Newcomers Guide to the Ontario School System Part 2

Following on from my last post the Newcomers guide to the Ontario School System here is my 2nd installment.  Just to reiterate these are simply my observations as a Mum.

Transportation to school

Here in Canada the vast majority of children travel to school on the school bus.  You know those big yellow ones you see in films?


Here in the suburbs they drive around the streets picking the kids up and driving them to school.  For little ones in daycare they can often pick the kids up from daycare take them to school and drop them back there in the evening. Canada really likes to help the working work mum!  Once your child is registered in school you get issued a student number, this is all you need to book a place on the school bus.



The Structure of the School Day

Like most schools in the UK the school day is usually around 9am-3.30pm give or take.  Some schools provide before and after school care (another thing to help those working mums).  The amount of lessons and the length of them vary from school to school but a few things stay the same; Canadians like to snack so ‘snack time’ is part usually part of morning recess.  They also love their fresh air, so children go outside unless it’s raining hard or below -20C so kids must be dressed appropriately for the weather, whether it’s sun hats and sun screen or snow boots and thick coats.

Schools are equipped with PA systems, they announce important news in the morning, so very rarely send home letters.  They also play the national anthem every morning and have the children stand to listen to it.

Generally, Elementary schools don’t have a canteen so kids need to take a packed lunch and their snack.

It is usually only the Catholic schools that have a school uniform. Students dress casually, younger kids don’t always get changed for PE (Phys Ed/gym) so they need to wear suitable clothing.  They will also need a pair of indoor shoes that are left at school and are worn whilst inside the building. Trainers are ideal for this.

In Elementary schools homework is rarely given unless it is for a specific project and never given in the holidays, as ‘family time’ is deemed extremely important.



School Holidays

The school year starts in September on the Tuesday following the Labour day weekend and goes through to the end of June (around 27th). The year is divided into 2 semesters September to January and February to June.  At the end of January reports are issued and there are usually subject changes.

There are long weekends in October for Thanksgiving, February for Family day, Easter and Victoria Day in May.  There are two weeks holiday at Christmas and 10 days for March Break.

My boys really struggled with the change in the school year, they were so used to a break from school every 6 weeks when it came to several months between breaks they were exhausted.  9 weeks off in the summer really makes up for it though!


In my final part I will cover which subjects are taught and information particular to High schools

4 thoughts on “Newcomers Guide to the Ontario School System Part 2

    1. Lou Post author

      I might need to update it by then, It’ll be a while before your cute little one is ready for school!

  1. anightinthelifeof

    This post made me laugh. Not because of anything you’ve written or experienced, but my experience in reverse has been laughable.

    You should have seen the madness we had to deal with when our kids were launched into changing for PE and in front of others to boot! My youngest held up the class and hid under the desks/chairs for months! The school wanted to have a meeting about “anything out of the ordinary happening at home that may be causing this behaviour” ha.

    Nope-just another cultural difference. Plain and simple.

    As for the TDSB, the school bus information can be found here:

    They do have rules about distance to the school and even if your child is disabled, you have to prove a genuine need before they will even consider the appeal for transportation if you live any closer. They have been known to ask parents to take video footage of child’s ability to walk to prove it!

    Having school breaks as often as we do over here, is a welcomed relief. Makes the transition a little easier for sure!

    Can’t imagine how your kids took the change! But I bet they are liking the freedom to express themselves freely through clothes etc.

    1. Lou Post author

      I can imagine!
      Maybe you should do a post from the opposite perspective seeing as things are so different and most of it you don’t find out about in advance. Your poor little one must have wondered what on earth was going on when asked to undress in front of their classmates, no doubt you’d been previously telling them that this was something you would absolutely NEVER have to do!

      Thanks for the additional info on the bussing, I’m sure it will be very useful

      My boys are doing really well, the holidays were as issue in the beginning but they love the really long summer holiday and yes they are also loving the freedom they have here. I’m still getting used to them walking out of the door in the morning looking so scruffy compared to the shirt and ties they used to wear and don’t get me started on the state of the teachers! 😀

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