“With Our Best Future In Mind”

With Our Best Future in Mind: Implementing Early Learning in Ontario

This report was created By Dr. Charles Pascal for our Premier and the Ontario Government to use as a “plan of action” (p.3) going forward with the early years vision.

Within this document an insightful, knowledgeable, research based vision states that if we invest in the early years of our children today, the outcome for our future as a province will prove to be “…a healthier and more prosperous future for everyone” (pg.3). We need to equip and teach our children to be “…creative thinkers, and problem solvers. We need them to be compassionate, engaged, and literate citizens who will thrive in a diverse society. We need them to feel confident to take on the world” (pg 6).
Early Learning Report

The report outline begins with the following recommendations:
• how best to implement full-day learning for 4- 5- year olds;
• how to reinvest and redirect resources from this initiative;
• how to build on the success of Ontario’s Best Start strategy for comprehensive, continuous, and integrated system for children from birth to age 12 and their families (to find out more about “Best Start” (please visit http://www.beststart.org/)

Our best future is one in which all children are:
• healthy and secure;
• emotionally and socially competent;
• eager, confident, and successful learners;
• respectful of the diversity of their peers. (page 7)

Dr. Charles Pascal’s Recommendations (pg. 16)

1. The Province should create a continuum of early learning, child care, and family supports for children from the prenatal period through to adolescence, under the leadership of the Minister of Education.

2. The Ministry of Education should establish an Early Years Division to develop and implement an Early Years Policy Framework that will create a continuity of early learning experiences for children from 0 to 8 years of age.

3. The Early Years Policy Framework should mandate school boards to offer:
• a two-year, full-day Early Learning Program prior to Grade 1, available to all children who turn 4 by December 31. Children’s participation would be by parental choice, with parents having the option of a half, full (school hours), or fee-based extended day of programming;
• at the request of 15 or more families in a school, a fee based Extended Day Primary program, offering developmentally enriched programming for children from 6 to 8 years old;
• at the request of 15 or more families in a school, fee-based after-school programming for children from 9 to12 years old. School boards may deliver the programming directly or enlist the support of municipal parks and recreation services or community agencies;
• extended programming that operates 50 weeks a year, including fee-based activities during school breaks and summer vacations. Daily hours of operation would be determined by school boards in response to the needs of families in their communities.

4. The Early Years Policy Framework should also guide the transformation of programming for Ontario’s youngest learners. Municipal authorities, with the necessary resources, should be mandated to plan, develop, support, and monitor an integrated network of Best Start Child and Family Centres providing families with:
• flexible, part-time/full­day/full-year early learning/care options for children up to age 4;
• prenatal and postnatal information and supports;
• parenting and family support programming, including home visiting, family literacy, and playgroups;
• nutrition and nutrition counselling;
• early identification and intervention resources;
• links to special needs treatment and community resources, including libraries, recreation and community centres, health care, family counselling, housing, language services, and employment/training services.

5. To support the service continuum and support children’s transitions to the Early Learning Program, the preferred location for Best Start Child and Family Centres is schools. Non-school locations would be partnered with a school or family of schools.

6. Under the systems management of municipal authorities, the direct operation of Best Start Child and Family Centres could be provided by local or regional governments, school boards, and postsecondary institutions, or non-profit agencies.

7. Non-profit and commercial providers may continue to operate licensed child care in accordance with current program standards. All service expansion would take place through Best Start Child and
Family Centres and school boards.

8. The expectations set out in the Early Years Policy Framework should be operationalized through local Early Years Service Plans developed by municipal authorities in partnership with school boards and community partners. Outcomes and targets should be developed through provincial municipal collaboration and funding flowed through municipal authorities and school boards to meet targets.

9. The Province should build on existing maternal and parental leave options to design a madein-Ontario Parental Leave and Benefit Program that:
• provides parents with paid leave after the birth or adoption of a child for up to 400 days;
• expands coverage to include self-employed parents;
• designates six weeks for the exclusive use of the father or other non-birthing parent; if not used, this time would be deducted from the 400 days. This provision would not reduce the leave of single parents.
• provides flexibility to allow parents to extend and supplement their leave by returning to work part-time;
• provides 10 days annually of job-protected family leave for parents with children under the age of 1;
• designates six weeks for the exclusive use of the father or other non-birthing parent; if not used, this time would be deducted from the 400 days. This provision would not reduce the leave of single parents.

10. The Early Years Policy Framework should contain: (ELECT: Early Learning for Every Child Today)
• Early Learning for Every Child
• Today (ELECT) as the curriculum and pedagogical framework for Best Start Child and Family Centres, the Early Learning Program, and the Extended Day Primary program;
• the Continuum of Development in ELECT as the central tool for ongoing individual observation and documentation in programs for children from 0 to 8 years old;
• based on ELECT, guidelines for facilities and outdoor spaces, scheduling, and appropriate behaviour guidance practices to accommodate programs for children from 0 to 8 years old
and their families;
• the Early Learning Program Curriculum (for 4- and 5-year­olds) as the curriculum in the Early Learning Program and adapted for use in Frenchlanguage settings;
• strategies to promote the effective engagement of parents in their children’s learning, with emphasis on regional and local efforts.

11. The Early Years Division at the Ministry of Education, in collaboration with Aboriginal educators and organizations, should adapt ELECT to reflect Aboriginal content for use in all early childhood settings in Ontario.

12. The Early Years Policy Framework should mandate municipal authorities to:
• establish a consistent early identification protocol that incorporates the Nipissing District Developmental Screens (NDDS) and the Continuum of Development in ELECT;
• consolidate responsibility for early identification and intervention services;
• develop partnerships with public health, school boards, and specialized agencies to facilitate
• individualized intervention plans for children.

13. The Early Years Policy Framework should establish staffing for early learning environments as follows:
• The Early Learning Program for 4- and 5-year-old children should be staffed by teams of certified teachers and registered early childhood educators (ECEs). Local flexibility should be possible, but two “non-negotiable” essentials must always be included: educators skilled at applying child development knowledge and a strong and effective parent engagement strategy.
• The Extended Day Primary program for children from 6 to 8 years old should have one registered ECE for approximately 15 children.
• After-school programs should be led by staff knowledgeable about the developmental needs of children from 9 to 12 years old, and guided by current best practices in programming.
• Best Start Child and Family Centres should be staffed by registered ECEs and special needs resource teachers. Municipal authorities should establish appropriate staffing levels to meet programming needs. Day Nursery Act regulations currently governing child-staff ratios and age groupings should be reviewed and updated.

14. School boards should organize staffing to promote full-time employment for ECEs. ECEs should form a unique professional classification within school boards.

15. The Ontario College of Teachers should require all teachers who do not have early childhood knowledge to complete an early childhood Additional Qualification course (or equivalent experience) within
five years in order to hold a position in the Early Learning Program.

16. To support the development of the early childhood workforce, the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, in consultation with the Minister of Education, should:
• refocus ECE diploma programs on children from 0 to 8 years
old;
• establish an early childhood specialty degree program focusing on children from 0 to 8 years old;
• encourage French-language postsecondary institutions to increase the number of francophone ECEs, and
intervention and family support professionals;
• encourage postsecondary institutions to recruit students and education faculty reflective of the gender, race, and ethnicity needed in the early childhood workforce;
• encourage postsecondary institutions to recruit Aboriginal students to become educators in early years
programs;
• require ECE diploma and early childhood specialty degree programs to apply transparent, accessible prior learning assessment and recognition processes;
• ensure that ECE apprenticeship training is aligned with the Ontario Program Standard for the ECE diploma;
• fund postsecondary programs to expand bridging programs into ECE diploma and teacher education degree programs specifically designed to fasttrack people with out-of­country credentials.

17. The Early Years Division should support the development of management tools and establish a province-wide inservice training plan to assist school board and municipal managers, school principals, and centre directors in the establishment and operations of the Early Learning Program, Extended Day Primaryprogram, and Best Start Child and Family Centres.

18. The Early Years Division should:
• build on existing information sources to develop and implement a consolidated integrated accountability mechanism, the Early Years Index, focused on the systems monitoring of inputs, measurable outcomes, and transparent public reporting. The index would include a standard program evaluation tool that links the
• developmental outcomes in ELECT and the operation of Best Start Child and Family Centres, Early Learning Programs, and Extended Day Primary programs;
• provide mechanisms to foster learning and expertise by promoting the exchange of best practices and staff knowledge about how outcomes are measured and how the information can be used to improve performance.

19. The Province should:
• adopt a three-year time frame, beginning in September 2010, to implement a two-year full (school) day Early Learning Program prior to Grade 1, for every child who turns 4 by December 31;
• provide sufficient funding for operations and staffing levels for the Early Learning Program for 4- and 5-year-olds to support the recommendations in this report;
• allocate equitably across all regions and school boards, including boards that now offer full-day learning;
• provide sufficient funding to school boards to cover occupancy and related costs for the operation of extended day/year programming for children from 4 to 12 years old;
• modify child care fee subsidy eligibility to facilitate flexible enrolment options and remove parents’ work requirement for eligibility so that more children can benefit, especially the most disadvantaged children;
• maintain the current 75 per cent target for French language elementary schools to have French-language programs for 0- to 3-year-olds by 2011–12;
• transfer to municipal authorities funding for Best Start Child and Family Centres in a single envelope that includes all existing transfers for programs/resources that will be consolidated under Best Start Child and Family Centres, resources associated with regulation and oversight, plus all child care savings generated from implementation of the Early Learning Program;
• negotiate transitional funding, as necessary, to support program reorganization through Early Years Service Plans;
• secure continued support for Best Start child care spaces now funded by the federal government;
• undertake immediate discussions with the federal government to ensure children of First Nations are not disadvantaged by the implementation of full-day learning.

20. Beginning in 2012, the Province should coordinate a process with key ministries to modernize legislation that would produce a new Education and Family Supports Act that would:
• enable the outcomes noted in this report; reduce redundancies;
• eliminate outdated elements in various pieces of legislation and develop a single integrated piece of legislation.

Dr. Chales Pascal s report, With Our Best Future in Mind consolidates and creates a vision that celebrates and embraces the capability and amazing potential of the whole child. Investing in the early years when fully rolled out will promote the future health and success of our province in the future.

*All the information provide within this portion of the site is based on the hard work and brilliant mind of Dr. Charles Pascal and those who have worked alongside him to bring this document forward. Please follow the link provided below for more information and further understanding into each recommendation and the document as a whole. We acknowledge Best Start, Health Nexus and ELECT, as all other programs, resources and support systems put in place supporting the early years, parents, our province and our future.

Early Learning Report