Private Elementary and Secondary Schools

Frequently Asked Questions:

  1. What role does the Ministry of Education have with respect to private schools?
    In Ontario, private schools operate as businesses or non-profit organizations, independent of the Ministry of Education. Private schools set their own policies and procedures. The ministry accepts the annual Notice of Intention to Operate a Private School (NOI), and only inspects private secondary schools that seek authority to grant credits towards the Ontario Secondary School Diploma (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.
  2. Does the Ministry of Education vouch for the schools listed on its website?
    The ministry provides a list of private elementary and secondary schools that operate in Ontario, including general information about each school such as religious affiliation, the availability of residential facilities, and if the school offers credits toward the OSSD. It is important to note that private schools operate independently from the ministry, and listing the school on the ministry’s website does not mean the ministry endorses that school.
  3. What is the definition of a ‘private school’?
    Under subsection 1(1) of the Education Act, a private school is defined as:

    “an institution at which instruction is provided at any time between the hours of 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. on any school day for five or more pupils who are of or over compulsory school age in any of the subjects of the elementary or secondary school courses of study and that is not a school as defined in this section”.
  4. What gives the Ministry of Education the authority to inspect private schools and decide which schools are authorized to offer credits toward the OSSD?
    Section 16(7) of the Education Act states that “The Minister may, on request of any person operating a private school, provide for inspection of the school in respect of the standard of instruction in the subjects leading to the Ontario Secondary School Diploma, the secondary school graduation diploma and to secondary school honour graduation diploma, and may determine and charge a fee for such inspection.”
  5. There has been media attention recently about “credit mills” – how can I be sure that a private school I choose is legitimate?
    In response to concerns regarding credit integrity, the ministry has introduced an enhanced inspection training program, and ensures that marginally and non-compliant private schools are re-visited to ensure that instruction in credit courses is being delivered in compliance with ministry requirements.

    Inspections are conducted on a regular basis, generally every two years. The frequency of inspections, however, depends on the outcome of the inspection reports; the 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.

    There may also be times when there is a need to inspect a private school without notice, for example where there are concerns or complaints related to the standard of instruction and/or credit integrity. Inspections are based on evidence gathered through review of the School Course Calendar and the Outlines of Courses of Study for all the OSSD credit courses that will be taught in the school, as well as onsite reviews of materials and thorough discussions with the principal and other staff. Information is also gathered through observations during classroom visits, review of students' work, teacher assessment and evaluation of students' work, school policies/procedures, and the examination of school records.

    New schools will be inspected as early as possible during their first year of operation.
  6. How does a private school obtain authority to grant credits towards the Ontario Secondary School Diploma?
    Secondary private schools wishing to offer credits towards the OSSD must request an inspection on their annual Notice of Intention to Operate a Private School (NOI). The purpose of the ministry's inspection of private schools is to determine whether the instruction in secondary school courses is in compliance with ministry requirements. Based on the results of the inspection, the ministry may choose to authorize the principal to grant credits toward the OSSD.

    The ministry approaches the inspection with rigor and identifies measures to improve the standard of instruction in schools which are found to be lacking. If an inspected private school is seriously deficient, the ministry will remove its credit-granting authority. It is essential that the integrity of the OSSD be maintained in inspected private schools.

    The ministry inspects only the standard of instruction to ensure that credit courses are based on the ministry's curriculum guidelines. It does not inspect or approve items such as the school premises, health and safety practices or matters relating 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.
  7. How often are private schools inspected?
    Schools offering credits toward the OSSD are inspected by ministry staff on a cyclical basis to ascertain whether the school continues to meet ministry requirements including curriculum, assessment and evaluation policies. The frequency of inspections depends on the outcome of the inspection reports; the 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.
    Private elementary schools and private secondary schools not granting credits toward the OSSD are not inspected.
  8. Can a student be refused entrance into a private school, or be suspended/expelled?
    Private schools set their own policies and procedures and are not obliged to follow policies and procedures that are released to school boards, including those related to entrance requirements and student discipline.
  9. Are private schools required to follow the Ontario curriculum?
    Only those private schools seeking authority to grant credits toward the OSSD are inspected. They must submit outlines of credit courses that will be taught in the first year of operation, and a school course calendar, to the ministry for approval at least two months prior to the start of instruction. A similar procedure is required of established schools before subsequent inspections. These schools are inspected by the ministry on a cyclical basis to determine whether the school continues to meet OSSD requirements, including curriculum, assessment and evaluation policies.
  10. How many hours of instruction are required for a credit course offered by a private school?
    Private schools are required to provide 110 hours of scheduled instructional time per credit course.
  11. Are private schools required to follow the provincial Code of Conduct under the Safe Schools Act?
    No. Private schools are subject to the requirements set out in Section 16 of the Education Act. Private schools operate as businesses or non-profit organizations, independently of the ministry, and therefore set their own policies and procedures related to safety and behaviour. They are not obliged to follow policies and procedures that are released to school boards.
  12. Are private schools required to follow policies/procedures similar to District School Boards, such as forming Parent Involvement Committees or creating Special Education policies?
    No. Private schools are subject to the requirements set out in Section 16 of the Education Act. Private schools set their own policies and procedures and are not obliged to follow policies and procedures that are released to school boards, such as establishing a Parent Involvement Committee or Special Education policies.
  13. Are private schools required to implement special education provisions, such as Individual Education Plans (IEPs)?
    No. Private schools are not bound by the ministry regulation 181, “Identification and Placement of Exceptional Pupils”. If a private school chooses to create an IEP they may do so as a component of their individualized student programming.
  14. Can a private school complete a course that a student has begun in a publicly-funded school and subsequently grant the credit?
    No. The ministry inspects private schools regarding the delivery of full-credit courses or half-credit courses, as per curriculum policies. An inspector of a private school has no authority to review work that may have been started in a publicly-funded school.