Who is offering full-day kindergarten in Canada?

March 23, 2010

Compiled by Koni Macdonald, ATA News staff

Featured here is a snapshot of kindergarten programs being offered or soon to be offered in provinces across Canada.


In 2003, Alberta’s Commission on Learning recommended the establishment of full-time, full-day kindergarten programs and new junior kindergarten programs on a phased-in basis.

Currently, kindergarten programs are not included in the School Act, yet most school jurisdictions provide programs. Although it is not mandatory, almost 95 per cent of Alberta’s children attend kindergarten. Most programs are provided on a half-day basis, five days a week. Other Alberta schools offer full-day programs on alternate days.

Studies in Calgary, Edmonton and the Northern Lights School Division show positive results when full-day kindergarten is offered, particularly for disadvantaged students. As Dr. José da Costa, author of the Edmonton study, notes: “[Some] children came into the kindergarten program at a huge disadvantage. By the end of the school year, the children who had been receiving the full-day programming had narrowed the gap to the point that there were no differences between them and the other kids.”

Not only disadvantaged kids benefit from full-day kindergarten, says da Costa. “In every instance that I can think of that includes professional teachers and developmentally appropriate curriculum, the full-day students outperform the half-day students.”

Based on the positive benefits, Alberta’s Commission on Learning stated that kindergarten programs should (1) be established as an integral part of the school system and included in the School Act; (2) be mandatory for all children to attend; (3) be provided by school jurisdictions, approved Early Childhood Services operators or approved independent schools, or through home-schooling; (4) be available on a full-day basis, ideally for all children, but for at-risk children as a first priority; (5) be available for all children at the age of five and with a consistent starting age across the province; (6) be taught by certificated teachers with training in early childhood education; (7) be eligible for grants for English as a second language or French-language upgrading students; (8) follow a provincially mandated program with clear goals and ­curriculum objectives focused on early literacy and ­numeracy skills; (9) provide for a smooth transition from kindergarten to Grade 1; and (10) offer flexibility to school jurisdictions in how programs are organized and delivered.

British Columbia

In 2009, British Columbia’s government announced that it was phasing in universal access to full-day ­kindergarten for all five-year-olds over a two-year time frame commencing September 2010. BC’s ministry of education says that by September 2011 full-day ­kindergarten will be available across schools currently offering half-day programs. Some BC schools are currently offering full-day programs for specific groups of children (Aboriginal ­students, English-language learners and some special needs students). In the past, it has been up to boards of education or individual schools to decide whether to ­include full-day kindergarten in their education programs.

According to Irene Lanzinger, president of the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation (BCTF), teachers have concerns about the introduction of full-day kindergarten. These concerns focus on equity and the provision of ­sufficient funding.


Kindergarten is not mandatory in Manitoba, but it is offered by all school divisions. Manitoba Education does not track data regarding how many school divisions have half-day, full-day or alternating-day programs. However, full-day kindergarten is offered by the province’s francophone school division and some urban school divisions. A school division in northern Manitoba is offering full-day kindergarten as a pilot project. Manitoba Education told the ATA News that it is “closely monitoring developments in other provinces that are moving toward full-day kindergarten, but no plans have been put in place at this time.”

New Brunswick

Full-day, compulsory schooling for five-year-old children has been in place since 1991 for all English and French schools in New Brunswick.

Monique Caissie, president of the Association des enseignantes et des enseignants francophones du Nouveau-Brunswick, says the program assists in the transition from preschool to school. “The New Brunswick kindergarten program is a combination of play-based and academic learning,” says Caissie. “The focus is placed on developing the affective side of the child and his or her autonomy.”

Noreen Bonnell, president of the New Brunswick Teachers’ Association, adds, “A full-day program is a bit of a misnomer, though, because the day for all primary ­students ends about an hour earlier than their counterparts in Grades 3 to 5.”

Newfoundland and Labrador

Half-day kindergarten in Newfoundland and ­Labrador is mandatory. All children who will be five before ­December 31 of that year start school in September.

“The Department of Education has no plans to move to full-day kindergarten right now,” says Edward Hancock, executive director of the Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers’ Association (NLTA). “NLTA has taken a position in support of full-day kindergarten, and we are monitoring developments in both Ontario and PEI. We have raised this matter on a number of occasions with the department, but there is no movement in that direction at present.”

Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia has had a full-day, full-week program for the past 15 years. Although it is not called kindergarten, it is an equivalent primary program. The program covers four- and five-year-old children.

More than 600 schools in Ontario (at least one per board) will be offering parents the option to send their children to full-day kindergarten in September 2010. With a maximum average class size of 26 students, ­every class will include a teacher and an early childhood ­educator. The plan is to have the program fully in place by 2015.

Sam Hammond, president of the Elementary ­Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO), commends the ­government for its commitment to the welfare of young children. “Investing in early education is so very important,” says Hammond. “There is no question that ­children will benefit, but so will society.”

However, ETFO does have concerns about some of the specifics of program implementation and is raising these concerns with the government. Despite the challenges, Hammond says that teachers are excited about the possibilities full-day kindergarten offers for child development and academic success.

Currently, ETFO, the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association (OECTA), the Association des enseignantes et des enseignants franco-ontariens (AEFO) and other education partners are reviewing legislation that was introduced to the Ontario legislature in ­February by education minister Leona Dombrowsky.

“OECTA has advocated long and hard for full-day kindergarten and supports the government’s vision. We are currently working with the government to get clarification on the contents of the bill,” says OECTA president James Ryan. “Above all, we want to ensure that the program that is rolled out over the next five years meets the needs of Ontario’s four- and five-year-olds and their parents, teachers and early childhood educators.”

“Teachers welcome early childhood educators (ECEs) as a part of a full-time integrated team that will work together to meet the needs of every student,” Ryan adds. “ECEs will help teachers deliver a quality, age-appropriate program.”

Benoit Mercier, president of AEFO, says that the Franco-Ontarian community long ago recognized the value of full-day junior kindergarten (JK) and senior kindergarten (SK) programs for children who attend French-language schools in a minority setting.

“Full-time JK and SK programs help children ­acquire the language proficiency they need to succeed at school,” says Mercier. “That’s why all French-language school boards in Ontario chose to set up such programs more than 10 years ago, although they were not fully funded. The full funding is certainly welcome, and AEFO hopes that the best practices developed in our schools over the years can be shared with others. AEFO will be working to ensure these best practices are maintained, namely the small class sizes that have proven most beneficial for both children and teachers.”

Prince Edward Island

Commencing September 2010, PEI will offer a mandatory full-day public kindergarten program for the full school year.

In April 2008, responsibility for early childhood education was moved from the Department of Social Services and Seniors to the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development. In September 2008, a play-based integrated curriculum was implemented in all kindergarten centres in PEI. In September, full-day kindergarten will be implemented in all PEI publicly funded schools using this same curriculum.

“This major policy shift is a welcome addition to our public school system,” says Carrie St. Jean, president of the Prince Edward Island Teachers’ Federation (PEITF). “For years it has been the policy of the PEITF that kindergarten be full-day and delivered in the public school system. We applaud the Ghiz government for advancing public education in this province. This is a good news story for our young children and their families.”

Each kindergarten teacher will teach a maximum of 15 students. The play-based integrated curriculum is based on the philosophy that five-year-olds learn through play and that they best learn skills and concepts through active exploration, discovery and hands-on involvement.


With a maximum of 20 students and an average of 18 students per class, non-mandatory full-day kindergarten is offered to all children in Québec who are five years old before October 1 of that school year. Students are not ­offered the option of attending half-day classes.


Kindergarten is referred to within the Education Act, 1995, under section 163: “(5) Subject to the regulations, the board of education or the conseil scolaire shall determine the hours for the operation of kindergarten classes” and “(6) A year of kindergarten education is deemed to be the equivalent of not less than 80 school days.”

Due to these sections, in some locations boards are offering full-day kindergarten every second day, and in other locations they offer half-day classes every day. The act also allows boards to offer more than 80 full school days (or the equivalent). As a result, some school divisions in Saskatchewan offer full-day, every-day kindergarten in some schools.

The Provincial Panel on Student Achievement, which was struck by the minister of education to make ­recommendations on improving student achievement, ­recommends full-day, every-day kindergarten for five-year-olds that is universally accessible but non-mandatory.

Dianne Woloschuk, Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation president, states: “Supporting young children and their families is a shared social responsibility to be addressed through coordinated approaches by schools, community resources, health and social services. The educational program functions of early childhood education programs must be carried out only by those trained professionals capable of doing so, namely certificated teachers.”

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