Starting School in Quebec, an Anglophone Perspective

Fall has made its entrance this week with cooler temperatures, earlier evenings and pumpkin spice everything.  We wake in the mornings to the sounds of the neighborhood kids making their way to the bus stops.  When the kiddo was little he loved to watch the school bus from the windows and wave at the parents coming back to the their homes.  Our time to send off the little man to school seemed so far away. But as things go, the time for school has crept up.  In a year the kiddo will be attending kindergarten and this will be his first time away from me for any extended period in the day.  I know most parents worry about the day their children start school.  For me it will be monumental.  I left my job about a week into trying the daycare routine. It was tough, as expected, but something inside felt it was important to stay home in these early years.  It’s a decision that has been wonderful in the perspective of helping the kiddo with his sensory challenges.  But also challenging in terms of personal development, general wellness and his preparedness for school.  He’s improved in such he isn’t screaming at the loss of sight from me and at the sight or sound of another child nearby.  But we have an interesting road ahead in getting him into a school environment for sure.  This fall will focus quite a bit on this, as school application and open houses are scheduled.  Makes me wish I was still in the days where we would cuddle up from the cold after the bus left and enjoy our days at home.

Last weekend I attended the Our Kids Private School Expo downtown.  It was interesting to speak to the school representatives about accommodations for special needs and what it takes to get into kindergarten. Overwhelming really.  But one very important challenge we will face is education in the French language.  Hubby and I are anglophone by birth and not from Canada, so we are subject to the language legislation for education in the province, namely Bill 115.  By default we will need to send the kiddo to a French school.  Our other choice is to send him to a private school in English, however it isn’t as easy as selecting a school as such.  At the expo there was a workshop outlining the nuances of the legislation and I will try to outline it here.  As we have no official diagnosis yet for the kiddos sensory sensitivities (“D” day is literally 1 week away), the choice to send the kiddo to a French or English school is a difficult one for me.  To be honest I am leaning toward an English environment as I believe the ability to speak English is important to me and the family.  But that in itself is also complicated by Bill 115!

So this legislation in Quebec says in order to have an education in English in a government sponsored school, a student must obtain a Certificate of Eligibility by fulfilling these criteria:

  • Have at least one parent that is a Canadian Citizen that attending English school in Canada
  • or have a parent with a temporary permit (study or work) in the country
  • or qualify for 15 points or more in the point system outlined in Bill 115

So for us, neither BittyDad or myself have attended English School in Canada.  We are citizens, though had entered on a temporary permit.  Had we still been on work permits, the kiddo would have been granted a certificate for the duration of the permit (5 year permit=5 year certificate).  So here is where the 15 point system comes into play for us.  The point system is based on the type of school a child and siblings attend. The child will achieve or lose points based on what school he/she attends.  So for us, in order to achieve a certificate we are looking to attend a private English school starting in Elementary to have the possibility to attend public English school for High School.  “The possibility” being the key words!

For every year the kiddo attends an English school, he will be granted points.  The amount of points depends on the school’s Category, which from what I understand is based on the amount of English-based speakers at that school.  It’s not clear if this list is updated regularly, but I am going on the assumption it does not change very often.  From the examples in the sessions, if a student attends a category A school for 3-4 years, he/she will be eligible for a certificate.  Technically it is 3 years to qualify, but from the advise of the speakers, the board does not open a child’s file until at least 4 years are achieved.  There are only 5 schools in the province listed as category A schools.  It seems from the examples given at the workshop, a student attending a category B school will need over 7 years in order to qualify for the certificate.  And even within the B category, there are 3 subcategories with different point allocations to complicate matters more.  Category C looks like it is completely not achievable to reach 15 points.

If he attends French school at any time in his educational life (pre-university) he will lose points towards eligibility.  From what I have seen in examples it is 3 points per year of French school.  Not relevant to our situation, but if a child has a sibling that attended French school, that student would also have points deducted!  So all that to say, it was recommended to start immediately in English private school!  I have friends who have discussed starting at an English school outside the province temporarily to become eligible. This was also addressed in the session, that the board “does not look favorably on this” as it looks like a way to bypass the law.  So the person may lose the ability to qualify if the family still has ties to the province while being educated in another, such as owning property or having employment in Quebec.

So all this to say, we have some big decisions in the next few months.  The schools we have heard about that may suit the kiddos sensory situation are not category A schools.  The English private school I like best at this point is actually a Category C school.  But if we stay with the private school option through high school, he may not even need the certificate anyways!  But that leads into other factors like costs, transportation, high school prospects etc.  To make it more complicated, I am also drawn to the Waldorf school in town which is entirely French, so throws the whole Bill 115 discussion out of the window anyways!

The upcoming posts will likely be centered on these topics.  The little man is growing up fast, faster than it seems my heart is able to take at the moment.  But such is the life of parenting!


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