We’ve been part of the Toronto schooling system for nearly two years now and with the little experience we’ve had the public school system seems good and progressive. The reason I say progressive because they seem to be quick in making changes to prepare the kids for tomorrow. For instance based on an extensive research on how children learn best, the school board introduced play-based kindergarten program. You can read more about our personal experience with the schooling system at the end of the article. Highlighted below are some of the key information you need to know especially with regards to early education.
Schooling in Toronto is free all the way up to High School. Public Schools in Toronto fall under the Toronto District School Board. For more detailed understanding visit their website
The school year is from September to June. Summer break is for 2 months, July and August. You get about two weeks of winter break, generally starting in the 4th week of December and one week of break in March.
Kindergarten is a two year program with Junior and Senior Kindergarten as unlike the US which has only one year of Kindergarten.
Junior Kindergarten for your child will begin in the calendar year your child turns 4. That means for some children, the ones whose birthdays fall after the school year begins in September will still be 3yrs old when they start Junior Kindergarten.
Junior and Senior Kindergarten are optional programs, education is compulsory by law from the age of 6. You do have an option to homeschool you however need to get permission for that first.
The two year of kindergarten program is a play based program, modeled quite like the montessori method with emphasis on learning through play.
Registration for Kindergarten program takes place in February every year however if you were not in the country at that point and arrived later you can still go ahead and register your child at your home school. Your home school will be the one that falls within your residential address. This is true for any grade, the school can’t refuse enrollment.
For registration in kindergarten you would need immunization records, verification of date of arrival in the country, passport, birth certificate. Refer to the website for application form and other requirements.
If you would like your child to learn French, you have a chance to enrol them in total french immersion program which starts at senior kindergarten (SK). In case you miss enrolling your child at this stage you have another chance of enrolling them at grade 4 level. Application to these programs is made online the year the student is in Junior Kindergarten or Grade 3. Note that not all schools offer French programming so in case you opt for French and your home school doesn’t offer one then you may have to be willing to commute a little extra to go the next available French school.
TDSB also offers alternative schools. These schools adhere to the same curriculum as set by TSDB by their style of teaching differs. Some alternative schools are inspired by the Waldorf philosophy, some are more parent involved, they all have a different philosophy that governs how education is delivered. You can find a list of alternative schools here. Admission to these schools are not based on your home address, there is either a lottery system or interview based.
This is only our second year in the TSDB schooling system. We arrived in Toronto in August and soon realized that our son would be attending school starting September as he was turning 4 that year. We took our time to figure out where we’ll be renting in Toronto. Luckily we found a house in a neighborhood that had a good school. Here is the link to find out the school that serves your residential address. To know how the school performs parents mostly refer to Fraser Institute’s ranking, it gives you data on how the school has been doing over the years and options to compare schools . Fraser ranking is based on publicly-available data such as average scores on province-wide tests that take place for Grade 3 and 6 level. The tests known as the EQAO scores primarily test children on their writing, reading and math skills. You can get the same data on the school you are considering on the TDSB website. Another way to probably gauge how good the school is to see how much budget has been allocated to the school. The same data can be obtained from the TDSB website under the profile of the school you are searching for.
Coming back to our school experience I was initially reluctant to getting my son started in a big school when he was not even 4. I had a word with the Principal of our home school. I remember it was the first day of school but the principal still took time to answer all my concerns on the phone. When I learnt about the play based approach of kindergarten and how throughout the day they go from one room to another for music, storytime, play, gym made me feel comfortable. I however knew my son was not ready for long school hours from 8.40am to 3pm. I took a gradual approach to transition him, most of the time I would pick him early or at times make it a 4 day week. There is no minimum attendance that was required and the school was pretty cooperative with early pick-ups. It turned out great for our son, he made lots of new friends and flourished. The best part of attending a school in your neighborhood is firstly it’s really close to home and you can simply walk over. The other best part is all the friends your child makes are from the neighborhood and you bump into them just about everywhere, in the park, on the streets, at the library, at the cafe etc. And the third best part is as parents you end up making friends too, we had such an easy transition into our new neighborhood and city thanks to all the friends we made through the school.