Tag Archives: newbies

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

Newcomers Guide to the Ontario School System

 

 

Like many immigrants moving with kids I had a thousand questions on the school system prior to arriving in Canada and unfortunately I struggled to find answers anywhere.  The Internet is full of practical information to help newcomers settle but there was little on the workings of schools, the routine, the everyday experiences that your children will encounter.  How are you supposed to calm a child who’s nervous about a new school when you are armed with such little information?  Over the next few posts I am going to attempt to share my knowledge of the Ontario school system, it is worth noting that I am writing this not as an educator or anyone in authority but simply as a Mum.  Eldest son is now in the final semester in High school and youngest son is in Grade 6 in an elementary school.

 

Overview

Ontario is divided into 83 publically funded school boards, which are one of the following four types; English public, English Catholic, French public and French Catholic.  As I am neither French nor Catholic I will only be writing about the English public school system. Some elementary schools run a French Immersion programme where the children are taught all subjects mainly in French, usually French Immersion programmes need to be started by Grade 1. Compulsory education begins when children turn 6 and continues until grade 12 when they turn 18.  The school year runs from September to June

 

Grades

School starts with Junior Kindergarten (JK) and Senior Kindergarten (SK) and then it moves onto grades 1 -12.  Elementary schools are usually JK – Grade 8 and High schools are grades 9-12.  Some areas have middle schools, which cater for grade 7 and 8 only.  Kindergarten education is not compulsory although the vast majority of children do attend.  Kindergarten is usually part time, however, it is in the process of becoming full time in all schools across Ontario. The structure of the grade is somewhat different to the UK.  Children attend school with those born in the same calendar year, for example, grade 6 students will all turn 12 between January 1st and December 31st whereas in the UK the year 7 students will all turn 12 between September 1st and August 31st.

 

Admission Requirements

In England getting your child a place in a particular school is difficult and stressful to say the least, deadlines for application and then putting your fate in the lap of the Gods while you await the decision is enough to cause sleepless night for parents and kids alike.  In Ontario it could not be more different.  I remember visiting the schools that we hoped the boys would be attending when we were on our fact-finding visit.  I was desperate (with my English head on) to get the boys names put down but we couldn’t do it.  We kept being told that we needed to be living there first, I just didn’t understand. When my husband then made his solo trio over to buy the house I armed him with all the necessary forms and paperwork to register the boys in school and followed up with emails to the schools explaining our situation.  In hindsight I must have looked like a complete lunatic.  He was able to register youngest son at Elementary school but Eldest son needed to be present in order to register him in high school.  I tried to explain that we would be arriving in the summer holidays when school was closed so they told me to phone when the staff was back to school during the last week in August some 7 days before the school year started!  The point I was totally missing was that here kids go to their ‘home school’. Each school is given a specific area (which can be checked on the Internet) EVERY child who lives in their particular area goes to that school, end of story. There is no such thing as changing boundaries depending on numbers, priority to siblings or schools being full. Wherever you live you have a designated school that you will attend.  I wish someone had told me that earlier so I that needn’t of worried about the boys getting in to our chosen schools.  You can register a kid one day and have them start the next, easy peasy!

You will need certain paperwork in order to register you child in school namely, a birth certificate, proof of your emigration status, proof of your residence (rental agreement or mortgage) & immunisation records.  That is it, so simple.  There seems to be much less of a gap here between good schools and bad schools so going out of catchment to find a good school is pretty much unheard of.

 

 

Coming up in my next installment;

Transportation to school

The Structure of the School Day

School Holidays