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Supports for our youngest students important

September 16, 2015
Open letter to the people of Nova Scotia from Susan Ritchie, President, Nova SCotia School Boards Association

Learning happens long before students take their first steps into their primary classroom on the first day of school. As parents and caregivers know, children start learning and observing the moment they are born.

School boards across the province have shown their support for early learning initiatives and integrated service delivery for students for many years. Through resolutions presented at the annual general meeting of the Nova Scotia School Boards Association, members have acknowledged the importance of early learning. Board-based initiatives have also had some success in meeting the needs of their families and communities. However, a provincial strategy to address early learning was needed.

In previous years the NSSBA has submitted resolutions to the Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development related to early learning. When the department added "early childhood development" to their portfolio, the NSSBA called upon them to define how school boards may become involved in and/or support early childhood development. With the opening of early years centres in elementary schools across the province, we have further definition of the roles.

In the NSSBA report titled, "A call for greater interdepartmental delivery of services to youth and families in Nova Scotia," we identified the need for departments to work together to serve our students. This needs to happen before Grade Primary. The implementation of SchoolsPlus across the province is an excellent example of departments and school board working together to deliver services to youth in our province. We believe Early Years Centres can be another success story.

Nova Scotia's Action Plan for Education identified early learning programming as a priority. An action item created by the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development indicated they would "continue to work across departments to better coordinate services for children in Early Years Centres and SchoolsPlus sites." The NSSBA was pleased to see this item included as it was directly related to resolutions and reports submitted by the association in the past. It was encouraging to see the work and requests of school boards reflected in the Action Plan.

The opening of four new Early Years Centres across the province was a welcomed occasion by school board members throughout Nova Scotia. The NSSBA has recognized early childhood education as a priority for preparing children for Grade Primary. It is encouraging to see the provincial government working with school boards and other community agencies to provide early learning services in every board, including the Acadien school board, Conseil scolaire acadien provincial. Even with these centres, there continues to be communities and students in need of additional supports. Additional centres are needed in many communities across the province.

The NSSBA is eager to see the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development expand the centres across the province to serve more students. The NSSBA and school boards in Nova Scotia are committed to equitable access to services for students, and strongly believe the expansion of this initiative is essential.

Founded in 1954, the NSSBA is the provincial voice for school boards across the province. The NSSBA engages with its members and partners to raise awareness of public education in our province while helping students achieve their potential.