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  January 2000

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These proposals form the basis for discussions with school councils, and do not change current Ministry of Education approved policy for school councils.

School Councils

An important element of Ontario's education reform has been to encourage the direct involvement of parents1 in their children's schools.

As parents, you are partners in a province-wide agenda for excellence in education. Your commitment to your children and to education makes a difference – in your schools, in the classroom, and in your communities.

In Ontario today, every school has a school council in place. That's an accomplishment that we can all be proud of. Made up of parent, school and community representatives, the school council provides advice to the principal and to the school board, where appropriate, on a range of matters affecting their children's learning.

First established in 1995, school councils continue to operate under the framework of Policy Program Memorandum (P/PM) 122.

1. Throughout this document, parents is used to refer to both parent(s) and guardian(s).

To top of documentGetting Involved

To help parents and school councils get involved, the Ministry of Education has undertaken a number of activities. For example:

  • In 1996, we produced the School Council Handbook (Adobe Acrobat help page Adobe Acrobat file, 1.1MB) and distributed it to all schools. The Handbook is also posted on the ministry's website.
  • Information sessions and extensive province-wide training sessions on the role of school councils and key education initiatives were held for members and school board teams;
  • The roles of parents and school councils are now described in Ministry of Education policies affecting elementary and secondary education;
  • We introduced regulation changes to strengthen information sharing with school councils;
  • "Information Kits" were distributed to school council members;
  • School councils now regularly receive information on all new ministry initiatives; and
  • We partnered with TVOntario (TVO) to launch a website that will allow school councils to communicate with each other through the Internet.

To top of documentReviewing the Role

In 1998, the Education Improvement Commission (EIC) was asked by the Minister of Education to review the future role of school councils and advise on ways to strengthen these important organizations for parents and others in each school community. The EIC's report, The Road Ahead - III: A Report on the Role of School Councils, released in November 1998, contains many thoughtful recommendations.

One of the commission's key findings is that school councils want to be able to have meaningful input and the ability to influence decisions that will have an impact on their children and their local school.

This year, school councils were invited to participate in the Progress Review of School Boards by the EIC. The review is yielding some excellent examples of close working relationships between boards and their councils. The EIC also noted, however, that "not all councils are experiencing such successes."

Many school council members continue to encounter challenges as they undertake their activities. This is clear from the EIC's findings and meetings with the education community, including the Ontario Parent Council and some representatives of school councils.

To top of documentStriving for Excellence in Education

In the Blueprint, the government stated its belief that parents have the right to know how their children and their schools are performing, and to be active partners in the education system. All of us understand the importance of parental involvement in the education of their children and in improving their achievement. The Throne Speech, which opened this session of the Legislature, re-affirmed the government's commitment to continue its support of school councils and direct parental involvement in the school system.

Our goal is to ensure that Ontario's students will acquire the skills they need to be successful. Parents are important partners in helping to attain this goal. Our commitment is:
  • To help parents contribute in meaningful ways to their children's education;
  • To ensure parents understand what is happening in their children's schools and in the education system;
  • To encourage partnerships among parents, schools and their communities that support quality education.

To top of documentThe Next Step

Minister of Education Janet Ecker – through her Parliamentary Assistant, MPP David Young, – is seeking advice on strategies that will help school councils operate more effectively.

School councils and education partners are being asked to comment on ways to better support and enhance the role of school councils.
This background paper outlines:
  • the government's continued commitment of its support for school councils and direct parental involvement in Ontario's education system;
  • concerns we have heard from school councils and related provincial organizations;
  • proposals that might help school councils work more effectively.
The education of young people is a shared responsibility – involving teachers, parents, students and community members. We welcome your suggestions and ideas.

To top of documentWhat We Have Heard

During the past year, we've been hearing from school councils. They want to work more effectively. But how? This is what you've been telling us.

Roles and Responsibilities:

  • Councils want to know how they can better provide advice to the principal.
  • Councils want to have a role in the selection of principals at their schools.
  • They want suggestions on how to get more involved and provide meaningful input into local decisions at their schools and boards.

Operating more Effectively:

  • Councils want to know who is eligible to be a member on council, how to keep good members and encourage others to get involved.
  • They want to learn how to run a good election.
  • Councils also want to know where they can get training to help them do their work better.

Improving Communications:

  • Councils want timely and accurate information about Ontario's education system.
  • They want to connect with and learn from school councils outside their boards.

To top of documentIdeas to Help School Councils

Getting Involved

School councils provide advice to the principal of a school and to the board, where appropriate, on a range of areas. One key area is the selection of principals, including the review of board policies on principal selection. Some boards have established a role for school councils in the selection of their school principal. In many cases, however, school councils have expressed concerns that they have not been adequately consulted by their boards on this matter.

In addition, school councils are still looking for ways to have meaningful input into decisions that affect the education of their children at a local level. They want their boards and principals to listen and respond to their concerns.

The ministry proposes to:

  • Require school boards to consult with school councils about the characteristics parents want a principal at their school to have. A ministry Guideline would include strategies:
    • for boards to involve their school councils when considering the placement of principals in schools;
    • to help school councils identify the characteristics desired in a principal for their school.
  • Require school boards to provide school councils with opportunities at each board meeting to raise their concerns, and to take the time to respond to them.

Additional Resources

School councils often ask for documents and other resources that describe their roles and functions. Many requests are received by the ministry for the School Council Handbook, which is the key resource currently available to schools. The Handbook also discusses ways to run effective meetings, promote parental involvement and assess their progress.

School councils would benefit from additional resources that help them to better understand their role and responsibilities.

The ministry proposes to:

  • Develop new publications, such as
    • Guidelines for School Councils;
    • A series of individual "How to...." brochures;
    • A "Best Practices" publication.
  • Produce a series of videos for school councils. The focus of these would be to: explain the current policy as provided in P/PM 122; showcase effective school councils; provide case studies and practical ways to help school councils function; present some possible approaches in mediating disputes.

  1. What do you think about these proposals?
  2. What key topics should be included in any new publications?
  3. What other written or support materials do you think school councils would need to use the videos and other resources effectively?

Effective Operations


Parent members of school councils are elected by the parents. Elections are generally held either in the spring (end of May or June) or in the fall (September or October).

Many councils regularly send information to parents about their elections. Still, some parents say they don't always know when the elections for councils take place at their schools. Sometimes, the process is confusing to parents.

School councils are also concerned that many experienced members leave the council after one or two terms. It's sometimes hard to find new members to fill all the seats on a council.

The ministry proposes to:

  • Design a standard nomination and election form. This form could be sent home to parents by school councils each year at election time. It would include information about:
    • who is eligible to serve on a council; and
    • a description of how and to whom the election results are to be reported.

Training and Support

New school council members want orientation and "seasoned" school councils want regular "refreshers" to learn about the latest education initiatives, and how school councils and principals can work together to develop positive relationships that benefit students.

They also want to know what other school councils in their region and across the province are doing.

The ministry proposes to:

  • Conduct regional forums twice a year, in partnership with existing provincial groups, to outline new initiatives and address specific topics such as running effective meetings, communicating with parents, and conflict resolution strategies.
  • Hold an annual provincial conference for school council chairs.
  • Organize workshops in partnership with principal/vice-principals' associations, on an annual basis.

  1. What roles should the ministry, the boards and school councils have in these proposals?
  2. Who should participate in these meetings?

Improving Communications

School councils have said they want a more timely flow of information to assist them in their work. Although a change in the regulation requires principals to forward material to school councils immediately, many councils claim this does not always happen.

School councils are also interested in learning from other school councils how they have solved these and other problems.

The ministry proposes to:

  • Develop an accurate data base of school council chairs.
  • Continue to provide written information for school councils by sending it directly to the chair, indicating where to get additional copies for members.
  • Encourage schools to provide school councils with access to computers and the Internet to allow them to:
    • connect and share information with each other through the TVO/TfO website: School Councils Communications Hub;
    • access information from the ministry's website.

    1. What other initiatives do you think would help improve communications between:
    • school councils throughout the province?
    • school councils, their principals and boards?
    • school councils and their local communities?

    To top of documentSend a comment

    Your comments and ideas about how well you think these proposals will work are welcome. You are invited to respond either as a school council or as individual members of school councils.

    How to Respond

    1. You can mail your comments by February 28, 2000 to:

    School Councils Consultation
    c/o David Young, MPP
    Parliamentary Assistant
    Ministry of Education
    900 Bay St.
    Mowat Block, 15th Floor
    Toronto, ON M7A 1L2

    2. You can send an e-mail response to: PPB.SCConsultation@edu.gov.on.ca

    3. You can submit a response using the following online form:

    Your message:

    Type of School:
    Elementary School

        Secondary School
    School Council Chair    School Council Member
          Principal of School
          Parent Representative
          Teacher Representative

    Non-Teaching Staff Representative
    Community Member

    Your name:

    Your e-mail address:

    Your school:

    City or Town:

    Name of Provincial Organization:

    Any personal information you choose to provide on this form is protected under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. The information will be used by ministry staff to contact you regarding your comments or inquiry. Questions about the collection of information can be directed to the Manager, Correspondence and Public Inquiries Unit, 14th Floor, Mowat Block, 900 Bay Street, Toronto, Ontario M7A 1L2, (416) 325-2444.

    To top of documentFor more information:

    Ministry of Education:
    General Inquiries: 1-800-387-5514

    District Offices
    • Barrie: (705) 725-7627 or 1-800-471-0713
    • London: (519) 667-1440 or 1-800-265-4221
    • North Bay/Sudbury: (705) 474-7210 or 1-800-461-9570
    • Ottawa: (613) 225-9210 or 1-800-267-1067
    • Thunder Bay: (807) 475-1571 or 1-800-465-5020
    • Toronto: (416) 325-6874 or 1-800-268-5755

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    This page last updated January 6, 2000.


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