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).
InvolvedTo help parents and school councils get
involved, the Ministry of Education has undertaken a number of activities.
- In 1996, we produced the School
Council Handbook ( 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
- 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
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
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
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.
Striving for Excellence in
EducationIn 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
- 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.
The Next StepMinister
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 education of young people is a shared responsibility –
involving teachers, parents, students and community members. We welcome
your suggestions and ideas.
- 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
- proposals that might help school councils work more effectively.
What We Have
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
- Councils want to know how they can better provide advice to the
- Councils want to have a role in the selection of principals at their
- They want suggestions on how to get more involved and provide
meaningful input into local decisions at their schools and boards.
- 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.
- Councils want timely and accurate information about Ontario's
- They want to connect with and learn from school councils outside
Ideas to Help School
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
- 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.
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
School councils would benefit from additional resources that help them
to better understand their role and responsibilities.
The ministry proposes
- 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.
- What do you think about these proposals?
- What key topics should be included in any new publications?
- What other written or support materials do you think school
councils would need to use the videos and other resources
MembershipParent 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
- 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
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
- 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.
- What roles should the ministry, the boards and school councils
have in these proposals?
- Who should participate in these meetings?
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
- 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?
|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
Respond1. You can mail your comments by
February 28, 2000 to:
- School Councils Consultation
David Young, MPP
900 Bay St.
Mowat Block, 15th
Toronto, ON M7A 1L2
2. You can send an e-mail response to: PPB.SCConsultation@edu.gov.on.ca3.
You can submit a response using the following online form:
information:Ministry of Education:
- 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
This page last updated January 6, 2000.