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first_imgThe return to school is an exciting time for students, teachers, support staff and parents. It is a time of opportunity and challenge, of new learning experiences and of personal growth – from the wonder of a pre-schooler’s very first day of Primary right through to the Grade 12 student embarking on his or her final year. Teachers, too, are looking forward to inspiring their students to do their very best, while parents send their children off trusting that our public school system will make sure they receive the best education possible. This year we are introducing programs that put kids and learning first. Succeeding in Reading, a new, more flexible approach to supporting our youngest readers, will help students as early as grade Primary improve their reading, writing and language skills. This $5 million investment, plus an additional $1 million in books and other learning resources, will support 280 literacy teachers – in collaboration with classroom teachers – provide students with individual and small group intensive intervention in the classroom. I also want to highlight several other areas of focus this year: –our Cyberbullying Task Force is exploring ways to fight bullying on the Internet and mobile devices. Our goal is to finds solutions that schools, boards and parents can use to protect children and youth from harm. –the Schools Plus is being expanded to every region to bring services into the schools to help families and children. Services can include family resource centres, child care, youth mental health, recreation and community outreach. –we are also improving communications with parents. The student information system, INSchool, is expanding to more than 300 schools. Students and parents will have access to real-time information on attendance, marks, assignment due dates, school bulletins and teacher comments on a child’s progress. This improved link between families and schools will allow parents a window on the classroom like never before. Also this fall I will be sharing more on our plan for education, which will continue to maintain a strong public school system at a time of declining enrolments and fiscal reality faced by the province. Nova Scotians understand the demographic and fiscal challenges we face as a province and respect the fact that we must better match our resources to the needs and numbers of students. As everyone knows, this past year has been one unlike any other in recent memory. It was a year of hard decisions. Nova Scotians expect leadership from their government, and when faced with tough choices they want their government to make smart decisions in the best interests of our children. Like every family across Nova Scotia, government and school boards have had to tighten their belts. We challenged ourselves to use our financial and human resources more effectively to better serve students. And I believe we are succeeding. We made the common sense decision to match our funding to the decline in enrolment, and to build the budget from the classroom up. There were no layoffs of permanent teachers anywhere in the province. Our per student funding is increasing by more than $200, our student-to-teacher ratio is the best it has been and our average class size for elementary and junior high level, at 21.7 and 23.5 students respectively, should also remain at historic lows. Our goal will continue to be focusing our limited resources on children and learning, reduce administration and the use of consultants, and safeguarding the high quality of our public school system. We will continue to put kids and learning first. As a classroom teacher for 30 years, I was always focused on my students. As minister, my philosophy has not changed. -30-last_img

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