One psychologist per 1000 students: a reality that still does not exist in New Brunswick. That is what the MacKay report recommended to the government 11 years ago.
At the beginning of the school year, 14,384 students are enrolled in the schools of the French-speaking Southern School District. Fourteen psychologist positions are planned to meet their needs, but three of these positions are not filled. The South francophone school district has only one psychologist for 1300 students.
In the Francophone Northeast School District, 9286 students are enrolled. Three school psychologist positions are filled. Three psychometricians also offer their services (employees who have psychologist training but have not yet passed the provincial exam). Two psychologist positions are filled by social workers. So there is a psychologist for 1,500 students in the Northeast, if we take into account psychometricians.
Three-year waiting lists
“[Our short- and long-term needs have not been met,” says Lucie Martin, president of the New Brunswick Francophone Teachers’ Association.
She explains that there are even waiting lists for student psychometric assessments: “Assessments that allow us to know the specific needs of each student”. Sometimes, students may be on the waiting list for two or even three years, she says.
A situation that adds an important responsibility on the shoulders of teachers, who do not have the resources to respond adequately to the mental health problems of some young people.
The MacKay report, outdated?
For Lucie Martin, the recommendations of the MacKay report are not even enough: “It dates from 2006, we have seen the change in our schools since.”
According to the president of the AEFNB, the psychological problems of the pupils have evolved since 2006: depression, family pressures and stress coming from the social networks are part of their daily life. Stress is felt even in primary school.
Shortage, not just psychologists
The lack of human resources is not only felt by psychologists in francophone schools in New Brunswick. According to Lucie Martin, this includes speech-language pathologists, autism specialists, resource teachers and social workers.
The AEFNB says it is constantly lobbying the New Brunswick government to add specialized resources to schools. The latter did not respond to Radio-Canada’s interview requests.
The francophone school district of North West has not yet provided the number of students enrolled this year.