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Full-day learning draws last-minute fears

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Brown, Louise
Publication Date: 
12 Apr 2010

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A provincial committee is finalizing legislation this week that
will launch full-day learning for 4- and 5-year-olds in Ontario,
beginning this fall with a first rollout for 35,000 students across 600
schools, with all children to have the program within six years.

But a number of school trustees have complained the province is
not providing enough money, and some want to be able to use outside
agencies to run the programs before and after school.

"With an issue this complex, with all the nuances of the
relationship between day cares and schools, it's not humanly possible
to get it right on the first cut, so we hope the legislation will be
flexible," said Toronto Trustee Howard Goodman, vice-president of the
Ontario Public School Boards' Association. He urged the province to put
the nitty-gritty details of implementation into regulations that can be
tweaked on short notice if needed.

"Everyone agrees with the principle of full-day learning, but if
the government is too speedy and screws it up, it could cost them the
election (next year)," said Goodman.

In contrast, parent advocacy group People For Education
criticized the province for being slow to implement the broader
recommendations of before- and after-school programs for children aged
0 to age 12, all year-round, as proposed by McGuinty advisor Charles
Pascal in his sweeping blueprint for early learning.

"It can't be a mish-mash; Charles Pascal said you can't
cherry-pick parts of the vision - it's like an eco-system; you need
child and family centres for kids 0 to 4, and all-day programs for 4-
and 5-year-olds and you need funding to pay early childhood educators,"
said spokesperson Annie Kidder.


"They're introducing it in 15 per cent of schools the first
year, and adding 5 per cent more schools the next year - how much more
slowly can you go?"

Education ministry spokesperson Michelle Despault said the
legislation likely will let school boards use outside agencies to
provide after-school care during a transitional period.

"Our vision is for a program delivered by the school board that
is seamless and integrated, however we have heard the concerns of
stakeholders in the child-care sectors (YMCA, Boys and Girls Club etc)
as well as school boards on the provision of services by third-party
providers," noted Despault.

"It is our intention, should the legislation pass, to develop a
regulation in consultation with stakeholders that will speak to those
situations where we will recognize delivery of programs (for 4- and
5-year-olds during the school year) by third parties, within
parameters, for a transitional period."

Too, she said the government has provided an amendment to make
it clear that school boards can continue to use third-party partners to
offer after-school programs for 6- to 12-year-olds and extended-year
programs for 4- to 12-year-olds.

- reprinted from the Toronto Star