Family Law Blog

Do Ontario Private Elementary Schools Follow the Same Laws and Standards as Public Schools?

Ontario Private / Independent School

Many parents send their children to Ontario Private (or Independent) Schools because they want to make sure their child gets a “superior education.”  There are many private schools that do offer very good or excellent education or that have programs that are particularly suited to certain students.  However, that is not guaranteed.  When it comes to private education, especially for elementary students, Ontario is really a “buyer beware” market and parents must to their research.

Parents assume that because a school operated in Ontario, it is subject to the Education Act.  However, only very small parts of the Education Act apply to private elementary schools.  Section 1(1) of the Education Act requires that private schools:

  1. Provide instruction any time between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. on any school day
  2. Have five or more students;
  3. Have students of compulsory school age
  4. Provide instruction in any (but not necessarily all) of the subjects of the elementary or secondary school course of study.

Beyond that, there are not many standards that apply to private elementary schools.  Page 7 of the Ministry of Education’s Private Schools Policy and Procedures Manual contains the following passage:

How are Private Schools Different from Publicly-Funded Schools?

In Ontario, private schools operate as businesses or non-profit organizations, independently of the Ministry of Education. Private schools do not receive any funding or other financial support from the Ontario government.

The Ministry does not regulate, licence, accredit or otherwise oversee the day-to-day operation of private schools.

Private school operators set their own policies and procedures regarding the operation of their schools, and are not obliged to comply with the policies and procedures that school boards must follow. For example:

  • Private schools are not required to use the Ontario curriculum unless they are seeking authority to grant credits toward the OSSD. Those that do may also offer other content beyond the Ontario curriculum.
  • In Ontario private schools, principals are not required to have Ontario principal's qualifications, and teachers are not required to be members of the Ontario College of Teachers (OCT) or have OCT certification.
  • Private schools are not authorized to deliver correspondence courses, which are delivered through the Independent Learning Centre (ILC). However, a private school can host the student taking such courses.
  • Private schools may, but are not required to, communicate student achievement using either the Elementary Provincial Report Card (for Grades 1-8) or the Provincial Report Card (for Grades 9-12).


When it comes to private elementary schools, there are very few rules that  the school must follow.   Most of the requirements are set out in Section 16 of the Education Act but those rules relate mostly to things that few parents care about, such as giving the Ministry notice of the intention to operate a private school, and providing the Ministry with statistical information about the number of students, staff and courses offered.  There are more rules for private schools that want to award Ontario Secondary School Diplomas, but not for elementary schools.

no bullying

There are no requirements that private elementary schools offer a minimum standard of instruction, or follow any requirements with regard to things like anti-bullying, discipline (including suspension or expulsion of students) or teaching any particular curriculum or skills.  Some terrible circumstances have highlighted the fact that the protections for students that the Ministry of Education requires be in place in public schools can be completely absent in private schools.  The video below, from CBC News Network, explains:

Many parents have been surprised to learn that private schools can kick out their child without any good reason or without any process because that is what the parents’ contract with the school says.  For more on school suspensions or expulsions, what this video:

The School’s Standards Are In The Contract

teacher at private elementary school

Almost all the standards that a private elementary school has to follow are in its contract with the parents.  Parents must look at the contract carefully and ask questions.  If the contract does not required Certified Teachers, then the school does not have to provide them. Parents can only complain to the college of teachers if the teacher or principal is a member there.  If the contract does not require the school to teach certain subjects, then the school does not have to do so.  If the contract does not say that the school will follow the Ontario Elementary School Curriculum, then the school probably does not.  Most private school contracts include a Code of Conduct, which may have no resemblance to the Provincial Code of Conduct, but sets out how students will be disciplined and to what extent the School has the right to impose any form of discipline it wants.  Some school contracts specifically allow the school to do whatever it wants.  In those cases, the school is subject only to the criminal code, or the right of a Children’s Aid Society to intervene because a “person having charge of a child” has harmed a child or put a child at risk of harm.

Nothing in the Ontario Education Act requires private schools to prevent students from being harmed. For example, while the Education Act requires that public school have anti-bulling programs in place, and respond to bullying with supports for both the victim and the bully, there is no legal requirement that private schools do anything about bullying at all - even in extreme circumstances - unless there is something in the contract with parents (and there rarely is).   In the first half of the video below, CBC Anchor, Wendy Mesley, explores this topic in detail, including getting the specifics about Ontario Education Law, from Education Lawyer, John Schuman

Ontario Family Law Podcast

22 - Children's Right's in Ontario Schools

Additionally, although private schools are not required to follow the procedures set out in the Education Act  and accompanying regulations for exceptional pupils, they are required to follow the Ontario Human Rights Code and so cannot discriminate against students and must accommodate special needs to the point of “undue hardship” – unless the contract with parents requires the school to provide specific accommodations.  This podcast describes the rights of students with special needs.

Still it remains very important that parents do their research before enrolling their child in a private school. They need to be clear what sort of education their child will receive and by whom.  They should also know what protection from bulling or what special assistance their child may receive.  It is also important for parents to know what the School’s Code of Conduct is, how children are disciplined and precisely what can cause their child to be removed from the school.  All of these things should be included in the contract with the school, otherwise, the school is not legally required to follow any specific rules when educating a child.

Obviously, it is also important to find out about the school’s reputation and review references or testimonials – as people would do with any big purchase.  The Ministry of Education has very little power to assist dissatisfied parents.   The most appropriate remedy can be suing the school for breach of contract.

If you are experiencing difficulties with a private school, it is important to figure out what rights you may have, and how the law might help you. Contact Education Lawyer, John Schuman, by emailing him, calling 416-446-5080, or using the contact form below.  We answer all inquiries promptly and we can arrange for you to come in quickly for a consultation (charged at a reduced hourly rate).

Many thousands of people get family law assistance from this website everyday.  If you have found this page useful, please share it on your social network using the Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest buttons at the bottom of the page.  Please comment on this page using the comments section at the bottom to share your thoughts on the challenges children face in school and the education system.

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How Do I Change My Child Support and Visitation/Access?


Things change for families and separated families.  Parents change jobs, kids get older and their interests change, financial circumstances rise and fall.   Especially when it comes to kids, Ontario Family Law recognizes that arrangements change over time.  When there has been a significant change in the circumstances of the child or the parents, everything related to a child can change - child support, parenting, custody or access.   The idea is that the changes should be in the child’s best interests, although what is possible may be limited by finances.  

Changing Child Support 

There are three ways to change child support:

Changing child support online
  1. If both parents agree on the change - either because one or both parent's income has changed or because the children’s living arrangements have changed, the parents can draft up an “amending agreement” to their separation agreement or file a Consent Motion to Change Child Support at the court, where there is a court order setting the child support amount.  It can be dangerous for a child support payor to reduce child support, even if the other parent agrees, without a formal agreement or court order.  Without that formal order or agreement,  the other parent can go back and enforce the last formal agreement or court order and support paying parent could end up owing a lot of money - all of the alleged arrears and interest.
  2. Parents can use Ontario's Online Child Support Calculation Service to adjust child support as long as one parent does not object (a parent must actively object), and neither parent falls into one of one of the exclusions.  parents cannot use the service if they have  shared custody,  the support payer does not earn most of his or her income from a salary, or the support payer earns more than $150,000.00 per year, or if a child is 17.5 years old or older and is still entitled to support. In these situations, child support may be more than a simple calculation. But, if where child support will be a simple calculation, for an $80 fee paid by each parent, the Ministry of Finance will get both parents’ tax returns and do the support adjustment and advise the Family Responsibility Office of the change. 
  3. If neither of the above options work for you, then you will have to bring a Motion to Change Support in Family Court.  The procedure to change support, which is found in Rule 15 of the Family Law Rules, is usually simpler than an initial divorce of Family Court Application.  It may involve 2 appearances or less. Either parent can also use this process to change the support paid under an separation agreement if the other parent does not agree.  To learn more about how to do this, listen to this podcast and watch the video below:
Ontario Family Law Podcast

10 - Child Support - Who Pays and How Much?

32 - How to Change a Support Order

35 - Resolving Children's Issues Outside of Court

7 - Custody of the Children - what it means and how it is decided

If you are not sure whether you should ask to change child support, listen to this podcast or watch the video below on how to calculate your child support obligation.  Or you can speak to an experienced family lawyer about your situation and figure out which option works best for you and whether you can save on legal fees by using unbundled services

Changing the Parenting Schedule

Changing "visitation" or the "parenting schedule" may not be as straightforward as changing child support.  Obviously, if  parents can agree on a change to suit the children, that is what is best for the children.                                                                                           When parents do not agree do not agree, then they should consider using a parenting mediator, or one of the other lower-conflict ways of resolving parenting issues. Finding non-confrontational ways to resolve parenting issues, including the parenting schedule, is much better for the kids.  But, if either parent is being unreasonable, or not acting in the children’s best interests, then Family Court may be the only route to protect the children and get the parenting arrangement that is best for them.  If the children might be harmed, of if one parent is not seeing them at all, that concerned parent may be able to get an Emergency Custody Order. Otherwise, the same "Motion to Change” procedure that applies for support would apply to change the parenting schedule, but with that different focus (and slightly different court documents as the parents would have to file Form 35.1 Parenting Affidavits instead of short form financial statements). 


In making any decision about children, judges only do what is in the child's best interest and have factors to consider in making that determination.  Since those factors are what a judge will use, parents should consider them too in deciding what kind of visitation or what kind of parenting plan to seek.  There are many different types of parenting arrangements after separation and what works best depends on the child. In addition to the podcasts above, watch the video below for a description of each type of parenting arrangement after separation.  If you are not sure, or have concerns, then it is important to talk about your specific situation with a top family law lawyer.  That will ensure you are doing the best thing for your children.

Guide to the Basics of Ontario Family Law (book)

You can get a lot more information about Ontario Family Law issues, including a further explanation of child support, family court, child custody and parenting legal issues by downloading this $9.99 e-book for KindleKobo, or iPad/iPhone/Mac or ordering the paperback version.  But, to keep out of trouble, it is always best to speak with a specialist family law lawyer

Availed on the iBookstore
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Guide to the Basics of Ontario Family Law Available on Kindle

Anytime a  parent has a concern about parenting, child custody, child access or child support, it is important to make the right decision.  To ensure that you do, see a family lawyer right away to know your options and how best to proceed. Contact Certified Specialist in Family Law, John Schuman, by emailing him, calling 416-446-5847, or using the contact form below.  We answer all inquiries promptly and we can arrange for you to come in quickly for a consultation (charged at a reduced hourly rate).

Many thousands of people get family law assistance from this website everyday.  If you have found this page useful, please share it on your social network using the Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest buttons at the bottom of the page.  Please comment on this page using the comments section at the bottom to share your thoughts on children’s issues in divorce or separation.


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