Ontario students falling through the cracks, TDSB enrolment plunges over sex-ed curriculum

Starting to get the numbers of those who have dropped out from the public school system (headline ‘plunges’ is an over statement). Remains to be seen whether this is a one-time shift (my guess) or longer-term trend.

Also needs to be seen in context of Thorncliffe Park, whose principle engaged with parents with considerable success, with most students returning (see Toronto school [Thorncliffe Park] offers sanitized sex-ed amid parent concern, where enrolment dropped by 40 out of a projected 1,350 – about 3 percent):

Last April, thousands of parents were marching at Queen’s Park in protest against the curriculum. But it took months for public schools to take stock of the ensuing enrolment drop.

… The Ministry of Education said parents have the right to change their children’s schooling if they can’t abide by the update to the old sex-ed curriculum, which it called “dangerously out of date.”

“We respect that many parents choose to home-school their children or enroll them in private schools,” the ministry said in a statement.

Just as it’s unclear how those children are now being taught, it’s unclear how many in total have dropped out of the public system because of sex ed.

In the fall, the idea that the Toronto District School Board had lost students over sex ed was met with skepticism, with some suggesting the board was using that as an excuse for its job cuts. The TDSB’s enrolment has consistently declined for years.

But what happened this year was unusual. The TDSB, with a quarter-million students, normally uses demographic and immigration data to project enrolment within 1-per-cent accuracy, meaning its staff are off by no more than 1,700 students in the elementary grades, spokesman Ryan Bird said.

For the current school year, staff projected an increase of about 300 elementary students, in keeping with recent patterns. Instead, the TDSB elementary head count went down by 2,083, or 2,373 fewer than projected. Staff had been off by an unheard-of 1.4 per cent.

At the TDSB, the five schools that lost the most students were in neighbourhoods at the centre of the sex-ed protests: Thorncliffe Park, Manahil’s old school, lost two full Grade 1 classes.

It’s less clear how much sex ed was to blame for an unprecedented enrolment drop at the Peel District School Board, which covers Toronto’s western suburbs.

Unlike the shrinking TDSB, Peel has grown steadily for years. The fall of 2015 was the first time in many years that the student population declined overall, spokeswoman Carla Pereira said.

The number of elementary students decreased by only 728 from October, 2014. But staff had projected an increase of 900. Like the TDSB, they were off by 1.4 per cent.

Ms. Pereira said the board has since gained about 1,000 students and doesn’t believe sex ed was a significant factor in the dip in numbers. Many South Asian families took fall vacations, she said.

The second-highest drop in the Peel system was at James Potter Public School in Brampton, which has many students from the Sikh community, which was vocal in the sex-ed protests.

Last September, two new Sikh private schools opened in Brampton, adding to two existing ones. The parents who flocked to them were likely swayed at least in part by qualms over the curriculum, said one man who volunteers at newly opened Gobind Sarvar School.

“It’s hard to put a number on it,” said the man, who didn’t want to be identified. “I think [sex ed] was probably something that tilted it.”

Source: Ontario students falling through the cracks, TDSB enrolment plunges over sex-ed curriculum – The Globe and Mail

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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