IT'S TIME FOR #ECEforCanada
CANADA-WIDE EARLY LEARNING AND CHILD CARE AGREEMENTS
The federal government’s historic $30 billion investment in early learning and child care is a once in a generation opportunity for Canadian families. A pan-Canadian Early Learning and Child Care program is now reality – the federal government has signed agreements with all provinces and territories. $30 billion is starting to flow. Estimates suggest that more than a million children under six-years-old will have access to early learning and child care within the next five years.
The hard work of transforming thirteen provincial and territorial patchworks of child care programs into a Canada-wide Early Learning and Child Care system has begun based on the principles of public management, non-profit and public delivery, affordability, accessibility, inclusion and quality. Just as Canada’s health care system evolved since it was first introduced in the late 1960s, so will early learning and child care. Monitoring progress and learning from each other will be essential to a coherent system that balances equity for all children and families and unique regional histories.
Bill C-35, an Act respecting early learning and child care in Canada, was introduced to the House of Commons in late 2022. On January 30, 2023 Bill C-35 unanimously passed its second reading and is now being referred to the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities. Bill C-35 is a critical building block to ensure sustainability that transcends changes in elected officials. It points to growing non-profit and public spaces, quality, and affordability – essential components of a publicly-funded and publicly-managed system.
Now, more than ever, we must work together to monitor next steps and make ECE happen in provinces and territories across Canada.
Check the status of the agreements - coming soon
BUILDING EARLY LEARNING AND CHILD CARE INTO PUBLIC EDUCATION
The Federal Government’s $30 billion commitment goes beyond providing basic daycare. It promises that children will have access to high-quality, universal and publicly-funded early learning and child care.
As governments continue to consult and develop a system that works best for parents and children, we must see this as an educational opportunity, and not just daycare that takes care of kids so parents can work.
Provincial and territorial public education systems can provide the sturdy public infrastructure needed to grow universal early learning and child care systems to offer ECE to all children.
Public education is a right for all children, with numerous benefits:
- Schools are public places that exist in every community;
- Schools can and do offer extended day programs to accommodate parents work;
- Schools provide professional work environments that attract qualified educators.
SPOTLIGHT ON ECE IN SCHOOLS
Waterloo Region District School Board
September 2010 marked a significant milestone for education in Ontario: full-day kindergarten (FDK) was launched as a universally available program for all 4- and 5- year-olds, moving early childhood education firmly into the realm of public education. The rollout took place over five years, with 260,000 children enrolled by September 2014.
Unique to the Ontario model of FDK is the educator team, where teachers and early childhood educators share responsibility for the planning and delivery of the program. Another distinct feature is the “seamless day”, as outlined in With Our Best Future in Mind, it proposes an extension of the school day to accommodate child care needs. While most school boards in Ontario took up a “third party” option, where a licensed child care operator provides before and after school activities, the Waterloo Region District School Board (WRDSB) directly operates extended day programs for Kindergarten and school-aged children, using trained early childhood educators. The evaluation, Schools at the Centre, reported on benefits of schools taking on both the education and care roles, including fewer stresses for children, full-time and professional work environments for early childhood educators and fewer hassles and lower fees for parents.
A decade later the seamless day continues in WRDSB schools and has been adopted by other school boards across the province who have come to appreciate the financial efficiencies and child and family benefits of combining early learning and care.
Saskatoon Public Schools Foundation
Saskatoon Public Schools Foundation (SPSF) is a non-profit organization dedicated to enhancing learning opportunities for students in Saskatoon’s public-school system through literacy, wellness and innovation. The charity was founded in 2008 to raise awareness about the challenges facing students in the public-school system and to develop solutions that make a difference, especially within the region’s Indigenous population.
SPSF has continued to grow with the recent announcement of its Early Learning Equal Start Program. The $20 million campaign is aimed at helping young learners achieve Grade 3 literacy by Grade 3. Every year, 28% of students in Saskatoon Public Schools have not achieved at or above grade level literacy in reading by Grade 3.
Through the Early Learning Equal Start Campaign, SPSF is doing incredible work to strengthen early learning in the province by expanding ECE in public education. As part of this initiative, SPSF is offering full-day junior kindergarten to 4-year-olds in twelve schools and full-day kindergarten to 5-year-olds in fifteen schools. The evidence is clear that these programs have a significant impact on children – the Toronto First Duty Phase 3 Report found that full-day programming results in positive peer interactions, more opportunities for self-regulation across different types of play and high levels of engagement during the school day.
This month, we had the chance to catch up with SPSF’s Executive Director Zeba Ahmad. She highlighted the important role this program plays in raising public awareness about investments in education across this province, which prevents more than 500 students from falling through the cracks. “On average, every dollar spent on early childhood education provides six dollars in return to the economy, so why wouldn’t we invest in our children,” said Ahmad.
To learn more about SPSF’s Early Learning Equal Start Campaign, visit their website or watch their explainer video here.
Seamless Day Kindergarten in British Columbia
On October 18, British Columbia announced the expansion of the Seamless Day Kindergarten initiative to twenty local schools. Seamless Day Kindergarten began as a pilot project and leverages integrated teams of teachers and early childhood educators to support children through before- and after-school care using existing classroom spaces. The initiative is yet another incredible example of how early childhood education (ECE) can be successfully integrated into public education to strengthen the system and improve outcomes for children.
In the government’s news release, B.C. Education Minister Jennifer Whiteside highlighted how improved access to ECE “is critical in supporting parents, particularly mothers, to pursue career or education goals while being confident that their kids are being cared for.” Minister of State for Child Care, Katrina Chen, also praised the initiative for using existing classrooms which can help create new spaces quickly and “make it easier for busy parents to get to work and have peace of mind knowing their kids are cared for and learning, all in one spot.”
To learn more about the B.C. government’s Seamless Day Kindergarten program, click here.