Ontario schools with greater numbers of students from well-educated, higher-income families are more likely to offer a child care program, a new study suggests.
The advocacy group found that 90 per cent of Ontario public schools with higher proportions of university-educated parents offer child care programs before and after school, compared with 66 per cent for schools that have lower levels of parental education.
Annie Kidder, executive director of the organization, said the finding was worrying.
“The evidence shows that if you have families with higher incomes and more education, their schools are more likely to have childcare in them,” she told the Exchange with Matt Gurney on Monday. “This extends to other things like music teachers, or arts enrichment or extracurricular activities, but the childcare one, given all the evidence about how important early childhood education is in terms of long-term success, that one really surprised us.”
Comparing schools with low levels of poverty compared with high levels, the proportion offering child care is 88 per cent versus 73 per cent, the report found.
School boards in Ontario are required to offer care for children up to Grade 6 if there’s sufficient demand, and the study found that the number of schools offering the service has expanded to 80 per cent in 2018. In 2012, for example, just 47 per cent of schools offered child care for kindergarten-aged children.
While need could be higher in schools with parents with lower educational attainment, Kidder explained that families with university-educated parents have more “social capital” and are more likely to become advocates.
“They’re better at … navigating the system, I guess,” she said. “And we have to really be careful of that in public education, because part of the whole purpose of public education is to give every single child, no matter who their parents are, an equitable chance for success.”
LISTEN: Annie Kidder of People for Education joins the Exchange with Matt Gurney
The report, released on Monday, is based on surveys of principals at 1,244 schools in 70 of Ontario’s 72 school boards, along with data from the Education Quality and Accountability Office and Statistics Canada.
It found that schools with higher proportions of university-educated parents were twice as likely to have a specialist music teacher. There were also divisions across geographical lines — 62 per cent of elementary schools in urban areas had health and physical education teachers, compared with 39 per cent in rural areas.
“While some schools offer many extracurricular arts activities, students in small and rural schools, in schools with higher levels of poverty, and in schools with lower levels of parental education, are less likely to have access to learning opportunities in the arts,” the report stated.
Kidder said that guidelines need to be set so that access to enrichment opportunities — things like arts and sports programming — don’t depend on a school’s ability to fundraise from parents.
The report also found that only 21 per cent of elementary schools have a full-time vice-principal, and nearly three quarters of elementary schools offer at least one Indigenous learning opportunity, along with 84 per cent of secondary schools.