Liberals promise ‘summer school’ for primary grades

TheStar.com – news/canada/politics
Published On Thu Sep 01 2011.   Rob Ferguson, Queen’s Park Bureau

Children in Grades 1 to 3 who are struggling with reading, writing and math could go to summer school next year if the Liberal government is re-elected Oct. 6, Education Minister Leona Dombrowsky said Thursday.

The voluntary $9 million program would create spaces in 250 schools across Ontario for 7,500 pupils who rank below the provincial average in their test scores. The tutoring would last two weeks and be offered free of charge.

Teachers will help get kids “over the hump” with more solid skills on the basics as they move to higher grades, Dombrowsky said at Rose Avenue Public School in the downtown neighbourhood of St. Jamestown.

It’s too soon to say which schools would host the programs, which would cater to a fraction of the approximately 395,000 children in the three grades. Roughly one-third of Grade 3 pupils test below the provincial standard.

“Local boards will determine where it will be best,” Dombrowsky said, noting that children often see their reading, writing and math skills dwindle over the summer months.

“We want to do everything we can to better enable our students to be successful,” she added, charging that the rival Progressive Conservatives and New Democrats have few details in their education platforms.

Conservative Leader Tim Hudak said “it just seems like every day there’s a new Liberal spending announcement.”

“They have no platform that they’re willing to put out in front of the people,” said Hudak, warning Ontarians will pay for any new Grit schemes with higher taxes.

The Liberal platform is expected to be revealed in the next few days, before the official election campaign begins Wednesday.

The elementary school teachers union applauded the summer schooling promise, which has been the subject of a smaller $3 million-a-year pilot project so far.

“This will give extra help to students who are struggling and give them a chance to catch up with their peers,” said Sam Hammond, president of the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario.

“It will particularly benefit students from families who are struggling economically.”

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