TORONTO — To improve education outcomes for Black students and break down systemic barriers, the Ontario government is introducing a new tool for school boards and making available $1.43 million in programs that help address policies and practices that have had adverse impacts on Ontario’s Black students, as well as support anti-racism work underway in schools across Ontario.
The new Board Improvement and Equity Planning Tool, which will be in place for 2021-22 school year, will increase accountability and standardize commitments for advancing human rights and equity across the education system. School boards will be required to engage with parents and local communities on their actions to identify and dismantle systemic barriers facing underserved student populations. Boards will be required to submit their reports to the ministry as well as posting them publicly.
“Racism and discrimination have no place in our school systems – yet too many Black students continue to feel left behind,” said Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education. “We recognize that Black and racialized students have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, which is why we are partnering and investing to combat racism and promote the academic success of Black students.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated existing inequalities and disproportionately impacted Indigenous, Black and other racialized students, as well as those from low-income backgrounds, LGBTQI2S students, and students with disabilities.
As part of the Safe Return to Class Fund, the Ontario government has partnered with community groups and school boards to deliver culturally relevant supports for students to build the skills and knowledge for academic and future success. This includes providing:
- $500,000 to the Lifelong Leadership Institute to develop and implement leadership, mentorship, academic, and entrepreneurship programs for Black youth in the GTA, including summer programs focused on academic excellence and career development.
- $300,000 to Parents of Black Children to help create and foster conditions for Black student success by developing a bilingual toolkit to provide educators with an understanding of the Black experience in the education system and developing a virtual campus that will offer tutoring services for students and resources for parents.
- $280,000 to ANCHOR (African-Canadian Coalition against Hate, Oppression & Racism) to support the creation of a culturally relevant summer learning program for students in Kindergarten to Grade 12 to increase the engagement of Black students in their education.
- $50,000 for Parents for Diversity to develop and deliver a series of webinars in French and English to support the engagement of racialized and newcomer parents, guardians and caregivers. Webinars will provide parent-focused supports on anti-racism, equity and inclusive education, mental health and well-being through the provision of interactive learning opportunities.
- $50,000 to Regroupement ethnoculturel des parents francophones de l’Ontario (REPFO) to increase involvement of parents from Black Francophone communities in their children’s schools. The organization will deliver parent training workshops, host virtual parent cafés, and develop parent guides to support the use of digital resources and technology.
As part of the Safe Restart agreement, the Ontario government has partnered with community groups to support advocacy for educational issues and concerns related to Black students in the education system and address pandemic-induced issues and risks for Black youth. This includes providing:
- $100,000 to the Black Health Alliance to develop a web-based peer-to-peer mental health promotion initiative for Black students ages 14 to 18.
- $50,000 for the Hamilton Centre for Civic Inclusion to consult with Black youth in Hamilton school boards on issues including combatting anti-Black racism, bullying and mental health supports.
- $100,000 for Jaku Konbit to provide support for Black students in Ottawa to overcome academic barriers and cultural challenges.
To further support the success of Black students, the Ministry of Education is working with nine school boards to deliver the Graduation Coach Program for Black Students. The program provides intensive, culturally responsive support to Black students to help improve their academic achievement and well-being. The ministry has allocated $1.57 million for the program in 2020-21 and is expanding the program by allocating a total of $2.94 million in 2021-22.
- For the upcoming school year, Ontario’s Priorities and Partnership Funding (PPF) will include more than $288 million in funding for approximately 150 initiatives that include a focus on strengthening math skills, access to mental health and well-being supports, combatting racism and other forms of discrimination and support for children with disabilities.
- In July 2020, the Ministry of Education announced a suite of changes to advance opportunities for Indigenous, Black and racialized students. This includes ending early streaming into applied and academic courses, eliminating discretionary suspension for students, strengthening sanctions for teachers who engage in behaviour of a racist nature, and providing teachers, school board leaders and trustees with additional anti-racism and anti-discrimination training.
- On June 4, 2020, the government launched the Premier’s Council on Equality of Opportunity, a new advisory group which provides advice on how young people can overcome social and economic barriers and achieve success.
- In accordance with the Anti-Racism Act, 2017 and Anti-Racism Data Standards, all school boards in Ontario will be required to collect race-based data by January 1, 2023.
"The pandemic has created challenges for racialized students; Black students in particular. The READI program will create a positive environment where our children can reach their full potential, by ensuring that they are cared for, celebrated and affirmed. The READI Program will have educators working with children who may have become disengaged during the last school year. They will learn foundational skills using a holistic curriculum that honours their cultural heritage while teaching them the fundamentals from Kindergarten to grade 12, coupled with a healing and mental wellness component embedded in our cultural identity. We are grateful for the investments made by Minister Lecce through the Ministry of Education."
- Shernett Martin
Executive Director of ANCHOR (African-Canadian Coalition against Hate, Oppression & Racism)
"The Lifelong Leadership Institute is delighted to have the opportunity to offer programming for Ontario’s Black youth this summer. Funding from the Ministry of Education has enabled us to offer a set of seventeen distinct programs in July and August under the banner, ‘SummerUp’. These programs are aimed at accomplishing a set of objectives including offsetting the isolation and the disruption of the pandemic, reducing the erosion of skills in the summer break, ensuring students return to the fall semester with a higher degree of self confidence and building leadership capacity. The programs are organized under three categories — academic, arts and aspirations. Working with our partners, we hope to offer Black youth the chance to learn, explore, discover, aspire and be successful."
- Trevor Massey
Chair of Lifelong Leadership Institute
"For REFPO, the 21-week mentoring program for grades 7 and 8 is going well and we are proud to partner with the Ontario government. The students, their parents and members of the Black community in Ontario are pleased to receive such a supportive service at home for our youth. To date, a few teachers are offering support in French, math and science."
- Body Ngoy
Vice-President, Regroupement ethnocultural des parents francophones de l’Ontario