VIDEO: Sex-Ed, Math, Class Sizes part of Ontario Education Changes

Ontario's Progressive Conservative government is lifting the caps on class sizes in elementary and high schools across the province, while introducing changes to the sex-ed and math curriculums.

Education Minister Lisa Thompson also announced a ban on cellphones in classrooms and plans to revise teaching hiring practices as part of education reforms on Friday. 

Thompson said class sizes from kindergarten to Grade 3 would remain capped at their current levels, while capacity in Grades 4 to 12 will be increased.

The biggest change will be felt in high school classrooms, where sizes will be increased from 22 students per teacher to 28 students. It will be up to school boards to maintain the average class size of 28 students.

Intermediate grades would also see an increase in class sizes from the current cap of 24.5 to an average of 24 - meaning some classes could have upwards of 30 students depending on the catchment area.

The ministry also warns as a result of the changes, funding for school operations "would also be adjusted."

While increasing class sizes could lead to fewer teachers in the secondary education system, the government says the changes will be phased in with "attrition protection."

The Education Minister also announced gender identity and consent will be taught as part of a new sexual-education curriculum that will be introduced to schools by the fall.

The curriculum will replace an interim teaching plan based on 1998 materials that was put in place last year after the Progressive Conservatives repealed a 2015 curriculum from the previous Liberal government.

The 2015 curriculum addressed consent, online bullying, sexting, same-sex relationships and gender identity.

The province previously held an online consultation on the issue and an overwhelming majority of those who weighed in through that forum in the first day opposed the decision to scrap the 2015 curriculum.

The government said the new document will teach students about consent in Grades 2 and 3, and gender identity and gender expression in Grade 8. It is also emphasizing that the new document will include teaching on abstinence, lessons on cannabis and earlier discussions on body image.

The province said parents will still be able to opt out of having their kids exposed to certain topics in the sex-ed class, and the ministry will issue online modules for those who want guidance on discussing those topics at home. The full curriculum is expected to be released in May and implemented in September.

Ontario high schools will also receive a revised curriculum on First Nations, Metis and Inuit studies, which the province said was developed in collaboration with Indigenous partners. That document is also scheduled to be released in May and put in place by the next school year.

The government also announced a new math curriculum for all grades that will be phased in over four years. It will focus on basic concepts and skills and financial literacy with a renewed focus on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) with the first changes come into effect in the fall.

The government will also ban cellphones in classrooms during instructional time, starting next year, except for when teachers want to use cellphones as part of their lesson, for medical reasons and for students with special needs.

 

— With files from the Canadian Press