More than 381,000 Ontario students in the early grades will return to smaller class sizes as they go back to school today, said Premier Dalton McGuinty.
“Your kids have our attention. We believe every student can learn and every student should be able to reach their potential,” said Premier McGuinty.
“And we know that kids who experience success in the early grades are more likely to stay in school and go on to achieve success in high school and beyond. Thatâ€™s why smaller classes in the early years are such a priority.”
The Premier and Minister of Education Gerard Kennedy visited a Grade 1 class at St. Pius X Catholic School. The class has 19 students — down from 25 a year ago — because a new teacher was hired through increased funding.
As of today, an estimated 70 per cent of all students in JK to Grade 3 are in classes that are smaller than they were in 2003-04. That means more than 381,000 primary students are in smaller classes this year compared to about 137,000 two years ago. This is the result of $126 million in additional funding this year, on top of $90 million last year, which helped school boards hire 1,100 teachers to reduce class sizes in 1,300 elementary schools.
Primary class size reduction is just one component of the governmentâ€™s comprehensive Every Child program (an expansion of the Education Foundations program) which includes extensive teacher training, new specialist teachers for more music, drama, phys-ed and the arts and new resources to support better student performance. The Premier and Kennedy also invited parents and members of the public to help ensure that the Every Child program is implemented in their local schools.
“Delivering better learning conditions everywhere in the province after years of neglect is an enormous undertaking. We are opening up education to give the public more access to the improvements being made on behalf of Ontario’s students,” said Kennedy.
“Parents will be able to start tracking our progress — school by school — by visiting the ministryâ€™s website at www.edu.gov.on.ca. Starting in mid-September, the results of class size reduction at their local schools will be prominently displayed on the site.”
“The governmentâ€™s class size reduction plan is definitely working. My class size was reduced last year and as a result I was able to spend more time helping students who were struggling or had special needs. They would not have been able to make the progress they did in a larger class,” said Maria Fatigati, junior kindergarten teacher, St. Pius X Catholic School.
“This year, almost every elementary student will start the year in a school that has benefited from increased teacher training and new resources,” said Premier McGuinty.
“This fall, I invite the public to see their support at work in their communities and help school boards and the government by getting involved in their local school.”
Reducing class sizes in the primary grades is an important part of the McGuinty governmentâ€™s Every Child program, which is designed to improve student achievement in reading and math. Currently, less than 60 per cent of Ontarioâ€™s 12-year-olds are meeting the provincial standard on provincewide reading, writing and math tests. Last year, provincewide elementary scores increased by seven per cent. The government has set a measurable target of 75 per cent of Ontarioâ€™s 12-year-olds achieving at the provincial standard by 2008.