission sur l’éducation à la petite enfance (2017) and the Conseil supérieur de l’éducation (2012), that significant shortcomings exist in terms of coordinating public services for 4-year-olds and their parents. A better continuity is needed between educational daycare and school services, and that is, for all children. This type of continuity must also include MSSS services, as this is a basic requirement to ensure the quality of services.
- Implement the Passe-Partout program in all of Quebec’s school boards to help support parental skills and foster a first, successful school transition.
- Acknowledge the preschool education consultants’ expertise and their role as a pivot agent in terms of first, successful school transitions.
The PECs’ role is already similar to that of a pivot agent’s role in the Passe-Partout program, and their expertise in this area must be recognized. These professionals work in close collaboration with the parents and work with educational daycare services, family community organizations, and MSSS stakeholders. PECs are key players on the school team and relay with the teaching, professional and support staff, in addition to advising management.
We deplore the fact that few PECs have regular, full-time positions. It is unacceptable that 30% of the preschool education consultants hold a supernumerary position.
- Add regular professional resources to school boards offering services to preschoolers.
In many school boards, the professional/student ratio is disastrous. For example, according to the FPPE’s calculations, in 2014-2015 there were an average of more than 2,800 students per speech therapist, close to 1,800 students per psychoeducator, and 2,075 students per psychologist. Even worse, 375 positions were cut between 2014 and 2016. Professional employees often bear the brunt of budget cuts. We know that delaying screenings or early interventions for preschool children with learning difficulties due to lack of professional resources is directly detrimental to educational success.
At the Conseil federal held on March 2017, the 19 FPPE unions unanimously adopted an action plan to be implemented at the national and local levels. We hope that the Department of Education and the school boards will take these recommendations into account, especially since they echo the government’s budget commitments regarding the Partir du bon pied au préscolaire et en 1ere année du primaire initiative.