What is Normal? A response to the Quebec Government’s Back To School in 2021 plan

Montreal, Wednesday, June 2, 2021 — It is with reservations that the English Parents’ Committee Association (EPCA) receives the government's announcement today of the measures to be put in place for the start of the next school year. EPCA is very concerned about what this means for the children in the English-language school system given that it doesn’t appear to address all parental concerns about back to school.

“Getting to a new ‘normal’ is what everyone wants, but this should not be done without due consideration of all variables. There are no plans in place for vaccinations of students under the age of 12. What the Minister announced today is a full return to what was considered normal before the pandemic, which is problematic and unachievable in the near future,” explains Katherine Korakakis President of EPCA.

Although it is good news that high school student would return to normal if a 75% vaccinations rate are achieved, the province’s plan does not reflect significant concerns is lacking an achievable plan for students under 12, taking into consideration the fact that vaccinations for this age group have not yet been approved. The fact that this is not addressed leaves parents feeling like there is no strategy for this group other than to hope that all goes well. The thought of going back to the improvised decision-making by the government that we have had to endure for the previous fifteen months is deeply troubling. “Parents have had a hard fifteen months filled with anxiety. The uncertainty inherent in this plan, particularly the fact that there is no specific consideration for unvaccinated students under 12, does not help ease that anxiety,” concludes Ms. Korakakis. 

EPCA learned about these new provisions for the start of the 2021 school year from the media (in contradiction to what the Minister claimed this morning). As such, EPCA now calls upon the government to exercise caution and not to forget about the past fifteen months and return to schools as if the pandemic did not happen. Experiences over the past fifteen months must be considered and precise plans need to be put in place that consider all of the variables and possibilities. EPCA will continue to remain vigilant and work with parents and the educational system to ensure Anglophone children – and those looking after them in schools – remain safe.

For more information or for media contacts: 
Email: President@epcaquebec.org | Cell phone: 514 668-8672  

Recovery Plan for Student Success: Parents remain on the front lines

Quebec City, May 6, 2021 — The English Parents’ Committees Association of Quebec (EPCA) and the Quebec Federation of Parents’ Committees (FCPQ) welcome measures announced today by Minister of Education Jean-François Roberge, and the Minister for Education, Isabelle Charest.

For over a year, parents have been there to support their children’s educational success in challenging times, looking to be more actively involved and engaged in academic decision-making. Parent surveys during the school year have shown increased satisfaction with communications related to health measures and cases of COVID-19 in their school that have been sent home, setting a new expectation when it comes to communications related to the success and progress of our children.

The announced measures are a step in the right direction to match this expectation, especially when it comes to creating a new liaison officer in disadvantaged communities. This is a long-standing request from parents that we hope will be extended to all schools.

The intent of two formal communications with parents during the year, as was announced today, should however be transformed into individual meetings where true exchanges can take place. Face-to-face discussions on student progress would better promote smooth transitions within school, as well as foster co-education and improved parental involvement. We further recommend that the number of meetings be increased for parents of students with special needs, beyond the two-session minimum.

Individualized Success Plan 

That being said, both EPCA and the FCPQ are disappointed that their proposal for an individualized success plan (ISP) for each student has not been accepted this year. We are certain that this tool would contribute to improved student success, while also becoming an important means for both parents and school staff to enhance collaboration and communications. We will continue to advocate on the benefits of the ISP in the future. 

Tutoring and Student Support

 The extension of the tutoring program remains a positive development. Parents, however, reiterate that setting criteria that narrowly restricts eligibility for tutoring must be avoided. The program should be available to all students who need it, and requests from parents who feel that their child would benefit from this support should be taken into serious consideration.

In addition, we are satisfied that educational activities proposed for the summer season do address a concrete need, especially among vulnerable students, as well as those in the anglophone and allophone communities. We support the granting of this partnership to the Réseau québécois pour la réussite éducative, a solid and trusted organization. These summer activities should remain a choice for families, however, and should be targeted to meet local needs in collaboration with community groups on the ground.

 Motivating Young People

Parents have repeatedly emphasized the importance of extracurricular activities and social initiatives in motivating young people. We therefore welcome plans to enhance programs that allow young people to be more active and go on more frequent educational outings away from the classroom, such as À l'ecole, on bouge!

Back-to-School 2021-2022 

With the announcement of an adolescent vaccination campaign to take place before the next school year, we remain hopeful that all students will be able to return to school in person. This would be excellent news for our youth, who would then be able to access support services tailored to their needs on school premises, while also benefiting from face-to-face social interactions.

When it comes to informing parents of decisions on health and safety measures, and any related adjustments to the back-to-school plan that may be necessary, we are satisfied with the proposed timeline. We will, of course, be listening.

To consult this media communique in French, click here.

EPCA calls for significant revamp of services for special needs students across Quebec education system

Survey shows excessive delays and poor financing leaves students struggling

March 28, 2021, Montreal QC - It is with an ongoing sense of frustration that EPCA calls on the Ministry of Education of the Government of Quebec (MEES) to significantly restructure and revamp services for special needs students across our public school system. This position comes after a survey of more than 2000 parents of handicapped children and children with social maladjustments or learning disabilities, who detailed their experiences and perspectives dealing with an outdated and inflexible network of assessments, service requests and insufficient funding.

“This is not a new problem, but it was well past time that it be solved. Students with special needs are among the most vulnerable in our education system, and yet the Ministry’s assessment and funding policies are so dragged down by heavy bureaucratic structure that it can take years to get a decision. In the meantime, our children fall further and further behind in school, waiting for help,” says Katherine Korakakis, president of EPCA. “Focusing on a potential Bill on special needs services is not the right approach. The Government must change its mindset and rebuild the system in its entirety to create a new structure system that works for our kids, so that no family ever has to wait years for an assessment - with all the struggle that brings - ever again.”

According to EPCA’s survey results, approximately 59% of respondents did not have a recognized MEES difficulty code for their children, which means that no additional funding is allocated by MEES to support them. Even for those students who were eventually granted a recognized MEES difficulty code, the delay was extreme. More than 33% of those who received a code had to wait 12 months or more for the diagnosis to be completed. Once the diagnosis was received, more than 20 % had to wait an additional 6 months or more to receive a decision from MEES on coding.

As part of its consultation, EPCA conducted a survey of the wider parent community via social media and through direct contact with parent committee delegates of the 8 member school boards, putting significant effort to pull together perspectives from across Quebec’s anglophone community in spite of the tight timelines imposed by MEES. The survey resulted in a total of 2325 responses between March 15 and March 19, 2021. Of these, 1,435 respondents completed the survey, demonstrating the complexity of both the survey itself and the subject matter. For a summary of the survey results, please visit here.

For Interviews
Katherine Korakakis
president@epcaquebec.org
Tel: 514 668-8672

New funds for tutoring: English-speaking students an afterthought?

(January 28, 2021 – Montreal) The English Parents’ Committee Association (EPCA)is outraged that English students are not being considered in the government’s plan for new tutoring services.

EPCA welcomed the announcement by Education Minister Jean-François Roberge concerning new investments in tutoring for the Quebec student population in this difficult period. This included provisions for new services and platforms organized and offered through school service centres and school boards.

This may be good news, but only for part of the population. There is also significant funding announced for existing services such as Alloprof, which offer quality services to its clientele, but does not offer the services required by Quebec's English student population.

The province’s sole government-funded tutoring resource, LEARN-QuĂ©bec, has not been included in any similar funding announcement.

“This is most troubling, especially given the fact that LEARN has increased its registrations by more than 200 percent since March 2020,” says EPCA president Katherine Korakakis. “It has reached a breaking point, and they have had to shut down registration for elementary school services just weeks before the next report cards are due, when we expect a significant spike in demand. LEARN is continuing with registrations for high school students, but it can currently take up to four weeks to get a tutor.

This is wholly unacceptable.”

It seems that the English community’s needs are an afterthought, and EPCA is awaiting a correction to this clear oversight of the need to support Quebec’s English-speaking youth.

“It is intolerable that during the most vulnerable era in recent history for Quebec students, these needs have been neglected” says Korakakis. “EPCA insists that anglophone students be given equal consideration, and without delay. We expect, and will accept, nothing less.”

EPCA Questions On Report Cards, Mask Policy. Insists on Simultaneous English Rollout

QuĂ©bec, January 8, 2021 - The English Parents’ Committee Association acknowledges the announcements made by Education Minister Jean-François Roberge today regarding the return to school, along with numerous new support and hygiene measures.

Measures to reduce the weighting of the first report cards will give them less prominence in the students’ overall annual academic record. As it is generally expected that there will be large numbers of report cards reflecting academic difficulties with many students this year, the announced delay and weighting adjustment are worthwhile measures, albeit no panacea, nor much more than cosmetic.

What Quebec parents are clearly asking for is specific information on their children's progress, or lack thereof. A simple number along with possibly vague and standardized, repetitive comments will no longer suffice, particularly during this unprecedented period.

Our children are experiencing exceptional difficulties, and it is imperative that parents have a precise and global portrait of their children's academic accomplishments and challenges, to help them move forward in this difficult year. Parents need to know where their children are at in terms of learning, and it is time for their report cards to reflect that, an initiative that should be implemented and maintained moving forward.

The announcement of a tutoring regime is welcomed, and we expect that this responsibility – handed to the school boards – will be fulfilled rapidly and effectively. We also laud the development of a mobile app to assist students with psychosocial support, an established and increasingly alarming concern.

These measures and initiatives are only effective insofar as they are accessible to, and welcomed by, our children. The rollout of any such tools must be done simultaneously in English and French. On several occasions over the last year, anglophone students have had to wait for equivalent consideration. As EPCA clearly communicated to the Education Ministry today, such a two-tier system will no longer be acceptable. Our children are worthy of identical consideration as others, and we expect this reality to be acknowledged. This is non-negotiable.

Since the earliest days of the pandemic and hygiene measures in schools, we have also made clear our position favoring masks for all. The announcement that students in Grades 5 and 6 will be required to wear masks is a positive one, but we question why they will not be required to wear three-ply procedural masks. Nor do we understand why they will not be supplied with two such masks per day as will be secondary students. This should be addressed in time for elementary students’ return on January 11.

As we send our younger students back to school next week and our secondary students resume their pre-holiday schedule on January 18, we must remain vigilant and ensure that the tools promised by the government and delivered to the boards will get into the hands of our children without delay.

We should all remain focused on student and staff well-being along with our children’s academic success. The English Parents’ Committee Association remains committed and available to assist the network and our educational partners in any endeavours to support Quebec students. As the official voice of parents in the English public-school network, EPCA will continue to be at the forefront of all discussions about our children’s schooling and remains steadfast in support of parents and their children in these trying times.
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