Enriching student learning

Kids benefit from having counsellors and librarians and teachers who provide instruction in the arts and health and physical education.

Classes in the arts and physical education drive our little ones, with the balls of energy they are, to thrive and learn teamwork, collaboration, and creativity. Although the province knows the importance of these programs—mandating that elementary students must have access to the arts and physical education classes—it doesn’t provide the funding teachers need to provide these classes.. We need specialist teachers who are ready to share their love for music, physical education, visual and performing arts, and design and technology to guide our kids to follow their passions and choose careers that ensure Ontario is at the forefront of new technological and creative trends.

The Ontario education grants leave our kids short-changed when it comes to funding specialist teachers. The shortfall is magnified in smaller and more remote schools that have less access to specialist teachers and programs because the funding is based on per-pupil grants rather than grants per school.

Technology, the arts, global, and environmental education all support experiential learning that ignites and sustains students’ interest and connects them to the world around them.

Elementary students would have a more enriched educational program and be less likely to get frustrated or act out with violent behaviour if they had more opportunities to learn through the arts and outdoor experiential learning, as well as be supported by teacher-librarians and teachers who are specialists in the arts, health and physical education, and guidance. However, the government does not provide sufficient funding for teacher-librarians or specialist teachers.

Research confirms that the knowledge and expertise of teacher-librarians and specialist teachers make an important contribution to the quality of elementary education, both in terms of academic success and students’ broader emotional, physical, cognitive, personal and social development. An extensive literature review concluded that, “Overall, the literature surrounding specialist teachers in a range of content areas appears to support the claim that specialist teachers can positively impact student achievement and contribute to student success at the elementary level.”

The number of specialist teachers at the elementary level has dropped significantly since 1998 when the current funding model was introduced. A decade ago, ETFO negotiated additional funding for specialist teachers that contributed to a modest increase in their numbers. The Ontario education grants still leave elementary students significantly shortchanged in terms of their access to quality programs in the arts and health and physical education, and support from teacher-librarians. The shortfall is greater in smaller and more remote schools that have less access to specialist teachers and programs because the funding is based on per pupil grants rather than grants per school. The ETFO poll indicates that 89 per cent of Ontarians agree that all students should have access to art, physical education and library services.

In the context of the Ministry’s focus on student well-being, including addressing mental health issues, the lack of guidance counsellors in elementary schools is a barrier to meeting the needs of students. According to a recent report by the public advocacy organization, People for Education, 83 per cent of all elementary schools report having no full- or part-time guidance counsellors and only two per cent report having a full-time guidance counsellor. In the context of increased concerns related to classroom violence, it is shortsighted for the government not to ensure greater student access to guidance counsellors in elementary schools.

Teacher-librarians play a critical role in developing student literacy, supporting teachers’ classroom instruction and making the library the technological hub of the school. Studies conducted by People for Education document the extent to which trained teacher-librarians have a positive effect on student literacy achievement and on children’s enjoyment of reading. It is ETFO policy that all elementary students have access to a teacher-librarian. In recent years, many school boards have replaced teacher-librarians with library-technicians who are not teachers and not trained to support teachers’ classroom instruction. The per pupil allocation of teacher-librarians has not changed since the funding formula was introduced.

School libraries cannot fulfill their role of assisting teachers meet the learning expectations of the provincial curriculum without up-to-date resources and technology. The education funding formula must be amended to provide dedicated resource funding to support school libraries.



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Take action to enrich student learning Share it!
  • Establish more balance between the focus on literacy and numeracy and the importance of providing elementary students access to programs in other subjects including science, social studies, the arts, and physical and health education.
  • Increase the Elementary Foundation Grant to provide all elementary schools with specialist teachers in the arts, health and physical education and guidance, and a teacher-librarian.
  • Increase the Elementary Foundation Grant to support school library learning resources and technology.


Bascia, Nina (2010). Reducing Class Size: What Do We Know? Toronto: Canadian Education Association.

Coish, David (2005). Canadian School Libraries and Teacher-Librarians: Results from the 2003/04 Information and Communications Technologies in Schools Survey. Ottawa: Statistics Canada.

Cummins, Jim (2012). Teaching English Language Learners. Research for Teachers, No. 9. ETFO and OISE/University of Toronto.

Education Quality and Accountability Office (2017). 2016–2017 Annual Report. Toronto: Queen’s Printer for Ontario.

Fairholm, Robert (2010). Early Learning and Care Impact Analysis. Milton: The Centre for Spacial Economics.

Gilraine, Michael, Macartney, H. and McMillan, R. (2018). Education Reform in General Equilibrium: Evidence from California’s Class Reduction. Cambridge, MA: National Bureau of Economic Research.

Hargreaves, Andy and Fullan, M. (2012). Professional Capital: Transforming Teaching in Every School. New York: Teachers College Press, Columbia University.

Hargreaves, Andy and Shirley, D. (2009) The Fourth Way: The Inspiring Future for Educational Change. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Leithwood, Kenneth, McAdie, P. Bascia, N., and Rodrigue, A., eds. (2004). Teaching for Deep Understanding: Towards the Ontario Curriculum that We Need. Toronto: Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario and OISE/UT.

Mackenzie, Hugh (2009). No Time for Complacency: Education Funding Reality Check. Ottawa: Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

Mackenzie, Hugh (2017). Shortchanging Ontario Students: An Overview and Assessment of Education Funding in Ontario. Toronto: Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario.

Mackenzie, Hugh (2017). Ontario’s deteriorating schools: The fix is not in. Toronto: Campaign for Public Education.

OECD (2012). Lessons from PISA for Japan, Strong Performers and Successful Reformers in Education, OECD Publishing. http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264118539-en

Ontario Auditor General (2017). Annual Report. Toronto.

Ontario Ministry of Education (2009). Planning and Possibilities: The Report of the Declining Enrolment Working Group. Toronto.

ParticipACTION (2015). The Biggest Risk is Keeping Kids Indoors. The 2015 ParticipACTION Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth. Toronto: ParticipACTION.

People for Education (2017). Competing Priorities (Annual Report on Ontario’s Publicly Funded Schools 2017. Toronto: People for Education.

People for Education (2013). Mind the Gap: Inequality in Ontario Schools. Toronto. People for Education.

Queen’s University and People for Education. Klinger, D.A.; Lee, E.A.; Stephenson, G.; Deluca, C.; Luu, K (2009). “Exemplary School Libraries in Ontario.” Ontario Library Association. Toronto.

Queen’s University and People for Education (2006). School Libraries and Student Achievement in Ontario. Ontario Library Association. Toronto.

Pollock, Katina and Mindzak, M. (2015). Specialist Teachers - A Review of the Literature prepared for the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario. Toronto.

Ravitch, Diane (2010). The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice are Undermining Education. New York: Basic Books.

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Schanzenback, D.W. (2014). Does Class Size Matter? Boulder CO: National Education Policy Centre.  

Stratcom (2018). An Opinion Survey of Ontarians’ Views on Public Education. Toronto: Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario.

Upitis, Rena and Smithrim, K. (2002). Learning Through the Arts, National Assessment 1999-2003, Final Report Part I: Grade Student Achievement and Engagement. Kingston.


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