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Students feel safe in school says new government survey

But Whistler kids still reporting problems

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Elementary students in Whistler feel safer in school this year than last according to the most recent Ministry of Education satisfaction survey.

However, 5 per cent of Grade 4s at Myrtle Philip and 16 per cent of Grade 4s at Spring Creek reported that they are "bullied teased or picked on" many times or all the time.

The percentage of Grade 7 kids at the high school that feel safe has also declined from 83 per cent in 2002-03 to 62 per cent this year. And 21 per cent said they have been bullied teased or picked on many or all of the time. That’s up from 13 per cent in 2001-02 and 15 per cent in 2002-03.

For Grade 10 and 12 it was a similar story, although fewer kids reported being picked on.

Whistler high school students also reported they were not getting better at math, reading and writing in greater numbers than last year.

There are 365 students at the school this year with 21 teachers. In 2001-02 there were 363 student and 27 teachers.

(For full results go to www.bced.gov.bc.ca/sat_survey/2004results) .

It is a trend that is being repeated across the province and it’s a concern said Minister of Education Tom Christensen.

"I think we need to take a step back and say why is that," said Christensen referring to the poor figures for math reading and writing.

"We want to ensure that there is some added focus (and look at)… what can be done to reverse that trend."

The survey found that among Grade 12 students across the province 48 per cent reported reading better, down from 58 per cent last year, and 60 per cent said they were better at writing, down from 60 per cent last year. Math improvement stayed at 2003 levels of 45 per cent.

The government was pleased to see that most elementary school students were feeling safer according to the $170,000 survey.

"It shows that students are feeling safer in schools and we all know that students need to feel safe if they are going to learn and achieve their best," said Christensen.

Another area of concern was the poor parent participation in the surveys at the secondary school level. Across B.C. 13 per cent of high school parents completed the survey. But in Whistler only two per cent filled it in.

That was no surprise to the new chair of Whistler Secondary’s Parent Advisory Council, Chris Vernon-Jarvis.

"Parents don’t seem to be very involved, and I regret saying that because I know some parents are very involved," said Vernon-Jarvis.

"But the proportion seems to be much too low and that seems to be reflected in the number of parents who completed the survey."

There could be two reasons for that he said. Parents may be fed up that their concerns are not acted upon, so they have stopped voicing them, or they may be relatively happy with the education their kids are getting.

"I don’t know which of those it is," said Vernon-Jarvis.

The most frequent complaint he hears is that parents don’t hear enough from the school.

"When things aren’t going well there is an enormous reluctance to phone the parent and say, ‘Gee, your child is not doing so well,’" said Vernon-Jarvis.

He was also cautious about the student data from the school saying although he respects the students they, "sometimes don’t see the bigger picture."

Myrtle Philip chair Cathy Jewett said of the survey results: "I think that our administration and staff are doing the best with what they’ve got.

"They are dealing with smaller and smaller budgets. Maybe the budget is expanding but it is buying less and less."

The survey was distributed to more than 1,200 schools and completed by 214,000 respondents.

Provincially student participation ranged from 90 per cent in Grade 4 to 61 per cent in Grade 12. Only 55 per cent of elementary parents responded. At Myrtle Philip 73 per cent of parents responded while 64 per cent of parents responded from Spring Creek.

Staff participation plunged this year partly because the B.C. Teachers’ Federation urged its members not to participate.

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