24 May 2020

Sonia on Sunday: Childcare and Education System in NL

Moving to a new country is always a challenge, but when you bring your children with you, it becomes even more tricky.

Finding appropriate childcare can be hard even in a home country despite having a support network of family members and friends who can jump in and assist us with our children. Newcomers rarely have this benefit. In most cases they don’t know anybody in their new hometown, let alone somebody who can take care of their children when they go to work.

Sonia Krajewska is the ANC’s Community Settlement and Integration Counsellor (Permanent Residents).

How the schooling system works might also be confusing, since newcomers are used to a different system from their own country. In Poland for example, we don’t call them “grades” but “classes” and kids go to “class 1” when they are 7 years old, which differs from Canadian system. It is hard to wrap your head around a completely new schooling system especially when you feel pressure to ensure your child gets the best childcare or education possible.

Today I will explain in a little more detail how childcare and schooling works here in Newfoundland and Labrador. Hopefully it will be of an assistance to some of newcomers.

Education system overall
It’s important to note that education in Canada is for the most part provided publicly, funded and overseen by provincial governments. Education is mandatory up to age of 16 in every province in Canada except for Manitoba, Ontario and New Brunswick where the age is 18.
Pre-school (sometimes called Nursery school) is for children aged 5 or under, before they start public school. Note that most childcare in Canada is NOT publicly funded, so you will usually have to pay for childcare for young children, and for school-aged children outside of school hours (more information below). 
Education programs in Canada begin in kindergarten (age five typically by 31 December) and end after Grade 12 (usually aged 17 by 31 December, but older students may stay in school to complete Grade 12, officially known as Level 3).
K-12 is a term used to describe the school grades prior to college.
Most children attend primary school (K-3), elementary school (4-6), junior high (7-9) and high school (grades 10-12, or levels 1-3).

Child Care for kids 2 years and older
There are number of government certified and regulated daycare and early childhood education facilities in our province.
Based on where you live in our province you can check out those facilities on the provincial government website. 
While kindergarten is free in Canada, preschools, daycare, and childcare in Canada are private so they need to be paid for.
You might also be eligible for Child Care Services Subsidy Program if you are employed on part-time or full-time basis. You can find more information about the provincial subsidy here. 

Grade Schools (K-12)
After your child turns 5, they will start attending Grade School. Here are some school options to choose from:

The English School District (ESD) operates the English public-school system in Newfoundland and Labrador. There are four regional offices in the province located in: Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Corner Brook, Gander, and St. John’s. On their website you can find a list of 257 schools in the district, plus information about applying, transferring, etc.

Since Canada is a bilingual country you might be interested in your child studying French as their first language if one or both parents is a Francophone. If that’s the case, you could consider Conseil Scolaire Francophone Provincial (CSFP). Their website lists more details about available schools in our province.

There are also independent schools, which charge varying rates of tuition. One option to consider is an independent school called Lakecrest Independent School which is offering “enriched international quality learning.”

St. Bonaventure’s College is also a private school and would be a great option is you want to make sure that your child goes in a Christian environment. They are an Independent Roman Catholic School in the Jesuit tradition. Other private religious schools include Immaculate Heart of Mary School (Corner Brook), First Baptist Academy (Mount Pearl), and Anchor Academy (St. John’s). Having that in mind, you have to make a choice based on the objectives you have when looking for the appropriate school. Important thing to mention is the fact that school for your child within the ESD system is determined by where you live. Getting permission to send your child to a school outside your zone is dependent on the school you want them to attend having space available, so the research you do should be done before you move to your home. Consider advantages and disadvantages of those options and ensure to register your child on time.

Registration/Admissions for Kindergarten and School
It is important to remember that every childcare facility or school may have different registration dates which are always listed on their websites. There might be an application form that needs to be filled out and sent to the institution. They also might request child’s documents (such as birth certificate). Make certain to have everything needed attached to the application. Do not wait too long with registering your child. You want to ensure that your child will have a space in the facility you have in mind for them. Applications for Kindergarten students in the public school system, for example, are usually due in May of the previous year so that children can be enrolled in Kinderstart programs.

Academic year
Elementary and junior high start in September each year. They have three semesters. First one runs from September to January, second one from January to March or April, and the third one from March or April until June.
High Schools also start in September, but they only have two terms. September to mid-January and the second running from early February until Thursday before the last Friday in June.
The time span of public education in Canada is 13 years in total (kindergarten, primary school, elementary school, junior high school and high school.

ESL Training and Assessment Services (LINC)
Since 1989, the ANC has been delivering its English as a Second Language (ESL) Program to immigrants and refugees arriving in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Approximately 200 students attend ESL classes at our two St. John’s locations.
We also conduct Linguistic Eligibility Determination (LED) on behalf of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) and operate the only Canadian Language Benchmarks (CLB)* Assessment Centre in the province with nine on-site assessors who are certified to administer the Canadian Language Benchmarks Assessment (CLBA)/Canadian Language Benchmarks Placement Test (CLBPT).
For more information, please contact:
• Phone: (709) 726-6848
• Fax: (709) 726-6841
• Email: linc@ancnl.ca

Don’t forget to build your network of friends and potential supporters. People who, like you, moved to Newfoundland and Labrador most likely have similar experiences and they might have a good advice for you. Reach out to the Association for New Canadians and we can connect you to community groups which will help you with meeting new people and building those connections.

Do you have any questions or need assistance with settlement in Newfoundland & Labrador? Contact me at skrajewska@ancnl.ca


Read all of Sonia’s blog posts here.