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Finding a school when moving to Canada

Posted by By Kirsty Parsons - November 20, 2014

Finding a school when moving to Canada can be a daunting prospect, especially when you're likely handling lots of other aspects of the relocation too. So, where do you start?

Well, the simplest and least stressful way is to use a relocation company that offers home search and school search services, like us. But, if you’re going it alone and want to handle this yourself, here’s a guide.

Regional Differences
Where you live in Canada will have a direct impact upon the type of education your child receives. In most provinces, schooling is mandatory to the age of 16, but in New Brunswick and Ontario, children must stay on until they are 18, or have completed their 12th grade.

Just like here in the UK, all schools within Canada operate on a September to June year, with scheduled breaks between each term.

Funding for schools is distributed and overseen at federal, provincial and local levels. However, as Canada has no federal department of education, the 10 provinces and three territories are each responsible for the organisation, delivery and assessment of education at all levels in their own right, so will vary across the country.

Each province is separated into districts, where school boards are then allocated. Each school board sets about making and implementing local policies which relate to the standard of curriculum the province it belongs to deems acceptable. Generally speaking, much of the provincial and territorial education systems across the country will be similar; however, the delivery and assessment of the curriculum in each province can vary greatly.

Educational tiers
Much like the UK, Canada separates its various stages of schooling through age. As a rule, this is what they’re called and how they work:

Most Canadian children begin their education with kindergarten at around 5 years old. We say ‘most’ because in some areas of the country kindergarten is either not available or simply not required as part of their mandatory education.

Elementary, Junior High & Middle School
Between the ages of 6-12, children will be required to attend Elementary school. In some areas this will be extended into eighth grade, in others children will naturally progress to Junior High, where they will be prepared for the transition into High School over 2 years.

High School
For some, High School will be the last mandatory educational institution they visit. Running through grades 9-12, High School sees the end of a child’s educational career, and many institutions will use this opportunity to run programs or ‘additional’ years that will strengthen the student academically and prepare them for further education.

Vocational School or University
Beyond this, it’s at the discretion of the student as to whether they choose to continue furthering their education. The majority will want to, and will go on to study at Vocational Schools or University. Vocational students will earn certificates and diplomas that will allow them to go on to work in skilled trades, whereas University will work towards earning them Bachelor’s degree. Master’s and Doctorates are other options beyond that.

Registering your child
Wherever you decide to settle, you must register your child for school. You can do this either at the local school of your choosing, or through the school board office (the school board being the organisation which oversees all public schools in the area you’re living).

You can find all the information on school boards local to you through the Ministry of Education website.

When registering your child, you must remember to bring the appropriate documentation:

  • Permanent Residence Card, Record of Landing (IMM 1000) or Confirmation of Permanent Residence (IMM 5292).
  • Your child’s birth certificate
  • Your child’s vaccination certificate
  • It will also help to bring copies of records from all of the previous schools attended by any of the children you’re making applications for.

Choosing a school
Whether you choose a school based on where you live, or where you live based on the school you want for your children, the common ground will always be location. It is, however, important to be aware of the fact that parts of Canada are dual language, so if your child doesn’t know any French then you’ll want to narrow it down to Anglophone schools only.

Some schools will integrate children into speaking both languages by teaching some languages entirely in French, so make sure your children are comfortable with that before you make an application.

If you’re moving to Quebec, be aware that French is the official language, so children of newcomers will be required to attend a French school until the end of their Secondary years.

New Student Assessment
It’s not unusual for new students having come from foreign countries to be tested prior to their enrolment. This is nothing scary, and is simply a way for the school to obtain more detailed information about the child’s level of education so that they can be placed more appropriately.

These tests are usually only carried out in English and Mathematics, but will help to put the child in the right grade – be it higher, lower or the same level as they were at in England – making the transition much more comfortable for them.

Where dual languages are spoken, it’s not uncommon for a child lacking slightly in French to be placed in an English as Second Language (ESL) class to help them catch up.
It’s likely that these tests will be a regular occurrence, since the schools will want to monitor your child’s progress carefully and switch them about according to how they’re progressing. Assure your child that this is nothing personal – it’s just a way of making sure their educational needs are being met properly at every stage of their schooling.

Transportation to school
Although it’s not a major issue, another important thing to take into consideration where schooling is concerned is the distance between your new home and your child’s new school.

As a rule, most schools in Canada are out of walking distance, and where this is the case the school usually provides a bus to collect everyone. This might be free, but can sometimes cost you a small amount.

Elsewhere, if you aren’t available to drive your child to school, then they might have to begin negotiating public transport on their own. This can be a scary prospect for you and them alike – particularly when adjusting to life in a new area, so make sure you settle in to your new home in plenty of time for them to get familiar with their surroundings and perhaps do a test run with them to make sure they know where to go and what to do at each stage.

If you’re ready to go and need a little extra help with getting to your final destination, then find out more about our removals to Canada services here.

Topics: Education, Canada

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