When moving to a new home, probably the first question on any parent’s mind is schooling. Like most of Canada, schools in Hamilton, Ontario cover Kindergarten to Secondary (or high) school level (known as K-12, or ‘K through 12’).
Hamilton boasts a strong ‘Public school’ system, which in Canada refers exclusively to government-funded free education, rather than a category of private schooling, as in the UK.
Provinces bear most of the responsibility for primary and secondary education in Canada, and the systems can vary significantly between provinces. Across Canada, schooling is mostly co-educational — with boys and girls educated together throughout K-12 — and public school attendance is significantly higher than private school attendance.
There are three stages of pre-university education: kindergarten, elementary (grades one through eight) and high school (grades nine through twelve). In Ontario, there are two years of optional Kindergarten: Junior or JK (age four) and Senior or SK (age five), and schooling continues up to Grade 12. Education is compulsory up to the age of 18, or until your child graduates high school (in rare cases, this can happen earlier than 18).
Public schools are funded by the federal and provincial governments, and follow a standard curriculum established by the Ontario Ministry of Education. Public schools in Hamilton and the surrounding area fall under the purview of the Hamilton and Wentworth District School Board, or HWDSB, whose 104 schools in Hamilton and the surrounding area educate almost 50,000 K-12 students.
The school your child will attend is usually determined by where you live. Children are generally placed in a school close to their home, and each school covers an assigned area, or ‘catchment area’. The HWDSB provides maps of each school’s catchment area on its website.
In recent years, subject-oriented programs have been better integrated in order to allow more children to focus on particular areas — for example, French immersion or sports academy programs — that are offered at schools outside their catchment area.
As your child’s school may play a large part in your decision of where to live, it is important to get to know the options when looking at properties and neighbourhoods. Contact the school board to learn more about how and when to register your child for school in Hamilton – this should generally be done at your area school as soon as possible upon arrival.
While schools in Hamilton and across Canada largely operate with a secular mandate, Catholic school boards are common. The Hamilton and Wentworth District Catholic School Board (HWDCSB) runs 55 elementary and high schools with a Catholic-focused curriculum. In Ontario, Catholic school boards also receive provincial funding and are attended by a growing number of non-Catholic students (estimated at six to seven percent in the 2016/2017 school year).