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Ford government says full-day ‘learning’ will stay, but it won’t necessarily be kindergarten

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The Ontario government is trying to quell speculation about its stance on full-day kindergarten, saying it is committed to keeping “full-day learning” in place for four and five-year-olds.

CBC Toronto has obtained clarification from the Ministry of Education that the announcement does not mean full-day kindergarten will continue beyond the 2019-2020 school year.

Instead, children will have some form of learning environment to go to, but exactly what that will look like will depend on consultations that are currently ongoing. 

The announcement, made in a statement Friday, comes one day after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took aim at Premier Ford at a townhall Thursday in Milton, Ont. over the possible cuts.

With campaign-style rhetoric heating up ahead of the federal election, Trudeau said he was “deeply concerned” about comments made by Ford, when the premier wouldn’t guarantee that full-day kindergarten would continue beyond the next school year.

Government claims it’s been ‘clear from the beginning’

“I can assure you one thing — any decision that’s made is going to be better, it’s not going to be worse. As far as I’m concerned, there’s a lot of areas of education that are broken that need to be fixed,” Ford told reporters Wednesday.

In Friday’s statement, education minister Lisa Thompson said the government had been “clear from the beginning that we are listening to parents and consulting with our education partners to modernize and improve Ontario’s education system from kindergarten to Grade 12.”

The move comes amid ongoing consultations on a range of measures, including the possibility of removing class size caps for kindergarten and primary grades.

Full-day kindergarten was introduced by former Liberal premier Dalton McGuinty and was fully rolled out in 2014. It saves families thousands of dollars a year in child-care costs, but it costs the government $1.5 billion a year.

The Progressive Conservative government says the proposed moves are necessary to trim a deficit they peg at $14.5 billion — though the financial accountability officer says it’s closer to $12 billion.

The Ministry of Education’s own research shows that full-day kindergarten helps language and cognitive development, and means kids are more likely to achieve academic success in Grade 1.

Research from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education also showed that kids who had been in full-day kindergarten scored higher on reading, writing and number knowledge, and were better able to self-regulate, or manage stresses.

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