Teacher Eric Munshaw (left) says oversized industrial ed classes are a safety hazard.

Crowded classes pose risk: shop teachers

BC Technology Education Association, Best practices guide, over crowded classrooms, Chilliwack

School districts that ignore recommendations of class size for industrial education classes risk possible liability should an accident occur, the board heard Tuesday.

Chilliwack industrial education teacher Eric Munshaw presented trustees with a best practices guide created by the BC Technology Education Association that was released last Friday.

The guide, which was heavily researched and cites documents from across Canada, the United States, New Zealand and Workers Compensation Board, recommends an “absolute” limit of 20 students in industrial education classes.

The best practices guide states that due diligence on the part of shop teachers, administrators, trustees, B.C. Education Ministry, and the government, must guide both policies and actions in order to avoid student injury and potential litigation.

“Student safety is our primary concern,” said Munshaw. “Having done our due diligence [with this report] the burden is now on the employer. Should this be ignored, we think they could be liable.”

Classes across the district have been bursting, many with upwards of 30 students – including shop classes. The difference with shop classes though, is that they have heavy duty power tools in operation.

With students that range from 11 to 18 years old, “there is an intangible safety issue in industrial education classes,” said Munshaw. “If you keep adding to that environment, the risk of an accident goes from a possibility to a probability.”

Up until now there has been no guide for school districts in the province to follow in terms of industrial education. Class size and composition, and practice and protocol in such classes have been mandated by individual teachers, principals, and administrative preferences.

“This guide is an attempt to set some ground rules,” said Munshaw.

The BC Technology Education Association expects school districts in B.C. to follow the guidelines set out in its best practices guide by September 2012.

kbartel@theprogress.com

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