Education Minister Jamie Muir introduced legislation today, Oct. 25, that will formally establish a new, two-year, pre-primary pilot program for four year-olds.
“Children who have access to early childhood education programs are more often eager and ready to learn,” said Mr. Muir. “This voluntary program will give some of our youngest learners a high-quality early learning experience to support their future success in Grade Primary and beyond.”
A pre-primary pilot program — a first for Atlantic Canada — is part of Learning For Life II, the province’s new plan for education.
Research shows a high-quality pre-school program fosters a positive attitude toward learning, gives youngsters a strong educational foundation, and makes them better prepared for public school.
The Pre-Primary Education Act will give the Minister of Education the statutory authority to pilot a pre-school program for children under the age of six in each of the province’s eight school boards over the next two years. The program is in 19 schools beginning this school year and is voluntary and free of charge.
Each pilot site will offer a full-day, activity-based program for up to 18 children. Emphasis will be on developing social skills and acquiring the foundation skills children need to read, write and learn mathematics.
Fourteen pilot programs are already underway at schools in Cape Breton-Victoria, Conseil scolaire acadien provincial, Strait, Tri-County and Chignecto-Central regional school board districts. The remaining five pilot programs — all located in Halifax and South Shore school board districts — will be launched in early 2006. About 720 children will attend the program during the pilot phase.
The province is investing $750,000 in the initiative this year.
Mr. Muir said care was taken to place the program in schools where classroom space is available and access to community-based child care is limited.
Under the pilot program, each classroom is staffed by two qualified early childhood educators.
Mr. Muir said the pilot programs will give boards the opportunity to make recommendations to government on the future of the program.
The pilot project will be evaluated at the end of the 2006-07 school year.
The program is being developed in partnership with the departments of Health and Community Services.