Kindergarten plans would be second rate, teachers’ union says

 In News

JILL MAHONEY The Globe and Mail  April 23, 2008

The prospect of holding full-day kindergarten in non-school buildings with a mixture of teachers and early childhood educators would result in a second-rate education, an Ontario teachers' union says.

David Clegg, president of the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario, said parents would not accept such measures.

"The potential for having equivalent education off site would be substantially less and as a parent, I would be concerned about that," he said.

Mr. Clegg was responding to comments from Charles Pascal, the provincial government's early learning adviser. Mr. Pascal raised the possibility in an interview with The Globe and Mail that boards with surging enrolment and tight space could offer kindergarten in community centres, daycares, churches and workplaces.

He also said children could be taught by certified teachers and early childhood educators, who largely work in daycares.

Mr. Pascal is advising Premier Dalton McGuinty on implementing full-day kindergarten for the province's four- and five-year-olds.

The government has said it would phase in full-day junior and senior kindergarten, which is now largely provided half-time, starting in 2010.

Mr. Pascal, who began his two-year appointment in February, noted he is still gathering facts and has not decided which model he will recommend.

Mr. Clegg said allowing early childhood educators to take charge of classes for partial or whole days would be an "erosion" of education, noting teachers receive more training.

He said providing kindergarten in outside facilities would deprive children of the benefits of schools, including libraries, gymnasiums and computer labs.

"The parents of this province expect the best quality education at a school with fully certified teachers delivering the program," he said.

In addition, Colleen Schenk, president of the Ontario Public School Boards' Association, said providing kindergarten in non-school locations could make the transition to Grade 1 in another building difficult for children.

She said it would also pose challenges for parents with other children since they would have to ferry their youngsters to and from different locations.

"There's different ways of making the model work, but it needs to be in consultations with school boards," she said, noting that her organization has not yet been asked about the issue. Options studied for kindergarten

Disagreement over whether 'full-day learning' will take place in schools, 'off-site' or some blend
Apr 23, 2008 Kristin Rushowy Toronto Star

Is it full-day kindergarten, or isn't it?
Depends on whom you ask about the Liberal government's promise to implement all-day learning for the province's 4- and 5-year-olds.

Elementary teachers say it should be provincial curriculum, taught by them, in schools, and that's certainly the perception among parents. But others say it will incorporate daycare centres and early childhood educators.

"From our perspective, the premier was very clear on this when he campaigned in the fall," said David Clegg, who heads the 70,000-member Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario, the largest teachers' union in the country. "He spoke about full-day kindergarten, and parents expect the quality of program that is currently being delivered, but on an extended basis."

Educator Charles Pascal, in charge of reporting to Premier Dalton McGuinty on the plan, would not comment yesterday after being quoted in the media musing about the possibility of kindergarten classes being held off school property if boards were short of space – such as at daycare or community centres – to provide a "seamless day" where children are dropped off and picked up at the same location, and taught by both teachers and early childhood educators.

Education Minister Kathleen Wynne said the province has not committed to any one model. The program is to be implemented starting 2010 and will cost hundreds of millions of dollars.

"Charles Pascal is looking at a range of options … so I'm not going to speculate on where we might land," she said.

Wynne wouldn't say what it might mean for school funding formulas or other financial arrangements if children get kindergarten instruction outside the traditional classroom or in a community centre.

Wynne said Pascal will have to look at the "different models in the States, different models in other parts of the country and the world" before submitting his report to the premier in just under a year.

Andrea Calver, communications director for the Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care, said her organization doesn't have a formal policy on full-day learning because it is still so early in the process, but "child-care programs across the province are very excited about the prospect of full-day learning … about opportunities to build on what we have."

She said child-care centres offer a play-based curriculum taught by early childhood educators, who have at least a two-year college diploma.

"Full-day learning is a chance to have the best of both systems, and people are very optimistic that this is a real opportunity to build something."

And moving adults makes more sense than moving children, Calver added.

Clegg said teachers would have no problem with a "wraparound-type" day, where children are in school both mornings and afternoons, with child care provided before and after school, and possibly with classroom help provided by early childhood educators.

"But, in terms of the delivery of instruction and the sites, we believe parents understand that a public school with fully qualified teachers" is the best option.

With files from Rob Ferguson and Louise Brown

Teach kindergarten outside school, adviser says
Ontario plan would allow full-day classes to be held in community centres, churches and daycares in boards where space is tight

JILL MAHONEY  Globe and Mail  April 22, 2008

Full-day kindergarten in Ontario could be held in community centres, daycares, churches and workplaces, the provincial government's early-learning adviser says.

In his first interview since taking the position, Charles Pascal outlined an early blueprint that would allow boards with surging enrolment and meagre space to take the unusual step of teaching children in non-school buildings with a mixture of certified teachers and early childhood educators.

In addition, Mr. Pascal outlined a key goal to provide youngsters and their working parents with "seamless" days – ideally, kindergarten classes in the same locations as daycares – which he said is far more important than requiring classes to be offered in schools.

"What's critical, we think for parents, isn't that it's in school, but that it's seamless."

Mr. Pascal's decentralized, flexible vision will likely spark intense debate among parents, teachers and administrators. Extending kindergarten involves a host of complex concerns, including finding space, ensuring adequate staffing and providing funds.

Doubling the length of the kindergarten day means a projected larger role for early childhood educators, who are paid far less than teachers. And establishing kindergarten classes in the same buildings as existing daycares would almost certainly require the facilities to meet the regulatory requirements for schools.

Mr. Pascal, whose two-year appointment began in February, is advising Premier Dalton McGuinty on how to implement full-day kindergarten for the province's four- and five-year-olds, a Liberal election campaign promise.

The government has said it would phase in full-day junior and senior kindergarten – which is now largely provided half-time to about 250,000 children – starting in 2010.

Mr. Pascal, a psychologist and former deputy minister of education, has so far conducted about 15 roundtables and met with 600 people across the province.

Stressing that he is still fact-finding and has not made final decisions, Mr. Pascal emphasized that kindergarten should be rooted in the publicly funded school system and follow a play-based curriculum.

The province's announcement in November that it was moving ahead with universal, optional "full-day learning" – a phrase Mr. Pascal said was designed to allow for flexibility on the venues chosen for classes – has received widespread support, despite the myriad challenges relating to space, staffing, child care and financing.

(A few school boards, including ones in the French system, already offer kindergarten on a full-school-day schedule, rather than on the half-day, 2½-or-three-hour schedule.)

Some of Mr. Pascal's ideas, which he said he has discussed with Mr. McGuinty, seem partly designed to address such obstacles.

His emphasis on flexibility would allow local boards to choose the delivery models that work best for them, although most would provide kindergarten classes in schools.

Allowing kindergarten to take place outside school buildings would help ease the anticipated space crunch, since full-day classes would require twice the number of classrooms as the half-time system.

If this occurs, Mr. Pascal said programs should be delivered under a local elementary "school's management umbrella" and meet criteria set by the government.

As well, he praised flexibility in determining who is in charge of classes, with a combination of teachers and early childhood educators, who largely work in daycares.

It may make sense, he said, for a teacher to take a class for half the school day and an early childhood educator to take it for the other half.

Or school boards might assign early childhood educators to junior kindergarten classes and certified teachers for senior kindergarten. If approved, such measures would mean that boards would not need to double their ranks of kindergarten teachers, although they would have to hire early childhood educators.

Mr. Pascal noted that many schools already have on-site daycares. In addition, allowing kindergarten to be delivered in non-school facilities that also provide child care services – he named community centres, daycares, churches and workplaces – would increase the seamlessness of the service. (He noted that a couple of Toronto schools already provide kindergarten in daycare settings.)

Mr. Pascal, who is to give his recommendations to the Premier next March, was reluctant to speak about funding, saying the cost of the initiative will depend on what he recommends and what the government decides.

The government has set aside $200-million in 2010-2011 and $300-million the following year, although Mr. McGuinty has said he would be surprised if that is enough for a fully phased-in program.

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