Online Guide for Newcomers to Prince Edward Island - Canada
This section of the Guide is intended for parents or guardians of school-aged children who are attending or about to attend kindergarten, elementary, intermediate or high school in PEI. Information on colleges and universities can be found under Adult Education section. Students themselves may find some of this information helpful:
In PEI, children 6 to 16 years of age, by law, must attend school. Most children start going to pre-school at the age of 5.
In Canada, public schools are governed by school boards. There are two public school board offices in Prince Edward Island:
- English Language School Board
- French Language School Board (La Commission scolaire de langue française)
There are also private schools in PEI. They are not governed by the public school boards, or funded by public funds.
Some parents choose to 'home school' their children -- children stay at home and their parents (both or one of them) act as teachers. If this is their choice, parents must indicate their intention and submit their education plan to the Department of Education. [See Related Resources]
PEI Public Education School Levels
Starting in the school year 2010/2011, Colonel Gray High School and Charlottetown Rural High School offer the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Program. This program provides an internationally accepted curriculum recognized by many universities worldwide.
If your child is doing well in school, above average, consider enrolling him or her into the IB program, as it may provide for more and better education and career opportunities in the future.
- Kindergarten (mandatory pre-school education; children who are at least 5 years of age, or will turn 5 by December 31st of the school year can be enrolled)
- Elementary school (grades 1 - 6)
- Intermediate school (also called 'junior high school', grades 7 - 9)
- High school (grades 10 - 12)
Public education is free for all permanent residents in PEI, from kindergarten to grade 12. Colleges and universities do receive some public funds, but they are not free.
It is important to remember that, because of the length of time it takes to learn a new language, some newcomer students may not be able to graduate by the age of seventeen or eighteen like some of their Canadian-born peers. Much depends on each student's level of English or grade level at the time of arrival in Canada.
Note that the marking system in PEI schools may be different from the one in your country of origin. Usually, in elementary grades students get descriptive marks, and further on they are marked by percentages and marks from A (the best mark) to F (the worst, failing mark). Talk to your child's teacher to find out more about the marking system in his or her school and grade level.
Which school your child attends is determined by where you live. Students attending the school zoned for their living area have transportation (school buses) to and from school.
If your home is close to the school (walking distance), your child may not be assigned a school bus.
New immigrant students go through the following steps to get registered in the school system:
Initial Intake at the PEI ANC with the Immigrant Student Services (ISS)
The first step of the student registration process is for parents of school-age children to provide important documents and information to the ISS team at the PEI ANC. Photocopies of these documents will be taken and kept on file so that the ISS team can further help with registration and act as an advocate for immigrant students in the school system.
The following is required at registration:
- Proof of child's age -- a birth certificate or passport
- Proof of address -- apartment lease or rental agreement with your name and address
- Proof of child's immigration status -- Record of Landing document or confirmation of permanent residence
- Immunization record -- proof that your child has been immunized in the country of origin
- Records of previous education or past transcripts -- to help place your child in appropriate grade level
Every new immigrant student is required to have a meeting with EAL / FAL Reception Centre at the Department of Education (EAL = English as an Additional Language, FAL = French as an Additional Language). Unless French is the child's language of preference, an EAL assessment specialist at this centre will complete an intake process asking you, the parent, for permission to administer a language assessment with your child. This is to determine how much additional English support your child will need once they enter the school system. The ISS team at the PEI ANC will assist you by making an appointment for the assessment and arrange an interpreter to go with you, if requested.
Based on the results of the language assessment, the EAL Assessment Specialist will make recommendations for EAL support. It may be recommended for the student to get EAL tutoring and/or work with an EAL Itinerant Teacher in the school, in coordination with regular classes. If the student already has a strong ability to communicate in English, he or she will be recommended for regular content classes only, with no EAL support.
Grade placement of the new student will be determined by the School Board and the school.
When students register for school, their grade placement is determined by different factors: their age, the grade they completed in their country of origin, their English level, etc.
Registration at School
Once the school, grade level and EAL support needs are determined, a registration appointment will be set up for you and your child at the school. At the registration, an interpreter (if needed), a representative from the Department of Education's EAL Centre and a school administrator will all be present, and a school tour will be given to the family.
All newcomer parents and students will be invited to a School System Orientation Session. An interpreter will be there to ensure that you get all the information in your first language.
Some suggestions to learn English better and faster:
- Encourage your child to continue to speak, read, and write in his or her first language. Children who are literate in their first language learn additional languages easier.
- Encourage your child to participate in group activities or sports with other students after school where he or she will be speaking in English.
English as an Additional Language (EAL)
After a newcomer student is assessed at the EAL Reception Center, and it is determined that they will need English language support, they will work with specially trained teachers called Itinerant Teachers.
Itinerant Teachers assist students in meeting curricular goals of their school program. Students are monitored throughout the year to determine their progress and to assess any need for additional support.
French Language Study
If French is the language of preference for your child, there are several options in PEI:
- Core French starting in grade 4
- French Immersion Program starting in kindergarten
- French Immersion Program starting in grade 7 (also called "late immersion")
- French First Language Program for children who have at least one parent who is Francophone
Many parents choose to enrol their child in a French Immersion program even if they are not Francophone. As French is also an official language in Canada, knowing it can mean more education and employment opportunities in the future.
Note that not all schools offer the French Immersion Program.
School policies are rules and regulations set up to ensure acceptable behaviour of students and school staff, to the benefit of everyone involved. Here are some sample policies in Prince Edward Island schools:
Caring Places to Learn Policy
This policy is designed to ensure schools provide a healthy, safe, and supportive working and learning environment for every student and school staff member. The policy guides the way people in schools treat each other, directing that students and staff demonstrate regard, concern, and respect for the unique differences and worth of every individual.
This policy includes a "hands off" rule - if a student does not make physical contact with another student, there can be no confusion over the intent.
There is zero tolerance for any behaviour involving abuse, violence, discrimination, bullying, sexual abuse, threats, trespassing, and possession of weapons.
Regular attendance is necessary in order to maintain your children's opportunity for learning, and to meet the evaluation requirements. Parents should contact the school or send a note if their child will not be attending classes or needs to leave school early.
Disciplinary actions will depend on the severity and frequency of offences. They can include warnings, noon or after-school detention, contacting parents, extra school work, interviews, suspensions from extra-curricular activities, or suspension from school. In Canada, teachers are not allowed to use physical punishment on children.
Extra-curricular activities are school-related activities that take place outside the classroom. Some examples of extra-curricular policies are:
- Parent consent forms must be completed prior to any extra-curricular activities. No signature means no participation.
- Applicable fees must be paid.
- Students follow the general rules of conduct.
- If a child is dismissed or suspended from school as a result of a disciplinary procedure, the dismissal or suspension will include extra-curricular activities.
Books that are borrowed from school library, as well as the text books received at school, should be returned in acceptable condition.
Most schools have regulations on using cell phones, video and photo cameras, music players and other electronic devices. In most schools it is forbidden to use such devices during class, and in some students are not allowed to use them at all on school property.
Students are not permitted to possess, sell or be under the influence, of any illegal substances (alcohol and drugs) on school property or at school-sponsored events. Smoking is not allowed on school property.
In order to ensure their safety, students must respect their bus driver, and pay attention to what he or she tells them. Any misconduct on a bus will be reported to school officials.
There are days when no homework is assigned to students. On such days, it is a good idea to encourage your child to engage in other learning activities, such as reading a book, drawing or playing music.
Some additional things to keep in mind:
Students, with parental support, are responsible for completion of homework. Contact your child's teacher if you notice she or he is struggling with the school assignments.
Two formal parent/teacher interviews are held each school year. Participation is strongly recommended. Besides the scheduled interviews, a parent may schedule a meeting with a teacher at any time.
PEI ANC will provide an interpreter for parent/teacher interviews, and other communication with the school, if necessary.
Appropriate Clothing and Personal Hygiene
In PEI schools children do not wear uniforms. Students should wear clothing that is appropriate for a school setting. It is not acceptable to wear T-shirts or other clothing with messages that are profane or promote illegal or immoral activity.
Make sure your children are dressed for the weather. In the winter time it can get very cold, and students should wear hats, winter jackets, snow pants, mittens/gloves and winter boots.
Students are required to wear gym clothes and sneakers for Physical Education class.
Paying attention to personal hygiene is strongly recommended, out of respect for self and others. Strongly scented personal hygiene products should be avoided when attending school, as there are people who are bothered by strong scents or have allergies.
Eating at School
Because some children have severe peanut allergies, it is a policy in some schools that students must not bring any food containing peanuts or peanut products for snacks or lunches.
Breakfast Program -- A nutritious breakfast is available at some elementary and intermediate schools to each student at no cost. Students who would like to participate should be in school about 30 minutes before classes start.
Lunch -- Elementary school children are not permitted to leave the school grounds unless they have written permission from their parents. Children must bring lunch from home. Lunch is eaten in the classroom. There is also a snack time in the morning for elementary students.
In intermediate and high schools there are cafeterias where students can buy lunch, or eat the food they bring from home. After grade 7 students are usually allowed to leave school grounds during lunch if they wish.
Students should not bring valuable items to school -- the school is not responsible for lost or stolen items.
Elementary students must keep indoor shoes at school, which they wear upon arriving to class. They will be provided with a compartment where they can store their outdoor shoes, jackets, lunch box, etc.
In intermediate and high schools lockers are assigned to each student. Lockers are intended for safe storage of clothing and books. Student should keep the lock combination secret and the locker locked.
What to do if your child is unhappy?
Children may feel anxious about all the changes taking place in their lives. This can affect the way they think and feel.
School staff and the ISS program team can help you if your child has problems. You should contact the teacher or ISS staff if your child:
- is unhappy at school
- needs more help with English
- does not understand the school work
- finds the work too difficult or too easy
- is having problems with other children