New report about a lot more than all-day kindergarten
June 23, 2009
In June 2009, Dr. Charles Pascal, the premier’s advisor on all-day early learning, released his report, which has the potential to change the face of education in Ontario.
In June 2009, Dr. Charles Pascal, the premier’s advisor on all-day early learning, released his report, With Our Best Future in Mind, and it had the potential to change the face of education in Ontario.
Community hubs, community schools, partnerships, and integrated services and programs were the watchwords in the new early learning report.
The report recommends some fundamental changes to the structure of education and child care in Ontario. And it offers a clear template and timetable to bring together the vast, and often confusing, array of programs that exist for children from birth to eight years old.
If the vision is fullfilled, children will get a combination of teaching and early childhood education as well as other supports; professionals will work together; and policy decisions will be based on an overall vision for children from ages zero to 12 as well as their families — instead of the mishmash of policy and programs we have right now.
Fully implemented, the new policy would cost from $790 to $990 million. But, as the report outlines, it will result in eventual savings of more than seven times that amount.
Among the many recommendations in the report:
- A two-year, full-day Early Learning Program mandated in every school board — available to all children who turn four by December 31. Parents could choose to send their kids for only a half-day. The program would be free.
The program would be staffed by a combination of certified teachers and registered early childhood educators (ECE). The teachers would have to have specialized qualifications in early childhood education.
In a program with up to 20 children, the staff team would include one half-time certified teacher, a full-time registered ECE for school hours and another registered ECE for school hours and fee-based extended hours.
If 15 or more families in a school want the program to include before and after school care, boards would be mandated to offer it for a fee.
If 15 or more families in a school request after-school programming for 9- to 12-year-olds, boards would be mandated to offer it for a fee.
- The province should implement the full-day Early Learning Program over the course of the next three years, starting in September 2010. The province has to provide the funding for the staffing and operations, allocate the funding equitably across all regions and school boards including the ones that already offer all-day kindergarten.
- The program must be universally accessible to all parents and children. The report says that “programs targeted solely to disadvantaged communities actually miss the majority of vulnerable children.”
- The Ministry of Education should take responsibility for early learning for children from birth to eight years old by creating a new Early Years Division that would be responsible for an Early Years Policy Framework. The Framework should have a set of outcomes and targets developed through municipal–provincial partnerships.
- Municipalities, in partnership with school boards and community partners, should be responsible for using the Early Years Policy Framework to develop local Early Years Service Plans.
- Municipalities should be mandated to plan, develop, support and monitor an integrated network of Best Start Child and Family Centres, which would provide a range of early learning and care options for children up to age four, including:
- Parenting and family support programming, including pre- and postnatal information and nutrition counselling
- Early identification and intervention resources
- Links to special needs treatment and a wide range of community resources including health care, family counselling and employment services.
People For Education Viewpoint:
It’s well worth reading the whole report. It’s easy to read and covers a wide range of issues, from parental leave, to early learning and care for Aboriginal children, to support for principals and parents.