In Ontario, private schools operate as businesses or non-profit organizations independently of the Ministry of Education and in accordance with the legal requirements established by the Education Act. Unlike private schools in other provinces, they do not receive any funding or other financial support from the government.
While all private schools in Ontario must meet the same general requirements, additional requirements are imposed on private schools seeking the authority to grant credits toward the Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD).
The Ministry does not regulate, licence, accredit or otherwise oversee the operation of private schools. Parents/guardians and students must do their research before registering for private schools. Information on a particular school's educational program, business practices and other policies should be obtained from the school directly, prior to registration.
Teachers in Private Schools – Principals and teachers in private schools are not required to be certified by the Ontario College of Teachers. Certified teachers are listed on the college's public register at www.oct.ca.
Tips to Consider Before Enrolment
When thinking about entering into a contract with a private school, parents/guardians and students should consider the questions below. They are meant to be a guide and are not exhaustive; private schools are not required to have these policies or procedures in place in order to operate under the Education Act
Does the school:
1. List of Private Schools on the Ministry of Education's website – The Ministry of Education provides a list of all private elementary and secondary schools currently operating in Ontario. The list includes general information about each school, such as:
The Minister of Education has the sole authority to determine the courses of study that a student must complete in order to obtain the OSSD. Private schools operate independently from the ministry so having a school on the ministry's website does not mean the ministry endorses that school.
The list of schools is available for download.
2. Notice of Intention to Operate a Private School (NOI) – All private schools that wish to operate in Ontario are required to complete and submit to the ministry the annual Notice of Intention to Operate (NOI). The NOI is required by September 1 of each year. Both new and existing private schools must notify the ministry annually of their intention to operate. The NOI sets out the ministry's policy requirements regarding the criteria for private schools and collects information such as the school's owner, principal, address, hours of instruction and projected enrolment.
The NOI package is available for download.
Validation Process: The ministry validates the information provided by all new schools submitting an NOI. Once a new school has begun operating, ministry staff makes an unannounced visit to confirm that it meets the Education Act definition of a private school and that the information provided on the NOI is accurate. The result of a successful validation visit is a recommendation by the ministry staff to issue a Board School Identification number (BSID) for the school.
There are two types of private schools operating in Ontario:
Non-inspected private schools include all private elementary schools as well as any private secondary schools that do not offer OSSD credit courses. In addition to not being inspected by ministry staff, these schools are not required to follow the official Ontario curriculum, although they must still offer instruction in any of the subjects in the elementary or secondary courses of study.
Inspected private schools are seeking or have been given authority by the ministry to provide courses offering credits toward the OSSD. This includes private schools offering a combined elementary-secondary curriculum (in which case only the secondary school will be inspected) and private schools offering credits in an online environment.
The inspections are conducted by ministry staff and may be scheduled or unscheduled.
The ministry inspects all private secondary schools seeking the authority to grant credits in courses leading to the OSSD. The purpose of the inspection is to determine whether the standard of instruction in courses leading to the OSSD is being delivered in compliance with ministry requirements. The ministry does not inspect or approve items such as the condition of premises, health and safety practices or matters related to staffing.
Private secondary schools are authorized to grant credits only after a ministry inspection and this authority may be revoked following an inspection. The credit-granting status of a school is noted on the website.
Schools offering credits toward the OSSD are inspected on a cyclical basis to determine whether the school continues to meet ministry requirements regarding curriculum, assessment and evaluation policies. The frequency of inspections depends on the outcome of the inspection reports; ministry staff may recommend that a school be inspected in two years, the next school year, or within the same school year, as circumstances warrant.
An inspection report is prepared that outlines any recommendations and outstanding issues regarding compliance, and indicates a principal's authority to grant credits. The schools are charged an inspection fee.
4. Ongoing Requirements for all Private Schools
Ministry policy requires that a private school must have the following:
Submission of the NOI: The submission of the NOI is an annual requirement. All private schools that plan to operate in a given school year must submit the NOI by September 1 of that year. Schools that do not submit their NOI by this deadline cannot operate in that school year.
Submission of Statistical Data: All private schools are required to provide statistical information to the ministry regarding school enrolment, staff, courses of study and other information, as and when required by the Minister.
For private school information, please contact the Private Schools and International Education Unit of the Ministry of Education: (Toronto) (416) 325-1981.
For general inquiries about private schools, please contact the Public Inquiries:
(Toronto) (416) 325-2929, or (toll-free) 1-800-387-5514.
A manual for all private schools is available to provide private school owners, principals and teachers with information regarding the policies, procedures and legislative requirements of the Ministry of Education regarding the operation of private schools in Ontario.