Choosing a school
If you have children of school age when you are moving to Canada then you will most likely want to take the schools into account when choosing where to live.
So how do you do that?
One thing that is easy to do even from outside Canada, is to get an idea about the schools and their performance from statistics provided by the Provincial Government.
These are your main information sources:
This tool is provided by the Provincial Government in B.C. and is a means of looking at the overall performance of the school.
Foundation Skills Assessment results are available on the Ministry of Education’s
Analysis & Reporting website
You can choose an individual school or search for schools by City and, optionally, level (i.e. elementary, middle or secondary).
The reports give the results of the school’s satisfaction survey, compared to the Provincial average. This is an annual survey conducted amongst parents, teachers and students of each school. It covers:
- Overall Achievement
- Computer skill development
- School Environment
- Preparation of student for the future
- Human and Social Development
- Physical Activity
- Safety of students on school premises
For elementary schools there is also the results of the Foundation Skills Assessment. This shows the reading, writing and numeracy skills of students in Grades 4 - 7.
The tool also gives summary information that shows the percentage of students who progress from Grade to Grade and, for Secondary schools, the percentage who graduate in Grade 12.
This sounds like it should be a tool to find your child’s report card when it mysteriously doesn’t make it home from school, but instead it is the BC Education Ministry’s means of getting detailed reports on individual schools, school districts and the Province as a whole.
At Provincial level, it is useful to get an overall idea of public and independent education. For example the report shows the Average Elementary School class size as 23.2 in 2004/5.
You can also look at reports for each school district. and the each school.
Individual school reports give detailed results about the school. This includes information on the students, such as male/female ratios, numbers in each Grade, percentage progressing from grade to grade, first language, etc. Comparison figures are given for the School District and the Province.
There are also detailed reports on results in the Provincial Examinations. These cover:
- Principles of Math
- Applications of Math
- Technical & Professional Communications
- Francais Langue
- English Literature
For independent schools, the Ministry of Education also provides reports. These are on individual schools and on an aggregate level.
Independent schools are often there to provide religious education, specifically excluded from public schools, or other specialized educational needs. These factors you would need to assess by contacting individual schools. The Federation of Independent School Associations maintains a list of independent schools in BC. [http://www.fisabc.ca/directory/]
The Fraser Institute “Report Card”
The Fraser Institute publishes a school league table that is largely based on academic performance of the school. This gets a lot of publicity of course and schools vie for top places. Not all the top ranked schools are independent ones, though many are.
The report is available online at the Fraser Institute site.
Statistics are only one way of looking at a school. I would strongly recommend visiting all the schools that you are considering. You can find the school contact details via the school board or the school’s own web site.
If you are coming on a research trip, then you can call or e-mail to arrange a tour. This gives you and your children a chance to assess the school’s character - and find it’s strengths and weaknesses.
If you decide that you want your child to go to a specific school, then you can let the school know of your intention. BC has an Open Boundary policy, which means in principle your child can go to any school. However children living within the school’s catchment area have priority and if you live outside the area you may not get into the school. So it is best to check the catchment area for the school as you can then take this into account when choosing a rental or permanent home when you arrive.
See our article on transferring into the Canadian school system.
We found the personal tour much more revealing and more valuable than trawling through statistics. Our children enjoyed the visits and it helped them prepare for the big move as they at least knew something about what to expect.