Premier's Awards for Accepting Schools

2014-15 recipients of the Premier's Awards for Accepting Schools

Aldergrove Public School, Unionville
York Region District School Board

Embracing school engagement
Aldergrove Public School recognized how essential their culturally diverse student and family population is to promoting a positive school climate. By inviting students and community partners to become more involved in efforts to improve school life, the safe and accepting schools team found it easy to organize several activities:

  • An onsite camp held in September where staff and students participated in team-building activities such as stomp-dancing, community clean-up and an arts-based social justice presentation.
  • An opportunity for First Nation community members to present to primary students on dance and technology.
  • A diversity tour, led by the local police services, of religious buildings to help students gain a better understanding of various cultures and belief systems represented within the community.
  • Student Voice initiatives, such as town halls that allow students to voice their opinions and ideas on how to improve school climate, and the student government system where elected class representatives sit on teacher committees and contribute toward key decisions.
  • Parent and family engagement opportunities such as the SchoolInfoApp and Twitter feed to notify parents and families of upcoming events at school. Due to a partnership with a multilingual service, parents and families were able to participate in school workshops via telephone and/or email. Also, monthly Chai and Chat sessions, aided by translators, have facilitated greater dialogue between staff, administrators, parents and families.

As a result of their efforts to increase school community engagement, Aldergrove has increased their family volunteer participation in school programs by 20 per cent. Their Community Report Card received a 70 per cent response rate from families, and participants ranked the school in an 88-96 per cent range on student achievement, student and environmental well-being, technology and innovation, and equity/inclusivity.

Conestoga Public School, Brampton
Peel District School Board

Healthy signs call for healthy times
Addressing the health and safety of Conestoga Public School students was pushed to the top of the list, with motivation and perseverance, the safe and accepting schools team worked hard to build relationships with community partners and provide an inclusive and supportive school environment by engaging in the following initiatives:

  • The ‘Walking Wednesday' program was established after significant collaboration with regional partners on the traffic control conditions surrounding the school. As a result of improved traffic light timing, signage and lane markings, the presence of crossing guards and overall increased staff supervision, students are now able to walk and/or bike to school. Also, students who are unable to walk to school have the option of walking or running in the Kilometre Club at recess.
  • Chat ‘N' Chai and Nutritious Nights for parents were sponsored by community partners and increased awareness for parents on a variety of topics, such as parenting, mental health supports, the benefits of healthy eating and physical activity.
  • A student parliament (SP) program was established with representatives from Grades 3, 4 and 5 to provide a forum where they could share their concerns about student life, identify areas of concern with the school, and take action to address those concerns. SP leaders recognized the lack of alternative activities for some students, so they raised funds, purchased play equipment and organized outdoor activities for all students during lunch recess.

The increased level of engagement at Conestoga is thanks to the leadership of its safe and accepting schools team. Through the consistent promotion of health and well-being, its students have reported feelings of greater safety and engagement, healthier food choices by students at lunch time, and increased parent participation at events such as Nutrition Nights.

École élémentaire catholique Lamoureux – Enseignement personnalisé, Ottawa
Conseil scolaire de district catholique du Centre-Est de l'Ontario

Setting the stage for positive relationships
École Lamoureux recognized the need to create a climate of positive interaction, collaboration and engagement within the school community. In response, the following activities were designed to increase positive student behaviour and promote a safe and accepting school environment:

  • A Student Advisory Committee addressed issues identified in the student and parent opinion surveys, for example, with a mailbox for reporting bullying incidents in a safe and anonymous way.
  • Two school-wide assemblies were held monthly that focus on collaboration and positive behaviour support (“SCP Capsule”). The collaboration assemblies showcased student talent through performances, and the SCP Capsule assembly encouraged learning and discussion about positive behaviours that contribute to a harmonious school climate.
  • A “Stop, Walk, and Talk” approach was adopted by the school to support conflict resolution and put an end to bullying. The early primary and Grade 4 students collaborated to create a video explaining this approach to students and parents. Students also participated in a drawing contest to create posters that were displayed throughout the school describing the “Stop, Walk, and Talk” approach.

École Lamoureux has seen a considerable reduction in both minor and major incidents involving inappropriate behaviour over the past two years. Students are better equipped to resolve conflicts and raise safety-related concerns through the “Stop, Walk, and Talk” approach and forums such as the Student Advisory Committee. As a result, school climate survey revealed over 97 per cent of students feeling strongly they were helped, supported, respected and safe at school.

James Robinson Public School, Markham
York Region District School Board

A truly exceptional school – inside and out
James Robinson Public School is a small school whose diverse student population has – at times – experienced various challenges participating in all aspects of school life. To ensure a positive school experience for all students, the safe and accepting schools team supported the following activities:

  • Including all members of the school community in developing a universally accessible school yard that offers an outdoor classroom, a food and sensory garden, an outdoor stage and a “loose parts” play area.
  • Hosting Grandparents Day which provided an opportunity for grandparents – some of whom are former students – to celebrate intergenerational bonds, participate in daily physical activity exercise, learn about new technology, and be entertained by students with music and stories.
  • Developing the “Random Acts of Kindness” program to support local charities where students identified a need in their community, developed tasks and completed them as a way of giving back to their community.

The ongoing commitment of students, school council, parents and staff has made a difference to families throughout the community. As the first universally accessible outdoor space in its district, all students – regardless of their exceptionality – are integrated in day-to-day school activities, and enjoy opportunities to reach their full potential. School surveys reflect a resounding majority of students saying they feel safe and included.

L'Amoreaux Collegiate Institute, Toronto
Toronto District School Board

Building a vibrant school environment
The safe and accepting schools committee at L'Amoreaux recognized a need to transform their school into a community hub. Through the committee's determination and leadership, key partnerships were formed and school programs created to promote student success and well-being. These included:

  • Fun in Athletics: a youth-led program designed to promote healthy, active lifestyles and build leadership skills. This program benefits the community by modelling youth leadership roles for their junior counterparts, and fostering a positive public perception of the school.
  • Beds to Africa: in partnership with the Canadian Food for Children charity, students in the construction and design program built items for use in developing countries. This collaborative effort saw more than 150 students build over 300 beds.
  • The Boyzz to Men and Girls Gotta Have It clubs provided students with a safe space to gain tools to resolve conflict and supports needed for academic success.
  • The Interdisciplinary Robotics team designed, constructed and entered robots in local, regional and international competitions. Staff and parent support, as well as mentorship throughout the process, gave these students the confidence to visit local elementary schools and share their experiences with students aspiring to learn more in the field.

L'Amoreaux has made positive changes to all aspects of their school environment. An increase in student achievement, positive peer relationships and strong community partnerships has positively influenced students and encouraged them to help improve the lives of others. The school's student-focused space and youth-led activities have helped develop awareness of social justice challenges, and L'Amoreaux is now praised from within as “the most innovative and inspiring place to work.”

North Park Collegiate and Vocational School, Brantford
Grand Erie District School Board

Opening doors to access a positive learning environment
Student health and safety were two areas that needed to be addressed at North Park Collegiate. Ensuring all students see themselves reflected inside the school and feel supported by their school community was key to improving its school climate. Ready to take action, the school worked hard to build a school environment conducive to learning by engaging in the following activities:

  • Anti-bullying initiatives organized by a specially trained team of students who developed programs and resources to help those who have experienced bullying. They also organized events to empower students to respond to and report bullying incidents.
  • Improvements to the school's physical environment to make it more inclusive and accepting, such as introducing gender-neutral washrooms and posting signage in the school foyer that was translated into languages spoken at home by students and their families.
  • The Best Buddies program which encourages full integration and participation from students with special needs to organize school activities such as the recycling drive, breakfast program, school trips and the annual Grade 11 musical production.

The collaborative efforts of staff, parents and students at North Park Collegiate have resulted in a more positive and engaging school climate. The school has seen a decrease in bullying incidents and an increase in engagement among all students and staff. The school community is better equipped to address issues affecting student safety, mental health and well-being. Thanks to the transformational change of the school's culture, a student mentor describes the school environment as a place where “any couple” can walk down the hallways without fear of being bullied.

Notre Dame High School, Ottawa
Ottawa Catholic District School Board

Healthy habits, healthy students
Notre Dame's journey to increase the achievement and overall well-being of its students has not been easy. Results from the school's climate survey revealed that mental health issues were a root cause of student attendance issues. The safe and accepting school team found the right path to success by leading the following school activities that promote a positive and inclusive environment for all:

  • The Helping Hands Team developed education and awareness programs that increase awareness of student mental health and well-being. A variety of student-led activities to help students manage anxiety during stressful times included organizing relaxation classes, administering student stress quizzes and providing a program on mental health conditions.
  • The Healthy Transitions Program, facilitated by the local public health staff, was also established to ease the transition into high school for the Grade 7 and 8 feeder-school students.
  • Students partnered with local agencies and school councils in the district to pilot several initiatives to foster a stronger connection to its feeder schools. These student leaders fostered mentoring relationships with the feeder school students and planned their school's recess and activity day event.
  • An annual multicultural event included an evening of traditional ethnic cuisines, talent show and a parent panel discussion on challenges faced by newcomers and how to improve their school experience.

Fostering and maintaining the team's collaborative efforts have truly made a positive impact on Notre Dame's school climate. By giving students an opportunity to be part of the solution, the school's suspension rate has gone down by 56 per cent, reports of violent incidents are non-existent, vandalism is no longer an issue, and participation at the annual multicultural school event has grown from 30 to 171 students. Improvements in student achievement, attendance and behaviour have been acknowledged and commended by school staff and students.

St. Alfred Catholic Elementary School, Mississauga
Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board

Breaking ground in student engagement
Supporting all St. Alfred students – physically, spiritually, emotionally and socially – was vital to improving their health, safety, well-being and overall engagement. Using the school's Catholic virtues as a foundation, they built a positive school climate through the following activities:

  • The “Caught You Caring” bullying prevention campaign: Throughout the school year, students who exemplify positive behaviour are rewarded with a ballot for a draw to be acknowledged for their actions with announcements and congratulatory certificates.
  • Ecological initiatives to promote students' environmental stewardship: The Eco-Eagles Ecology Team, composing Grade 4-8 students, organized waste reduction campaigns, recycling drives and gardening projects, and collaborated with several community partners to plan events about Earth Hour.
  • Initiatives to promote healthy eating and physical activity: The school's Health and Wellness Committee led monthly events encouraging students to walk to school and promoting the benefits of eating vegetables, whole grains and dairy products. They also opened a travelling tuck shop with healthy snacks and organized an annual school/community aerobathon.

St. Alfred's has seen the fruits of their labour. This Eco Gold-certified school has increased their waste diversion from 27 to 47 per cent, and fostered partnerships to successfully host parent workshops and a variety of co-curricular student activities. An anonymous bullying awareness survey conducted online found that 92 per cent of students felt safe at school, and feedback from parents and community partners suggests that they find the school welcoming and engaging.

Tilbury Area Public School, Tilbury
Lambton Kent District School Board

Tapping into student engagement
The student leadership team at Tilbury Area Public School needed to create a greater sense of engagement, inclusion and acceptance. The team provided opportunities for all students, including English Language Learners (ELL), to participate in school life by providing the following activities:

  • Organizing school assemblies, spirit days and fundraising events for charitable causes, helping younger students in the playground, organizing assemblies, and leading outings to local community spots such as a nursing home.
  • Encouraging all students to fill a classroom bucket with tickets of positive actions that they observe their peers taking with the chance of earning a reward, such as an extended recess, themed day or potluck lunch. These class buckets are then combined with a larger school bucket, and when filled, the students are rewarded with a school-wide celebration.
  • Surveying all Grade 5-8 ELL students, families and community members on their challenges with the school, and gaining insight into what their ideal school looks like.

These efforts have resulted in several positive improvements to the school's physical and social environment. As a result of surveying their school community, the team embraced their multicultural school community by updating their library collection, providing translation services for a television monitor, and providing newsletters to help families feel more included and connected. Many student clubs have been formed to meet the interests and needs of all students. EQAO assessments are exceeding provincial averages, suspensions have declined by 80 per cent, and the school is attracting and retaining 75 per cent more students.

White Oaks Secondary School, Oakville
Halton District School Board

A school's strength in numbers
White Oaks Secondary School serves the largest number of at-risk students in the district. With more than 1,800 students at its two large campuses, new students in particular feel overwhelmed due to its size and the number of academic programs. Many students are disengaged and in need of credit recovery due to absences and other circumstances that have negatively impacted their lives. Motivated by the desire to succeed, the safe and accepting schools team focused its efforts on developing long-term strategies to ensure that all students are academically and emotionally engaged. Activities included:

  • A guest speaker series that allowed students to understand the impact of bullying, and the importance of building and fostering a caring, safe and inclusive school community. Filmmakers and the father of a young man featured in a documentary were invited to share their insights on bullying. Students also participated in interactive activities that focused on bullying experiences among girls.
  • Student-led activities focused on celebrating diversity by working with school clubs, such as the Gay-Straight Alliance and Awareness and Activism Association, to organize school assemblies, proms and social justice initiatives. They created and posted oversized posters of students throughout the school and raised bullying awareness with purple t-shirts worn by staff that read “Bullying Stops Here.”
  • Programs to support students facing psychological and social barriers to learning at school included the Full-On Recovery Time alternative education program and the COMPASS mental health program.

The hard work to improve school climate has led to a combined student recovery success rate of 66 per cent from the credit recovery programs for at-risk students, and a drop in first-semester suspensions of more than 50 per cent over the past two years. Increased student engagement and participation in school activities and decision-making opportunities have given students and staff a sense of belonging.