There are approximately 3900 elementary schools in Ontario. Elementary education includes grades from Kindergarten through Grade 8.
Elementary school divisions
Within the elementary school system, there are four grade divisions:
- Kindergarten – includes Junior and Senior Kindergarten
- Primary – includes grades 1 to 3
- Junior – includes grades 4 – 6
- Senior – includes grades 7 & 8
All teachers in Ontario’s publicly funded schools must have a teaching certificate from the Ontario College of Teachers.
Teachers are responsible for:
- Preparing lesson plans, teaching classes and evaluating student progress
- Encouraging students and acting as teacher–advisors for students
- Maintaining discipline in the classroom
- Running extracurricular sports, clubs and activities (voluntary)
- Communicating with parents about students’ progress
In elementary school, the classroom teacher is responsible for teaching the majority of curriculum subjects. Some schools have specialist teachers for music or Health and Physical Education, and many grade 7 and 8 classes participate in ‘rotations’, where the homeroom teacher still teaches most subjects, but students rotate to specialist teachers for several classes (eg. science, art, health and physical education).
In Kindergarten classrooms, there is teaching team that includes a teacher and an early childhood educator.
Some classrooms will also have educational assistants, who often work with students with special education needs under the guidance of the teacher. Their responsibilities include everything from helping students with lessons to assisting with personal hygiene or behavioural modification.
The Ministry of Education has set guidelines for class size in Ontario. These guidelines vary, depending on the grade level of the students.
There are hard caps (a firm maximum number) on class sizes in the early grades in elementary school. In full-day kindergarten where there are two educators (a teacher and an early childhood educator), classes will be capped at 30 students starting in the fall of 2017. If there are 15 students or fewer in a full-day kindergarten class, only one teacher is required. In the primary grades (grades 1 to 3), classes are capped at 20 students. From grades 4 to 8, the average class size must be 25 students or less. Because these are board-wide averages, individual classes may have more (or fewer) students.
Combined grades are often referred to as ‘split grades’. In combined grade classrooms, students in two different grades are taught by the same teacher. Almost all Kindergarten classes are a combination of both Junior and Senior Kindergarten students, but in the higher grades, the existence of combined grades is usually based on the demographics of the student population.