You should never underestimate the power of a child’s education. It’s what shapes them, it’s what molds them into mature adults, and it’s what gives each child the ability to understand life’s basic fundamentals and everyday events.
“The early years of education are designed to encourage and support the development of students’ growth and to build a foundation for success,”
states the Seneca Hill Public School’s website (you’ll be hearing more about Seneca Hill once we get into listing the top elementary schools in the city).
Children are introduced to subjects such as math, geography, creative writing, and spelling and grammar in elementary school, and it’s important that each student comes away from their lessons with a deep understanding of what they’ve spent the year learning. This is where class sizes and teacher-to-student ratios come in. Smaller class sizes allow for more one-on-one time between the teacher and students, almost imitating the concept of private tutoring. In addition to class size, staff qualifications and extracurricular activities or programs are other deciding factors that played into our ranking of Toronto’s best elementary schools.
Canada’s Fraser Institute is an independent non-partisan research and educational organization that compiles and
“publishes peer-reviewed research into critical economic and public policy issues including taxation, government spending, health care, school performance, and trade,”
as the official website states. One of the Fraser Institute’s most anticipated releases every year is its ranking of the best schools in Ontario. All educational institutions are considered — whether public, private, or Catholic. On this year’s list, there were a whopping 17 elementary schools tied for the top spot, with six of them located in the City of Toronto alone. Coincidentally, these six schools are the same institutions we’ve chosen to profile on our list for their excellence and spotless reputations in the field of early education.
“The act of publicly rating and ranking schools attracts attention, and this can provide motivation,”
states the Fraser Institute’s 2014 Report Card on Ontario’s Elementary Schools.
“This inevitable attention provides an incentive for all those connected with a school to focus on student results… School administrators who are dedicated to their students’ academic success accept the Report Card as another source of opportunities for improvement.”
So, without further ado, here are our picks for the very best elementary schools located in the City of Toronto!
1. St. Michael’s Choir Catholic School
This Catholic boys-only school was founded in 1937 by Monsignor John Edward Ronan to facilitate the training of a boys’ choir for Toronto’s majestic St. Michael’s Cathedral. In May 1955, the school was awarded an affiliation with the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music in Rome, Italy (a privilege that only six other schools worldwide share). The St Michael’s Choir School was originally run as a private institution but eventually became part of the Toronto Catholic District School Board in 1967.
Although the school had humble beginnings, over the years, it has become one of the most prestigious educational institutions in Ontario. Mention the fact that your son attends the choir school and you’ll be rewarded with gasps of envy and amazement! What makes this school stand out from all the rest?
“The Choir School is unique in that the complete academic program is integrated with a lively ministry of sacred music in a school environment that reinforces the values of Catholic education,”
reflects Barry White, the school’s current principal. Once students reach the Grade Five level, they are automatically enrolled in the Choir School’s Extended French Program. Also beginning at the Grade Five level is the Academic Enrichment Program for gifted pupils that
“offers students an opportunity to broaden their studies beyond the traditional curriculum and classroom setting,”
explains Mr. Pasquale Morra, program head.
Admissions to the Choir School are strenuous and highly selective. Every year, there are hundreds of boys who audition (both vocally and academically), but only 30 to 35 children are chosen. First and foremost, each prospective student must be a practicing Catholic in order to be eligible for enrolment in the Toronto Catholic District School Board, and each student must have a complementary understanding of music and musical theory in order to even be considered for a spot.
St Michael’s Choir School is the only elementary school on our list that boasts an online store devoted to selling both audio and video recordings of their many seasonal concert productions and variety performances. The wonderful thing about this school is the fact that the majority of Choir School graduates remain practicing musicians throughout their lives, some of them even becoming celebrities in their own rights. Members of Crew Cuts, Four Lads, Barenaked Ladies, and The Nylons are all Choir School alumni. Tuition fees are currently set at $4,630 per student per school year.
2. Arbor Glen Public School
Opened in 1975, Arbor Glen Public School is known far and wide for two things: its vastly multicultural student body and its unique architecture and design. Students who are enrolled in this school represent more than 25 different countries, with approximately 70% of them speaking English as their second language. The majority of Arbor Glen’s student body speaks fluent Cantonese, Gujarati, Mandarin, and Persian.
The building’s design works to both teachers’ and students’ advantage in that all classrooms are open-concept and have been built around the school’s library and technology centre. This design feature allows for constant and easy access to literary sources and technological information and data. Class sizes are kept small on purpose to allow for more one-on-one time between each student and their teacher.
“Classroom size has always been a main concern of mine,”
explains Talia, mother of two.
“I don’t want my children to have to fight for their teachers’ attention. I want to know that if they ever have a question to ask or if they need extra help, the teacher will be there to sit down with them and explain things through.”
There’s a good balance of male and female students currently enrolled in this educational institution: 120 female pupils and 138 male pupils.
Admission to Arbor Glen is selective. Only families living within the school’s geographical boundaries may apply for admission. If you’re interested in having your child attend Arbor Glen Public School, please consult the school’s official website for boundary specifications. The building also boasts a comprehensive daycare program for preschool-level children as well as before- and after-school programs for those students already attending Arbor Glen’s daytime courses.
Another unique feature of this particular elementary school is its list of extracurricular activities open to all pupils. It’s definitely one of the most varied lists we’ve ever come across in our research of educational institutions, and it’s worth a look for any prospective parents and students. The school’s extracurricular activities have likely played a huge role in the school’s popularity. You can find a detailed list of activities on Arbor Glen’s website.
3. Sathya Sai Private School
This educational institution was established in September 2000 and was named in honour of the highly regarded spiritual leader Sathya Sai Baba.
“Humility, reverence, compassion, forbearance, sacrifice, and sense-control are the qualities which reveal the outcome of true education,”
believes Baba. Considering the school’s youth, it has quickly become one of the most prestigious and welcoming schools in Ontario. The Sathya Sai School is a private, non-denominational elementary school with students attending from junior kindergarten to grade seven (an eighth-grade course will be added to the curriculum come the 2014–2015 season).
Although the school teaches the Ministry of Ontario Curriculum, a number of specialized courses are also included in its regular program — namely meditation, yoga, and community service. These unique courses are what makes this school stand out among its competitors. The school promotes academic excellence and character development and is open to all young students, regardless of religion or social background. Admissions are based on the aptitudes and preparedness of each pupil as well as the institution’s goals: to house an even balance of boys and girls within its classrooms, to serve a diverse population, and to ultimately benefit as many families as possible.
Provincial funding to build a new site for the school has just been approved, and the new building will be located just down the street from its present locale.
“This will really mean a lot to us and the community,”
enthuses Sarah, mother of two children who both attend the private school.
“It’ll give the teachers and students more room and it will lead to even better academic levels, I think. It’s already a great school, but this [new building] will make it even better.”
A small, non-refundable $20 admissions fee applies upon application.
4. Hillmount Public School
Hillmount Public School was built in the early 1970s as a Study in Educational Facilities (SEF) school. These schools were few and far between and were considered futuristic back then because they boasted some of the following irregular features: air conditioning, interchangeable furniture, narrow windows, sunken music rooms, and gymnasium floors made out of rubber. When the school opened in 1971, Hillmount’s surrounding community was still fairly new, but eventually, it grew so large that the school needed to add portable classroom units to its facility in order to accommodate the sudden influx of students.
The student body has grown again in recent years, thanks to the advent of the school’s Junior Special Education program for gifted students. The student count currently sits at approximately 325 students. Hillmount Public School houses the specialized childcare unit Hillmount Childcare, which provides age-appropriate programs for pre-schoolers and students currently enrolled at the school up to the grade six level.
Social aspects like safety, moral responsibility, and respect are all part of the school’s rigid code of conduct. The official website states that
“these beliefs shape the expectations for the behaviour of the students and the adults in our school.”
5. Seneca Hill Public School
This popular elementary school was established well over 40 years ago and still ranks as one of the province’s best educational facilities. One of the reasons why it has remained so popular is that the school hosts two separate curricula: a regular program and a specialized program for students identified as “gifted.”
This is a kindergarten-to-grade 6 school that accepts admission requests from all students, regardless of religion or location within the city. A fully integrated daycare program, the Phoenix Daycare Centre, occupies space in the building and hosts classes for children aged two and up. Before- and after-school programs are available to all students currently enrolled at Seneca Hill, should parents wish their child to attend.
Speaking of parents, they’ve always played an integral role in Seneca Hill’s well-being and overall functionality.
“Seneca Hill Public School is committed to working with parents and guardians for the success of our students,”
affirms A. Halkidas, principal.
“We believe that students have a greater chance of succeeding when parents are involved and informed.”
Parents have actively participated in all school functions and events since the facility’s opening. The Student Council consists of an equal balance of both parents and school staff and is the real backbone of the institution. This is where changes are proposed and made and where the community comes together for the improvement of the school’s student body.
One of the other things this elementary school is known for is its fully stocked, state-of-the-art library. At the library, students will find an endless array of books, graphic novels, periodicals, print materials, and magazines as well as a technologically advanced computer laboratory. Grade 6 students
“take an active role in contributing to the success of the Seneca Hill programs and activities,”
says appointed librarian D. Smith, by helping out and volunteering their time in the library and assisting its staff. The school offers various Reading Club programs to its students that take place either during recess or lunch hour (or sometimes both depending on the complexity of the Club’s reading list). All of the books chosen for the club’s list have been nominated for various literary prizes, including the Silver Birch Express award. Seneca Hill Public School obviously places great importance on its student body’s capacity to learn and to grow into mature and educated adults upon graduation.
6. Cottingham Junior Public School
Cottingham Junior Public School is identified on its official website as “the heart of the community.” If you’re looking for a quaint, endearing little school whose teaching and learning focus on the acquisition and application of knowledge, attitudes, and skills, then you should definitely consider researching this elementary school for your child.
The total number of students currently enrolled at Cottingham is a manageable 128, allowing small classroom sizes and a lot of personal, highly educational time between teachers and their students. Experts have long believed that students fare better and learn more when classes are kept small and more intimate. Cottingham’s curriculum includes programs from junior kindergarten to grade 6, and there’s an almost perfect balance between girls and boys within the school: there are currently 61 female students and 67 male students.
Admissions are restricted to families living within the school’s boundaries, so you may want to consult the school’s official website to see if you fall within its geographical outlines. If you have your heart set on enrolling your child at Cottingham Junior Public School and you don’t fall within its boundaries, you may apply for optional attendance. Acceptance is, of course, subject to space availability and program suitability.
Cottingham boasts a list of extracurricular activities that rivals that of Arbor Glen Public School and includes such programs as various dance classes, music classes, athletics courses, and an immense list of academic clubs. All students are eligible to participate in any extracurricular courses they wish to sign up for, but acceptance is subject to availability. It’s best for students to sign up for these programs as soon as the full roster is announced (usually at the beginning of every school year).
When it comes to your child’s education, there’s no shortcut to quality. It’s worth researching different schools in your area to determine which one best suits your child’s needs and personality. Reading reports like the Fraser Institute’s 2014 Report Card on Ontario’s Elementary Schools will provide you with a starting point because they break down schools and their programs and rank the top facilities in the province. From this document alone, you’ll get a good indication of which elementary schools are worth looking into and which are best to avoid. This report also serves as a tool for the poorly ranked schools of Ontario, helping them identify their errors and deficiencies compared to the more successful schools.
“It will come as no great surprise to experienced parents and educators that the data consistently suggest that what goes on in the schools makes a difference to academic results and that some schools make a greater difference than others. By studying the techniques used in schools where students are successful, less effective schools may find ways to improve,”
states the Report Card.
A child’s education is one of the most significant building blocks in their young lives, and it will shape them into mature, responsible, and successful adults once they’re old enough to enter the workforce and start families of their own.