Curriculum, caring and community are strengths of Ontario private schools

    Researcher urges policymakers to use insights from private school study
    to improve publicly funded system

    OTTAWA, May 26 /CNW Telbec/ - Parents who pay money to send their
children to private schools are convinced those schools provide them with a
better education than they'd get in the publicly funded system.
    Now, a new study in Ontario identifies just what it is about private
schools Ontario parents most like.
    And one of the researchers involved urges the province's policymakers to
use that insight to improve the publicly funded system.
    The study involves a survey sent out to a scientifically selected sample
of parents whose children were enrolled in Ontario private schools. The
results of the survey were compiled and analyzed by three Ontario academics:
Deani Neven Van Pelt, an assistant professor in the Department of Education at
Redeemer University College in Ancaster, Ont.; Derek Allison, an associate
professor in the Faculty of Education at the University of Western Ontario;
and Patricia Allison, a lecturer in education at Western.
    The results were presented at Congress 2009.
    About six per cent of Ontario students are enrolled in private primary or
high schools, says Dr. Neven Van Pelt, adding that private schools in Ontario
are defined either by religion or academics.
    Because these schools receive no funding from the province, parents whose
children are enrolled there face a considerable financial burden. This is
particularly true for families who sent children to private schools for
religious reasons, she says.
    The three researchers wanted to know what prompted families to take on
that extra cost.
    She says the results show clearly that curriculum, quality academics and
dedicated teachers are important. But she says the most surprising result was
the importance of the school community itself.
    Parents "told us story after story about how the school community wrapped
itself around them and supported them through all aspects of their lives," she
says. "They found a space of caring for children and family."
    Parents reported that it was the caring school community that finally
allowed their child to flourish.
    "These stories were shocking to me to read over and over," says Dr. Neven
Van Pelt. "Why can't we find this in publicly funded schools?"
    "We have known for 30 years what it takes to make an effective school,"
she says, explaining that an effective school is a school that functions as a
unit or community in which resources are focused on the students.
    She says that because private schools are independent, they are more
flexible and can more easily function as a community than schools that are
part of the provincial system.
    "The heart of being an effective school has to come from within the
school itself," she says. "That's why private schools are so effective."
    She says policymakers should use this knowledge to improve the province's
publicly funded schools.

For further information:

For further information: Caitlin Kealey, Congress 2009 media team, Room
118 Paterson Hall, Carleton University, (613) 520-3552,;

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