Ont. report calls for full-day kindergarten in 2010
Kindergarten children in Ontario will soon have access to full-day education, thanks to a provincial government report that is recommending a complete overhaul of the local childcare system.
But Premier Dalton McGuinty was quick to say the province needs to be mindful of the costs that are associated with the report's recommendations.
The report, authored by education adviser Charles Pascal, is calling for about $1 billion worth of changes. It will require schools to renovate their space and hire new staff.
It recommends turning elementary schools into year-round "learning hubs" for children and their parents. At these centres, parents will have access to prenatal advice, nutrition information, full-day kindergarten and after-school programming.
McGuinty called the centres a "fabulous idea" but said the province needs to keep in mind what it can afford.
"We can't do it all at once. We have to walk before we can run," he said at the news conference.
"We'll move as quickly as we can always being mindful of our particular economic circumstances."
The premier said Ontario will spend $500 million over two years to phase in the kindergarten extension, starting in 2010. The report has recommended that a full-day program for four and five year olds be fully implemented in the next three years but McGuinty said it's going to cost "a lot of money."
Pascal has recommended that these programs be implemented in low-income, high-risk neighbourhoods first.
Critics of the plan have questioned whether Ontario has the money to see the project through, especially since the costs haven't been factored into the 2009 budget.
McGuinty said the program will likely create new jobs for both teachers and early childhood education workers. The two will likely have to work side-by-side in this new model, a system that teachers' unions have argued against in the past.
"We will capitalize on the best skills of both," said the premier. "The only way to get this done is to call upon the goodwill and know-how and talent of all our partners in education."
While he acknowledged the costs of the system overhaul, McGuinty said the investment will be worth it in the long run.
"I've always said from the beginning, a strong start makes for a strong finish," he said.
The goal of the overhaul is to provide students with a mixed program that will boost literacy and give children under the age of 12 an extra push for future success in their education.
Pascal says by 2020, parents should be allowed to take 400 days of leave to spend extra time with their children at the time of their birth or adoption.
The report was commissioned two years ago after a UNICEF report suggested young Canadian students suffered from serious shortfalls in their early childhood education.
Pascal's report says about 27 per cent of Ontario students who are entering Grade 1 have educational disadvantages that can lead to lives of poverty and even crime.
The report says past research has shown a student has a much better chance at success when investments are made into their education early on rather than later in their journey.
The extended kindergarten program will be an option for parents. Parents can still opt to put their children in a half-day program that is available today. In Ontario, school is not mandatory until Grade 1.
With a report from CTV Toronto's John Musselman