Education assistants in B.C. still operating without standards of practice, advocates say

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – There is currently no government-mandated standards of practice for education assistants in B.C., but a working group of educators, parents, and education assistants themselves is trying to change that.

The EA Standards of Practice Working Group points out education assistants play a crucial role in ensuring equitable access to the public education system, yet there are no official standards for training or practice

“Standards are commonplace in B.C.,” the group writes. “Early childhood educators, teachers, nurses, health care assistants, fitness instructors, and nail technicians have them. Work that is required of a person that impacts the wellbeing of others and that involves potential risk to themselves, has standards of practice, that is, except for Education Assistants.”

The group says training currently ranges from two weeks to two years for education assistants. But when faced with EA shortages, school districts may hire people with no specific training, even though these people often work to support children with diverse needs in the classroom.

“We want to know who is getting this done and when it will be done,” the EA Standards Working Group’s Cindy Dalglish says. “If nail technicians, not to mention teachers and ECEs have standards, why not EAs?”

The group says education assistant support is one of many “cornerstones of a strong, supportive, safe, and inclusive education system,” and that well-meaning but poorly-trained workers can have a negative impact on kids with diverse needs.

“EAs working in districts across B.C. have inconsistent levels of training and in some cases, little access to professional development opportunities,” the release quotes a parent of a student with neurodiversity says.

“My school-aged child, with neurodiversity, has been traumatized because of the quality of support provided by well-meaning but poorly trained workers,” she says.

Advocates say standardized training for EAs will ensure they are competent to perform all the necessary skills in a demanding role.

The group says people have been asking for EA standards of practice for 30 years, but that governments have failed to take action.

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