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Six Things You Need to Know to Get Students Ready for School in Canada

Posted on: August 30, 2021

Preparing Your Child For School  

Starting school in September can be an exciting time for newcomer students. It can also be filled with stress as they are heading into a new and unfamiliar system. As a newcomer parent, you will want to know how the education system works in Canada, as well as the services that are in place to help your child succeed. At NewToBC, we have compiled a list of frequently asked questions by newcomers to Canada. Here, you will find information to set your child up for success in the Fall.  

Young child reading a book.

How does the School System Work In BC? 

In British Columbia, children between the ages of 6 – 16 must either go to a school, or study at home. Families can choose between publicly funded schools (free in BC), independent / private schools (require families to pay for education out of pocket and often have specific religious, language, educational or philosophical approaches), or they can study at home (children work with their parents at their own speed and often mix up life and schoolwork with the family schedule).  

How do I Enroll My Child in School? 

Your child will attend the school located in / near the area in which you live. If your child is enrolling in a public school, you will want to contact the school district of your area. If your child is enrolling in an independent school, you will contact the school that you would like your child to attend. If you plan to home school your child, you will enroll your child in home schooling or distributed learning

To enroll your child, you will need to show official documents with your child’s date of birth, your resident status in BC, and the address you’re currently living. You will also need your child’s immunization records.  

Two young adults looking at computers.

How Will My Child Settle in Their New School? 

Many schools in BC offer a Settlement Workers in Schools (SWIS) program. This school-based program helps children of newcomers and their families to settle into their schools and communities. Some SWIS programs are offered through local settlement agencies. Contact your school or settlement agency for more information.  

How Will My Child Learn English? 

Families should contact their local schools to find out what options are available for their child to learn English. Most students will obtain support in the classroom. Some older students attend both regular classroom programs and English as a Second Language (ESL) classes.  

There are many options available to help your child (and you!) learn English through your local public library. Books, videos, and online tools are available to help immigrants learn and improve their English. You can borrow materials, free, with your library card. You can search for materials by language level, by language skills (speaking, listening, reading, and writing), and by the type of material you are looking for.  

Child at school.

How Will I Know How My Child is Doing in School? 

There are many ways to learn about your child’s school and to support your child’s studies. You may communicate with the teachers, counsellors, or principals of your school through email or phone. You can also connect with your SWIS team to learn tips on how to communicate with your child’s school. It is recommended that you attend any available orientations at the beginning of the school year, that you subscribe to the school’s newsletter, and attend parent-teacher interviews. Report cards will be sent home at various times throughout the school year to share your child’s progress with you. 

What Else do I Need to Know? 

Review the other Questions and Answers we’ve posted for newcomers on our website. You will find that there are many Immigrant Programs and Services available to support your journey. Reach out and find out how they can help you adapt to your new life. You will also find many library programs and services that offer workshops and resources to help your child adapt to their new school, from study-buddy or reading programs, to STEM workshops. Newcomers to Canada who connect to these supports find that their children adapt quickly to their new life and their new school. Make sure you use the supports available to you and your family as you transition into this school year.