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Schools in Toronto, what you should know

Updated: Sep 10, 2023

There are a lot of options for schools in Toronto, it’s better to know what they are before making any decision.


The Forest Hill Junior and Senior Public School in Toronto
Forest Hill Junior and Senior Public School in Toronto

A little of my experience

When we arrived in Toronto in April 2016, my first daughter was 3.5 years old and had started kindergarten in France in September 2015. In Canada, school starts at the age of 4, so she could not start school yet.

I did not want to put my daughter back in daycare, starting school is a big transition for a child. The Lycée Français of Toronto (LFT) is an exception in the field, it welcomes children from 2.5 years old. We decided to register her there.

What is the Lycée Français of Toronto (LFT)? The LFT is approved by the Ministry of National Education and approved by the Agency for French Education Abroad (AEFE). The teachers and the headmaster are seconded by the French National Education. It is a private school which will cost you around $20,000 a year, from kindergarten to high school. That being said, it is still affordable compared to other private schools in Toronto.

We are not on an expatriate contract, we had to pay for school and did not necessarily find the point of paying so much money for our 4-year-old child in kindergarten. We then looked at the public system. This is where the puzzle began.

English or French? Public or Private? Catholic or not? The hardest part was determining the main language of the school. After many discussions with other parents, I would say that the right questions to ask are: why did you move to Toronto? How long do you plan to stay there? And above all, how old are your children? The answers to these questions tip the balance one way or the other.

Note: Nothing is definitive. You can start in French and switch to English or either way.

On our side, we didn't know, and still don't know, how long we would stay. But we had set ourselves a goal: to take advantage of this expatriation to become bilingual in English. A friend told me that the English public school in my neighborhood was very good, so we enrolled our daughter there in September.

The first days were not easy, I do not hide it from you. My daughter was exhausted when she came home from school, a new language to integrate is tiring but she was found a friend quickly who spoke French also.

The most important thing is to teach your child the basics, how to ask to go to the bathroom for example. I still remember my daughter's first day at the English school, when I came to pick her up, the poor girl was squirming in all directions and explained to me that she did not know how to ask to go to the bathroom. I must admit that I felt quite bad, I should have prepared my daughter better.

But when December came, after just 3 months, I heard her speak English for the first time. I was so proud of her that I thought our goal was fulfilled or at least we were on the right track.


Will my child lose their native language?

This is a question that often comes up on the forums. Every child and every family are different. At home, we only speak French (well, a little Portuguese too, but not as much as I would like) and we ask our daughters to speak only French. It is obvious that some days the languages are mixed up in the sentences but we correct them each time. We insist on the importance and the chance that they have to be bilingual. They are proud of it and finally do not find it so difficult to maintain two languages.

What about reading and writing?

My two daughters read both French and English. I don't think I made more effort for them to learn other than to read French books with them every evening from an early age. Anyway, if I tried to read in English I would immediately have my accent corrected by my daughters.

Alternative school, The Nature School

There are also a few alternative schools around Toronto like the Nature School in Kortright Centre for Conservation in Vaughan. I decided to tell you about it because it is what I chose for my last 5-year-old for this rather special year (during the Covid).


It is a very different school because it does not follow the Ontario curriculum but its own curriculum. It welcomes children from 2.5 years old to grade 3.


The children are outside all day long even in the middle of winter! They take walks in the forest, learn about trees, birds and what surrounds them. They obviously do some math and some reading/writing but it's not as formal as in a traditional school.


My daughter loved this experience. For more information on this school, visit Vaughan School of Nature.

What you should know

School starts at the age of 4. The child must be 4 years old before December 31 of the year of the start of the school year. There are two years in kindergarten, junior kindergarten (JK) and senior kindergarten (SK).

Elementary school runs from kindergarten to 6th grade. Then comes middle school which is 7th and 8th and then, high school from 9th to 12th.


My advice

You should consider the school is your area provided the school is well rated. The school in your neighborhood is a good way to socialize, it will allow you to get to know other parents and make friends near you. In addition, the Ontario school system allows, in my opinion, the child to be more confident, he learns to present projects in front of his classmates from an early age and collaborative work.

Find the TDSB public school related to your address and check its scores, looking at the EQAO score section.

If you wish to enroll your child in French, there are also good schools but again you will have to look at the school in your area. Have a look into the website of the desired school board to find your school.

In some English schools, there are French Immersion classes. These classes are for beginners. Children are exposed to French all day but all communication with parents remains in English. Those classes are accessible in Senior Kindergarten and grade 4.

Public school is totally free, even school supplies are provided. However, if your child is considered an international student (depending on your status in Canada), the school board may ask you to pay the tuition fees (approximately $16,000).


Public school

Public schools are organized into school boards. In Toronto, there are 4 school boards:

School Board

Website

Language

Toronto District School Board (TDSB)

www.tdsb.on.ca

English French immersion

ViaMonde

www.csviamonde.ca

French

Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDB)

www.tcdsb.org

English

MonAvenir (Catholic)

www.cscmonavenir.ca

French

Private education

Regarding private education, you will find below the 2022 list for the Greater Toronto Area. If you want more official information about them, please visit the government website.

​Independent schools

Private Schools

​Bannockburn School

The Beez Kneez Nursery School

​Bayview Glen

Blyth Academy

Bishop Strachan School

Central Montessori School

​Branksome Hall

CGS (Children's Garden School)

​The Country Day School

Crestwood School

​Crescent School

Hudson College

The Dunblaine School

J. Addison School

Greenwood College School

Northwood Montessori Plus

Montcrest School

The Toronto Heschel School

Northmount School

Willowwood School

Prestige School

St. Michael's College School

Extracurricular

St. Clement's School

Avenue Road Arts School

The Sterling Hall School

Snider School of Music

TanenbaumCHAT

TFS Canada's International School

Toronto Prep School

Non-exhaustive list


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