Wednesday, June 16, 2010

ELP flexibility on extended care

This one popped out at me at a budget meeting on Tuesday. Kept digging on it and even caught it in a news alert, where I noticed, with kudos, that Kate Hammer of the Globe & Mail actually scooped me on the story. Mine is filed and will run Thursday.
The province has passed a regulation (225/10) allowing school boards to skip running the extended-day component of the Early Learning Program / full-day kindergarten. This is a very, very interesting development.
From the regulation itself:
Exception, staffing and projected enrolment
2.  (1)  This section does not apply if the projected enrolment of pupils under clause (2) (a) in the relevant portion or portions of the extended day program, is 20 or more pupils.
(2)  Despite section 1, a board is not required to operate the before school portion, the after school portion or both portions of an extended day program in a school listed in Schedule 1 in a school year if, by the day before the last day of the preceding school year, the board,
(a) concludes that,
(i) the projected enrolment of the school’s junior kindergarten and kindergarten pupils for the school year, in the relevant portion or portions of the extended day program, will result in a pupil to staff ratio of less than 10 to 1 (my emphasis) , and
(ii) subject to subsection (3), the ratio cannot be raised to 10 to 1 or higher by including up to a maximum of 25 per cent Grade 1 and 2 pupils (my emphasis) of the school in the projected enrolment in the portion or portions of the extended day program; and
(b) in a form approved by the Minister,
(i) provides the information on which it based its conclusion under clause (a), and
(ii) affirms to the Minister that it reached the conclusion in good faith, based on that information.
(3)  Subclause (2) (a) (ii) does not apply if the board has a written agreement with a third party under which the third party operates a before school program and an after school program on the school site for pupils in Grades 1 and 2.
(4)  In reaching its conclusion respecting the 10 to 1 ratio under clause (2) (a), the board shall assume that the extended day program will be staffed by either one or two employees.
(5)  The board shall base its decision as to whether to assume one employee or two employees under subsection (4) on its assessment of the minimum number of employees required to operate the program safely, given projected enrolment.
(6)  The assumption made by the board does not limit the actual number of employees that the board may in fact employ to staff the program.

In a nutshell: If boards won't have 10 four- or five-year-olds at one school whose parents sign them up for before- or after-school care, the board can ask to be exempt from running the program. In that case, if there's a third party running a similar program for school-aged kids in the school, the board can continue to include four- and five-year-olds in that partnership. If there's no third party in the school, the board can also include Grade 1 and 2 students to get its ratios to something more feasible.
There's always two sides to the coin—
Full-day kindergarten's detractors will point to this as an example of how the initiative is falling apart and/or is ignoring the intentions of the Pascal report.
School boards see this as much-needed flexibility in offering the program. Many boards have long said they're concerned with the budgetary impact of this. With extended-day programs, you need two early childhood educators with an overlap midday and enough time (per Bill 242) for these ECEs to consult and plan with the kindergarten teacher. Now, boards can hire one ECE and have that person work almost the same schedule as the kindergarten teacher, using other supervision resources in the building to give the two their planning time.
It also throws a bone to the third-party providers already running programs in schools— though as I've stated in this space before, the loss of four- and five-year-olds from before- and after-school care wasn't their biggest worry to begin with.


Doretta Wilson said...

This is a very fair and balanced look at the reality of implementing ELP.

The Society for Quality Education has always asked for local decision-making, particularly by parents themselves.

If boards can't or don't have any take-up on ELP or the day care, why should they do it? In other words, if things are working well in a board, why mess it up?

We've also questioned the need for making a program universal that is supposed to give low SES or at-risk kids a head start. SQE has maintained that kids can and should get the proper instruction as things exist now.

We've also wondered, as many other parents have, what are the more widespread cost implications of this?

There is only so much money in Ontario's still fragile economy. The tendancy is for these huge bureacratic programs to have costs that spiral out of control, take money from other areas, or worse, are used to siphon money off to things for which they were never originally intended.