Union calls for Ontario teachers to run full-day kindergarten

By 
  • June 26, 2009
{mosimage}TORONTO - Certified teachers should run full-day kindergarten programs soon to be implemented in Ontario schools instead of hiring part-time early childhood educators, says the president of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association.

Following the Ontario government’s pledge to implement recommendations in a new report on early learning, association president James Ryan said students will benefit more from having a full-day program delivered by certified teachers.

Charles Pascal, the Ontario premier’s special adviser on early learning, wrote Our Best Future in Mind , which calls for full-day kindergarten — a half-day in child care and a half-day school program. The report was released June 15.

Premier Dalton McGuinty said full-day kindergarten and day care centres will be launched in Ontario schools in 2010 and 2011. The cost to taxpayers will be about $500 million over the two years.

The day after the report was released, McGuinty criticized some teachers’ unions, including the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario, which disagreed with the recommendations.

“Ask not what four- and five-year-olds can do for you, but ask what together you can do for four- and five-year-olds,” he told the teachers’ unions.

Yet Ryan said teacher-run kindergarten programs will help students integrate more easily into the school system. He said OECTA isn’t undervaluing the work of early childhood educators, but from experience — eight Ontario Catholic school boards already have full-day kindergarten programs — Ryan said teacher-run programs work.

He cited a survey of northeastern Ontario schools where these programs showed positive results such as teachers being better able to identify children with special needs and getting help immediately.

Brian Evoy, past president of the Ontario Association of Parents in Catholic Education, is on the union’s side. Having full-day certified teachers would benefit students over the long term because they could be better prepared for provincial tests which start in Grade 3, he said.

In the report, Pascal said an absence of early learning  programs for children can come with negative consequences.

“More than one in four children enter Grade 1 significantly behind their peers,” he wrote. “Too many never entirely close the gap and go on to be disruptive in school, fail to graduate and are unable to fully participate in and contribute to society.”

Pascal, a former deputy education minister, also highlighted a 2008 UNICEF study of early learning and care where Canada tied for last place out of 25 affluent countries.

“It is so important to get it right from the start of life and through the school years,” Pascal wrote. “Children are remarkably similar at birth, but by age four, the gaps are already dramatic.”

To read the report, see www.tinyurl.com/nwuvm8 .

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