FREDERICTON (GNB) – Teachers have ratified an agreement with the provincial government that will provide more learning opportunities for younger students and add hundreds of new teachers to classrooms where they are most needed, Premier Brian Gallant announced today.

New Brunswick Teachers’ Federation co-presidents Marc Arseneau and Guy Arseneault joined Gallant for the announcement in Fredericton.

“Investing in education is one of the best ways to help grow the economy and ensure families are healthy in New Brunswick,” said Gallant. “That is why we are proud to be the government that has invested the most in education in the history of New Brunswick.

“By working with educators, we are providing the resources required to support classroom composition and improve our children’s educational outcomes.”

The five-year agreement includes a research project initiative that will increase the hours of instruction for some students in kindergarten through Grade 2. Starting in September 2018, 17 schools will participate in a research project to increase instructional time for those students by one hour per day. This time, along with additional resources, will be used to provide greater opportunities for students to reach the expected learning outcomes with a focus on literacy, numeracy, physical education, art and music. This is a joint initiative between the federation and the government. The project will run for three years, and will be evaluated by independent experts.

In addition, the government has agreed to add 250 school-based teachers to support classroom teachers and work with students, particularly in classrooms with composition challenges. These additional resources will also give principals and vice-principals more time to devote to their roles as educational leaders.

The agreement includes annual wage increases of one per cent, in keeping with the increases provided to other groups of union and non-union employees.

“The main issues that our members wanted us to address were the challenges related to the classroom composition issues,” said Guy Arseneault and Marc Arseneau, co-presidents of the New Brunswick Teachers’ Federation. “The provision of additional teachers, specifically for direct intervention services to students, is a strong first step and reflects the commitment to increase the resources needed to meet the increasingly complex demands in an inclusive school system.”

The collective agreement applies to nearly 8,000 teachers, including supply teachers, vice-principals and principals.

The previous collective agreement expired Feb. 29, 2016.

Since October 2014, the provincial government has reached agreements with 22 union groups.