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Elementary & Secondary School

Elementary & Secondary School

In Canada, public education is provided by each province. Most children attend public school, which is paid for through taxes. Through the Ontario public school system, children in Grades 1-8 attend elementary school (ages 6-13), and youth in Grades 9-12 attend secondary school (ages 14-18). Parents have the option to enrol their children at an earlier age in junior and senior kindergarten programs.

Parents are expected to be actively involved in their child’s education. They are encouraged to speak with their child’s teachers on a regular basis and be aware of what is taking place day to day. If parents have questions or concerns about their child’s education, they are welcome to contact their child’s teacher or school principal.

The “school year” at most schools begins in September and continues to the end of June. This is different from the calendar year that begins in January and ends in December. Generally, during the months of July and August, children are on “summer holidays” and do not attend school. During the school year, classes take place Monday to Friday. Students have a break in the day for lunch, as well as breaks during the day to play outside. Older students have smaller breaks between each class. 

It is common for students to bring their lunch and eat it at school. It is best that parents prepare a lunch and snacks that do not need to be warmed; students do not usually have access to microwaves.  Some students go home for lunch if they live nearby or if a parent is able to pick them up. 

There are a variety of ways students get to school each day, depending on how far away they live from the school. For students who live farther away, they may be able to take a school bus to school.  A school bus brings children to school and home again at the end of the day. It does not cost money as they are paid for through taxes. To ensure students are safe, a parent or guardian must meet the bus when their child is arriving home after school.  

If your child is sick or will be absent from school, parents have a responsibility to inform the school; this helps ensure your child’s safety.  There are policies regarding extended absence and attendance; contact your school board to learn more.

Throughout the year, schools are closed for different holidays and professional development days (PD Days). During professional development days, teachers attend meetings and receive additional training.  School is often closed for two short breaks in the year: one in December and one in March. Each school board will have a slightly different holiday schedule. To learn more about holiday schedules, contact your school. To learn more about holiday schedules, contact your school board.

Who does what in the public school system

There are many different partners involved in the Ontario public school system, each with specific roles and responsibilities.

Below is a list of some of the different partners with which you will want to be familiar.

  • The Ontario Government and Education
  • Ontario Ministry of Education
  • The Minister of Education
  • School Boards
  • Trustees
  • Principals
  • Teachers
  • Students
  • Parents
  • Schools
  • Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO)
  • Ontario Teachers College

Elementary School

Most elementary schools offer kindergarten to Grade 8. Generally, students are between the ages of 6-13. Children can attend kindergarten if they are turning 5 during the calendar year they are beginning school. Some schools may offer junior kindergarten to children who are turning 4 years old within the calendar year. Most of the elementary school curriculum is delivered to students in one classroom.   

Some schools may provide before- and after-care for children whose parents require someone to look after their children outside of school hours. There is a fee for this service. Some parents may be eligible for a fee subsidy, which means they can receive this service for less money.

Learn more about before and after school care and child-care fee assistance.

Secondary School or High School

Students in Grades 9-12 attend secondary school. Generally, students are between the ages of 14-18. 

In secondary school, students have some choices regarding which courses they take. In each grade, students are required to take certain classes and have some choice on the other classes they take. In the Ontario public school systems, there are three different levels of education students can take: academic/university, applied/college, and locally developed/workplace. The course selection choices students make may impact what type of education they are able to take after high school. Students and their parents can make appointments with their school guidance counsellor if they have questions about which courses they should take.  

In addition to regular class work, secondary school students in Ontario are required to volunteer in the community. Completing 40 hours of volunteer work is a requirement for students to graduate secondary school. Students can speak with their guidance counsellor if they have questions regarding volunteer hours.

​Different School Systems

A publically funded school is open to all children and youth who live in the area. Most children in Ontario attend a publicly funded school, which is paid for through taxes. There are four main types of publicly funded school systems for children and youth. In Simcoe County, there is also an English Protestant school system. Contact the school board directly to learn more about the type of education  provided.

There are opportunities for children to learn in both English and French.  French school boards operate and teach in the French language. English speaking school boards often offer French language programming called Extended French, French Immersion or French as a Second Language (FSL).

Below is a list of each school board.  Contact the school board directly to learn more about the type of education that is provided. ​

The information listed below was provided by 211 Community Connection.

School Boards in Simcoe County​
Simcoe County District School Board Phone: 705-728-7570
Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board Phone: 705-722-3555
Protestant Separate School Board Phone: 705-549-6422
Conseil scolaire Viamonde Phone: 1-888-583-5383
Conseil scolaire catholique MonAvenir Phone: 1-800-274-3764

Another schooling option for elementary and secondary school is private or independent schools.  These schools do not receive government funding and parents have to pay a fee for their child to attend them.  Private or independent schools may have a specific focus on religion, culture, language, or teaching approaches.  Before enrolling your child, it is recommended you check the school’s educational program, business practices, policies, and other important factors.

For information about private schools in Ontario, including an up-to-date list of locations, visit the Ontario Ministry of Education website.

Parents may choose to provide an education curriculum for students in their home. Students who are home schooled do not attend a physical school and their lessons are provided by someone in their home, usually a family member. Homeschooling requires specific legislative and curriculum requirements be followed. Parents who choose to home school their children must also register their child with a local school board.

To learn more about home schooling as an option, contact one of your local school boards and the Ontario Ministry of Education.

The Ontario Federation of Teaching Parents (OFTP) is a provincial home school group providing support to homeschooling families and information on home-based education to members and the public at large.

Special Education

“Special Education” is a widely used term in education. It is used to describe the many supports, programs, and placements available to students who may need a different teaching technique or equipment to assist or enhance their daily lessons.

Students learn in different ways and at different paces. Taking the time to understand your child’s learning needs, and having appropriate supports in place, will help your child succeed in their learning goals.

Speak with your child’s teacher or school principal if you think your child could use additional help in school.

Visit the Children with Special Needs section​ to learn more about local services in Simcoe County.


Students may need someone to talk to about social issues at school, trouble they may be having learning the material, or things that are happening outside of school that may be affecting their school work.   Every school has a person for students to talk to and get information/advice from. In secondary this person is often called a “counsellor” or “guidance counsellor.” In elementary school the person may be a teacher, vice-principal or principal.

In high school, guidance counsellors can help students learn about what education and career options await them after school. Guidance counsellors can help students decide which courses will best help them achieve their goals after graduation.

How Do I Enrol My Child in School

Before you enroll your child in school, you must first decide which type of school board you would like your child to attend.  Click here to learn more about the different school boards in Simcoe County.

Once you have chosen your school board, you need to register your child. To register your child, contact the school board you have selected. They will ask you your address and, based on your address, they will tell you which school your child should be attending and how to register. Generally, children attend the school located closest to their home.

You will be required to provide personal records on your child. To learn more about the accepted documentation, contact the school board in which you wish to enroll your child.

You do not need to enroll your child each year. Once your child is enrolled with a school board, they continue to be registered for each following year until they have reached completion or you withdraw them from the school.  

In What Grade Will My Child be Placed?

In elementary school, children are placed in a grade according to their age. In secondary school, students who did not attend a Canadian elementary school will receive an assessment to ensure they are placed in courses that best suit them. This assessment will review your child’s abilities in two areas: mathematics and language.   


According to Ontario’s Immunization of Pupils Act, children attending school in Ontario are required to be vaccinated from certain diseases. When you enroll your child into a school in Ontario, you will be required to show your child’s immunization record. To learn more about immunizations, which immunizations are mandatory, and exceptions to receiving immunizations, contact the local Public Health Department, the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit.

Your Health Connection 705-721-7520 or 1-877-721-7520

Visit the Immunize Canada website ​for more information.​

Progress Reports, Report Cards

Progress reports and report cards are a few methods teachers and schools use to communicate with parents. They are based on assessments from the required learning material teachers complete on each student. Progress reports and reports cards are sent home to parents to inform them of their child’s progress. Parents are expected to review the reports, discuss them with their child and follow-up with their child’s teacher if needed. 

EQAO: Education Equality and Accountability Office

EQAO stands for Education Equality and Accountability Office. It is an independent government body that is responsible for developing and overseeing the standardized reading, writing, and mathematics tests. Ontario students are required to write these tests in Grades 3, 6, 9, and 10. The purpose of the tests is to assess how well students have learned the reading, writing, and mathematics material the province expects students to learn. ​