Dr. Charles Pascal Early Learning Advisor 1 Yonge Street, by akf39620

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									Dr. Charles Pascal
Early Learning Advisor
1 Yonge Street, 15th floor
Toronto, ON     M5E 1E5

December 16, 2008

Dear Dr. Pascal,

The adage,”it takes a village to raise a child”, is nowhere more apparent than in the efforts
of the Child and Youth Network (CYN) to rally the London community in support of Full
Day Learning.

The CYN is an extensive network of service providers through which children and youth
are a priority and we examine ways to better serve them and their families. The first task
of this group was to look at the notion of integration of service within the London area. The
roundtable session, which you addressed in February, was followed by a larger,
community discussion involving the service providers committed to integration and who
were part of CYN. The focus of the discussion was to enhance service provider and
school partnerships to the benefit of London families. It is our belief that we can start
sharing best practice and discussing integration strategies now instead of waiting for
provincial direction.

As part of the community discussion, feedback on each of the assumptions was obtained
from those present. What follows are the recommendations and cautions from our
community from both a local implementation point of view, and issues to be addressed
from a larger, provincial perspective.

Assumption #1 All decisions regarding the development of an effective program for
early learning should flow from what is in the best interest of the children and their
families.

The recommendation of the CYN is that the province and individual communities need to
define their vision for this critical assumption such that all partners have a shared
understanding, and can evaluate their progress and success.

Assumption #2 Early childhood development sets the foundation for lifelong
learning, behaviour and health.

The need for a holistic approach to be used when referring to child development and
curriculum is well-documented in the research. Our community supports an
implementation plan that includes a directive for a common curriculum in school and in
child care (i.e., ELF). An integral part of this understanding is shared professional
development for early childhood educators and teachers, as well as a campaign directed
toward families to educate them around this assumption.
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Assumption #3 Partnerships with families and communities strengthen the ability of
early childhood programs to meet the needs of young children.

Often, the parenting role is assumed by someone other than the child’s parent. Thus the
inclusion of “other caregivers” is appropriate language to be used as part of the description
for this assumption.

In regard to this assumption, community discussion revolved around consideration for and
inclusion of parents in early learning. Recommendations ranged from the presentation of
special activities and events at times when working parents/caregivers could attend, to the
creation of an “open-door”, comfortable environment for parents with adult sized furniture
available. Other suggestions included parent participation on Program Advisory
Committees, Parent and School Councils and Boards of Directors in order to facilitate
opportunities for input into decision-making and program development. As well,
opportunities for parents/caregivers and staff from the programs to be involved in shared
workshops should be considered.

The notion of parental inclusion in the quality assurance aspect of early learning was a
focus of discussion for this assumption. As well as being involved in assessing the
relevance and success of the program, parents/caregivers should be surveyed to
determine their views. The data collected would provide a valuable snapshot of how the
program is progressing in relation to expectations. To recognize the integral role of the
parent as a partner in their child’s development, opportunities must be created for
caregivers to meet jointly with the kindergarten teachers and early childhood educators to
share consistent messages about progress.

Central to this assumption is the understanding that Full Day Learning needs to occur in
neighbourhood hubs which offer easy access to services and provide an array of
resources. CYN is interested in advocating for maintaining London community schools
which are slated for closing, and which already operate as community hubs or could
become hubs.

Assumption #4 Respect for diversity, equity, and inclusion are critical for honouring
children’s rights, optimal development, learning and contributing to a more
inclusive society.

It is the belief of CYN that the notion of “values” should also be included in the wording and
intent of this assumption.

It is felt that the involvement of parents, as outlined above, will help to ensure that the
culture of each community will be reflected, and respected, within the curriculum. The
distinctiveness of Catholic education and its role in publicly-funded education in Ontario
should be recognized and reflected in the provincial and local implementation plan.
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Assumption #5 A planned curriculum and skilled professionals support a balance of
learning-based play and academic skill preparation.

Within the wording of the assumption, the concept of “emergent play based learning” or
“play based emergent learning” would better describe for parents how children learn. In
addition, the idea of “skilled professionals” lends itself to some discussion of, or thought
about qualification blending.

CYN encourages the province to work toward a common educational continuum for
children in the Early Years. Teachers and early childhood educators need a shared
understanding of child development, play based learning and learning through inquiry.
Observation and understanding of the continuum of child development is the starting point
for developing individual and group plans. Once developed, in our community, the Faculty
of Education at the University of Western Ontario and Fanshawe College would follow
provincial guidelines to utilize this Early Years curriculum continuum in the education of
their graduates coming into the field. Ideally, this shared curriculum continuum should
extend from Early Years (ELF) to grade eight. This curriculum continuum would also
provide the basis for a shared observation form for each child to track progress across
program goals that have been developed based on emerging skills and interests.

Assumption #6 An integrated, well-managed system of early learning can achieve
good results.

From a community perspective, we believe that London has made great progress in
system integration as indicated by the creation of the Child and Youth Network, and our
community discussions on Full Day Learning. At the provincial level, we encourage more
integration between the Ministry of Child and Youth Services, and the Ministry of
Education. This partnership must be established in order to address the regulatory
mandates over the environments which differ between the two ministries. There must be
common regulations for early learning and care programs; specifically those addressing
educational requirements for staff to child ratios and physical space and resources.

It is a great concern that the proposed funding may not be adequate to implement this
initiative. The CYN advocates starting small to build success. Identify champions, those
centres that are already making strides, and learn from their successes. Then, phase in
the program across the province.

It would appear that much can be done at the local level to move forward with an
integrated seamless day of learning that supports children and families. There are,
however, some things that could occur provincially that would support local steps to be
successful. As has been demonstrated in this correspondence, there is a great deal of
willingness among the school boards, municipality, schools and child care centres locally
to move forward with innovation and creativity, and to implement the full day of learning.
However, when people are unwilling or unsure of moving forward often the reasons they
cite are things such as funding, mandates, legislation, and accountability requirements.
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It would be extremely helpful for the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Children and
Youth Services to have a clear, shared policy, legislative and funding framework that
guides the implementation of full day learning across the province. Because the funding
sources and accountability relationships for the local players are with different Ministries, it
is very important that there is a shared understanding of what is to be implemented.
Best Start began to do this and it was useful when legislative and funding changes were
needed in areas such as designation of space for child care centres, and capital costing for
new spaces in schools. However, it did not go far enough. In terms of a shared framework
it fell short such that there were, at times, competing priorities within one of the Ministries
that created barriers to successful implementation. It is imperative that a similar situation
be avoided in order to best support local communities.

But what of local concerns regarding space, and funding? Using our school facilities as
community hubs is the vision of the Ontario Government. Full day learning will help make
this vision a reality for many communities, but there are roadblocks built into the Ministry
funding formula that make this difficult to achieve. From the perspective of the Thames
Valley District School Board, as a specific example, an elementary school in London,
Lorne Avenue Public School, is 27% occupied by neighborhood students. However most, if
not all, of its classrooms are used by community partners such as physicians, YMCA child
care, Cooking for Kids and Adult ESL. Even with the classrooms full of other programs,
the Ministry of Education (EDU) continues to report Lorne Avenue Public School as having
73% of its space surplus. According to the EDU formula the Board must use, Lorne
Avenue has the Board’s highest percentage of unused, surplus space and thus by
extension, the lowest occupancy rate. This affects the future capacity of the Board to
receive funding, and doesn’t pay for the ongoing costs of heating and maintenance. This
is only one example of a missed opportunity to integrate local community agencies through
neighbourhood hubs.

For full day learning to be a win-win for both school boards and the Ministry of Education,
the formula must take into account the future usage of this surplus space for which the
board does not receive other funding. By not including surplus space leased to a
community partner in the funding formula, partnership development would be welcomed
and could change the dynamics of Accommodation Review Committees that have been so
divisive in many communities. Funding incentives for community partnerships such as
Full Day Learning are a must. School Boards and Municipal leaders need to work together
to develop common goals that are directly related to the vitality of communities.

In London, we are proud to share with you the success of a program which is operating
currently in Wilfrid Jury Public School in conjunction with Whitehills Childcare Association.
“Step by Step” is a shared space where teachers and early childhood educators work in
partnership. The full day program takes place in a kindergarten room. Both parties keep
their separate identities, however, their unique curriculum styles mesh together to provide
a seamless day for children attending JK/SK who also require wraparound child care.
There are consistent learning concepts and learning materials presented throughout the
child’s day. Teachers and early childhood educators work closely together to better assist
families and children. It is an environment where parents and caregivers are encouraged
to participate. As shared by one of the staff, “it is truly an enriched environment where the
children are learning, [and] the parents are learning, as well as ourselves.”

IT CAN BE DONE! We are committed to moving forward and have planned for our “Next
Steps” in relation to our discussion group. We will expand the invitation list again to
include more community voices. We are planning information sessions, and professional
development opportunities for early childhood educators and teachers to join with our
discussion group participants to tackle curriculum and legislation/ regulation challenges
within education and child care.

We trust that these implementation discussions will lead to more pilot projects within the
London community including seamless child care programs, community resources and
partnership programs in order to support more neighbourhood hubs. The Thames Valley
District School Board and the London District Catholic School Board will work with the
community to develop the best model for full day learning in London. In addition, we will
begin to establish our communication plan for families. We have partnerships in place that
could make decisions for any type of roll out!

London, and the Children and Youth Network, are ready for implementation!

If we have any final recommendations with which to leave you for consideration it would be
these: First, work to educate parents, early childhood educators, teachers and the
community about this initiative. Next, we suggest that a “cookie cutter” approach will not
meet the needs of individual communities. We advocate that it is best to address
implementation from an individual neighbourhood and community perspective.
Considerations regarding structure, that is alternative day or morning/ afternoon program,
need to be made. We would advocate for the latter as it would prove more seamless for
the children. Next, we recognize that space will be a stumbling rock. Help to make it a
stepping stone by looking for Full Day Learning sites in alternate settings, in child care and
community centres.

Finally, when the youngest members of our society are concerned, the yardstick by which
the best decisions are made is the question, “What is best for the children?” This should
be followed by a second question, “What is best for the family?” In keeping these two
premises in front of us as the tool by which we make our decisions in the London
community, we know that we will be implementing programs which meet the intent of Full
Day Learning.

Respectfully,

Eileen Smith                                     Kate Young
Co Chair - Full Day Learning                     Co Chair - Full Day Learning
Community Discussion                             Community Discussion
Program Administrator,                           Public Affairs & Community Relations
London Children’s Connection                     Manager,
                                                 Thames Valley District School Board
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c   Lynne Livingstone   Chairperson – Child &Youth Network

Enclosure (1)
WC/wc

								
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