Sunday, March 21, 2010

Planning for 2011-12 (Year 2) of the Early Learning Program

Jim Grieve, Assistant Deputy Minister in the Ministry of Education, has issued a memorandum, 2010: EL3 dated March 4, 2010, to board Directors of Education providing school Boards with information about planning for year 2 of the Early Learning Program (ELP).

Why this may be important to you:

The memo provides some information about Ministry direction to boards of education in year two of ELP. The information may help childcare centres in Ontario to plan for the future. Points of interest are:

Ministry of Education comments 

Interpretation and possible implications

Boards must submit planning templates to the Ministry no later than April 16, 2010 and will announce approval of year 2 sites no later than May 21, 2010.

This appears to be a tight deadline, especially if boards of education are going to hold any form of public consultation on site selection (see next point).

Boards are directed to do their planning in consultation with, among others, local Best Start Networks and municipalities.

Consultation is mandatory but timelines are very tight. If you plan to participate in the planning process, you should consider finding out how to get involved now.

Boards are directed to "…take into consideration the impact on existing child care and early years programs, including those operating on school premises."

No direction beyond taking into consideration is given.

Boards are directed to provide to the Ministry, possible sites covering at least double the year 2 allocated spaces.

The Ministry will have significant "flexibility" (power) in approving sites.

"Boards should consider limiting plans for program expansion to the number of additional students allocated for 2011-12."

Boards may not be receiving sufficient funding to meet actual costs of delivery, for example if demand is greater than forecast or costs such as salaries are greater than provided for in the funding formula.

"…boards would have a duty to offer extended day programs to four- and five-year olds in the ELP in during the school year. [Boards can] permit older children to participate in the extended day, to support viability."

The Ministry appears to be acknowledging that it may be financially beneficial (read: necessary?) for boards to offer extended day programs for children six and up. This may have implications for those centres planning to continue to offer school-age care in schools participating in the ELP.

" boards would also have the power to provide extended services, for a reasonable fee, at other times of the year for four- and five-year olds under the guidance of early childhood educators…Where you have capacity and parent demand, the government is calling upon boards to use this power. [Boards] are called upon to provide extended services at other times of the year for children six to twelve years old."

This is the clearest message we have had to date directing boards to provide childcare to children from four to twelve years of age for the full 261 days a year. Consider taking this directive into account when forecasting future enrolment in your centre for children from four to twelve years of age.

"[Ministry approved] Selected schools must have all JK/K classes comply with the new ELP model as this is a whole school approach…"

Recommended schools should only be those a board "anticipates will remain open for the next five years." Schools must have available appropriate classroom space.

All JK/K classes in a selected school must convert to the ELP and schools must have sufficient space. This would seem to reduce the likelihood of having a non-board childcare centre for four- and five-year olds in a school selected for ELP.

Boards can only offer schools for ELP selection if they are viable for the medium to long terms.

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