Ukrainian Cooperative Nursery School of Toronto
The Co-operative Secretariat
New Economy Development Group
March 31, 2006
The Ukrainian Co-operative Nursery School of Toronto Inc. (SVITLYCHKA) was established in the early 1960's by a group of parents looking for a strong academic program to help their children retain their Ukrainian language and culture. Focused on goals of heritage retention and academic excellence, the school has evolved in an ever changing environment using a co-operative model that includes a high level of parent-member involvement. Each family has an equal voice in the operation and development of the school, and participates in various activities such as fundraising, program development, and board governance. Parents also assist teachers in the classroom on a rotating basis which helps to reduce operating costs. Over the years, a continually changing membership has enabled the school to access a wide variety of expertise from its members, such as marketing, accounting, fundraising, and business administration.
All instruction at the school is in Ukrainian. The school prides itself on offering a combination of strong academics, exceptional teaching staff, and a nurturing and positive environment. In general, the school has hired teachers from Ukraine who have a high level of education and extensive teaching experience. These teachers bring together the more structured teaching style of Ukraine with Canadian educational norms to prepare children for full-time school.
The nursery school initially started with no kindergarten programs. Since then both a junior and a senior kindergarten program have been added, which enables children to participate in an enriched pre-school environment right up to the time they enter school on a full-time basis. Currently, SVITLYCHKA offers education in three program areas to children between the ages of 30 months and 6 years. While enrolment has varied over the years in response to changing family demographics, neighbourhood evolution, and immigration patterns, the parent body is typically comprised of 30-40 families.
Each year the school undertakes a number of successful fundraising activities which raise capital to offset increasing operating expenses. These fundraising events also actively engage the community in the nursery school and the Ukrainian culture. The support of parent-members and the business community have been an important factor in the success of the school in this area. However, a key obstacle to increasing fundraising revenues in the future is the difficulty in obtaining charitable status.
SVITCHLYKA has operated successfully as a small, non-profit organization for over forty years with minimal government support. In the past several years, the school has managed to ensure break-even results in spite of lower registration numbers and escalating costs, which have been a challenge for the school as it strives to keep the program affordable for all families. As there appears to be little opportunity for government funding to compensate for increases in expenses, the school recognizes that it will need to look at recruiting a corporate sponsor as well as other options, in order to maintain the integrity of the pre-school program and make the school financially accessible to all families wishing to retain their Ukrainian language and culture.
Table of contents
- 1. Introduction
- 2. Descriptive Profile and Contextual Background
- 3. Evolution of the Ukrainian Co-operative Nursery School of Toronto
- 4. Lessons Learned
- 5. Bibliography
- Appendix A: Factors Affecting the Provision of Child Care in Canada
- Appendix B: Steps in the Development of a Pan-Canadian System of Early Learning and Child Care
- Appendix C: Demographic Profile of Toronto Wards 3 to 6, 13, 14
1.1 Purpose of the Project
The Ukrainian Co-operative Nursery School of Toronto Inc. case study is one of seven independent case studies commissioned by the Co-operatives Secretariat, at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.
The seven co-operatives included in this series of studies are geographically representative of Canada and focused in six priority areas: adding value to agriculture; improving access to health and homecare; supporting economic development in rural, remote and northern communities; developing aboriginal communities; integrating immigrants into Canadian communities; and encouraging community solutions to environmental challenges. The Ukrainian Co-operative Nursery School of Toronto is located in southern Ontario and offers a language and cultural program in an academic setting.
The purpose for undertaking this series of case studies is to examine and understand particular co-operative business practices and responses to specific challenges and opportunities. The mandate and activities of co-operatives across Canada clearly places them in the forefront of an approach which emphasizes both social and economic objectives. An examination of co operative business practices and the challenges and practices is illustrative to persons interested in using the co-operative model to promote their interests. Collectively and individually, these case studies will provide direction upon which to build and innovate within the co-operative movement. This series of case studies has been developed in cooperation with an advisory steering committee established by the Co-operatives Secretariat composed of individuals with backgrounds in co-operative development, business and community economic development, and a variety of sector expertise.
The seven co-operatives for this series of case studies were selected through discussions with the Co-operatives Secretariat and their Co-operative Development Initiative Steering Committee. Representative co-operatives with valuable experience were chosen from different regions of the country that might be of interest to the co-operative community across the country.
To collect the information to develop this case study, the consultant was provided with key documents, reports and websites related to the cooperative and the sector. In addition, a number of key informant interviews were conducted. A draft of the report was provided to the co-operative to review and comment on before the case study was completed.
2. Descriptive Profile and Contextual Background
The Ukrainian Co-operative Nursery School of Toronto Inc. (SVITLYCHKA) was established in the early 1960's as a parent-run co-operative nursery school offering language and cultural retention for pre-school children. Located 404 Willard Avenue in the southwest section of the City of Toronto, the school currently offers education at the pre-school and kindergarten levels to children between the ages of 2 and 6. In addition to instruction in the Ukrainian language, the school provides social interaction and community building for parents and children. Parent membership and student enrollment has changed over the life of the organization, partly in response to changing family demographics and immigration patterns in the Toronto region. As of the fall of 2005, a total of 31 children were enrolled in the three pre-school programs offered by SVITLYCHKA.
2.2 The Parent Co-operative Pre-school Model
A parent co-operative pre-school is organized by a group of families with similar philosophies, who hire trained teachers to provide their children with a quality pre-school experience.Footnote 1 In this type of co-operative model, the school is administered and maintained by the parents of the children enrolled, often on a non-profit basis. In order to reduce costs, parents assist teachers in the classroom on a rotating basis and participate in activities such as fundraising, program development, and board governance.
The co-operative structure provides each family with an equal voice in the operation and development of the school. The board of directors is elected by the members on the basis of one member/one vote. As co-owners of the school, parents are able to work closely with professional teaching staff to ensure their children are receiving high quality education and care.
Nursery schools in Ontario are subject to the provisions of the provincial Day Nurseries Act administered by the Ministry of Children and Youth Services. The Ministry issues licenses to operators of both day nurseries and private-home day care nurseries. According to the Act, anyone providing temporary care and guidance for more than five children under the age of 10, who are not of common parentage, must be licensed.Footnote 2 Regulations are specified in the Act that nursery schools must observe with respect to premises, equipment and furnishings, playground, staff, health, nutrition, licensing, and teacher/student ratios.
Specifically, each day nursery must have a supervisor who holds a diploma in early childhood education from an Ontario College of Applied Arts and Technology; or has an equivalent academic qualification; or has at least two years of experience working in a day nursery with children who are at the same ages and developmental levels as the children in the day nursery where the supervisor is to be employed; and is approved by a Ministry Director. The ratio of staff to children is 1:8 for children from 30 months up to and including 5 years of age, with a maximum of 16 children in a group. Centres are inspected by the Ministry to ensure compliance with the standards set out in the Day Nurseries Act.
The Toronto and District Parent Co-operative Pre-School Corporation (PCPC) is a non-profit organization that serves co-operative nursery school members in south-central Ontario.Footnote 3 This agency currently has 59 members of which 29 are located in the City of Toronto. There are two co-operatives operating in the Etobicoke region of Toronto which are members of PCPC. One is the Ukrainian Co-operative Nursery School of Toronto. The other organization is the Sonechko Nursery School and Daycare which offers a daycare program and setting.
2.3 The History of the Ukrainian Co-operative Nursery School of Toronto
SVITLYCHKA was established as a co-operative in the early 1960's by a small group of young mothers. Their objective was to create a first-class nursery school that would foster child development by offering a top quality academic program delivered by highly qualified teachers.
The founding parents were a cohesive group who had an existing bond from working together with young boys and girls in PLAST—the Ukrainian Scouting program. The establishment of the nursery school was viewed as an outgrowth of the Ukrainian Scout movement as well as the existing connection between the parents. Under the leadership of one individual who acted as a champion for the project, the parents worked together to create a school that would provide their children with the advantages of being bilingual as well as retaining their Ukrainian language and culture. All of the founding mothers had come to Canada as children and enjoyed the added benefit of socializing and working together at the nursery school.
In the early years of operation there were 15-20 children enrolled in the nursery school program. Two teachers were employed shortly after the school opened. Tuition fees were sufficient to cover operating costs and as a result fundraising activities were minimal. For the first couple of years, the co-operative was able to operate on a rent-free basis out of a building that also housed the Ukrainian Scouting movement (PLAST).
2.4 The SVITLYCHKA Program
"SVITLYCHKA is the premier Ukrainian pre-school, with all parents desiring to send their children to the school."
Vision Statement of the Ukrainian Cooperative Nursery School of Toronto
The pre-school enrichment program offered at SVITLYCHKA focuses on building standard educational skills, as well as knowledge of the Ukrainian language and culture. Academic instruction, coupled with opportunities for socialization and cultural immersion, fills a need for social interaction and community building for parents and children alike.
All instruction at the school is in Ukrainian. Traditional cultural elements, such as the use of folktales, are incorporated by the school in its pre-school and kindergarten curriculum to provide an enriched Ukrainian environment for students. The school prides itself on offering a combination of strong academics, exceptional teaching staff, and a nurturing and positive environment. The school is licensed by the provincial Ministry of Children and Youth Services and is subject to the laws and regulations of the Day Nurseries Act.
SVITLYCHKA has always placed a great deal of importance on hiring teachers with superior qualifications. In keeping with the Day Nurseries Act, at least one teacher on staff has an Early Childhood Education qualification. The school traditionally hires teachers from Ukraine who have a high level of education (often at the Masters level) and extensive teaching experience. These teachers bring together the more structured teaching style of Ukraine with Canadian educational norms to prepare children for full-time school. Consistent communication between teaching staff and parents helps to maximize each child's individual development.
The program at SVITLYCHKA has been designed to use Ukrainian heritage in a way that is outward looking and meaningful. There is an emphasis on maximizing the creative potential of each child through art, writing, storytelling, and song. Traditional elements of the Ukrainian culture have been incorporated in the program framework in order to enrich the children's view of the world and build a positive self-concept. The philosophy of the school also fosters and builds upon the basic virtues of co-operation, respect and independence. Although not required by the provincial ministry, both the junior kindergarten and senior kindergarten programs comply with the Ministry of Education guidelines. The school uses the curriculum of the Ministry and has chosen to comply with provincial guidelines in keeping with their emphasis on providing high quality education.
SVITLYCHKA offers education in three program areas to children between the ages of 30 months and 6 years—pre-school, junior kindergarten, and senior kindergarten. The parent body is typically comprised of 30-40 families and approximately 10-15 children are enrolled in any one of the three programs in a given year. Students are required to understand and speak Ukrainian and must be fully toilet trained in order to register at the school. As of September 2005, 31 children were enrolled for the 2005/06 school year—including 20 students in the nursery school program, 7 in the junior kindergarten program, and 4 in senior kindergarten. It is estimated that approximately 10% of the current student body are new immigrants, with the balance being primarily second generation Canadians.
"The program at SVITLYCHKA has enriched all three of my children's lives spiritually and emotionally and has provided them with the enrichment of Ukrainian traditions."
2.5 Co-operative Structure and Membership
The co-operative is responsible for organizing and operating the academic and social activities of the school. Parent-members have a high degree of ownership in the school and play an active role in directing their child's educational development. The school is supported by the parent-members in a number of functions such as fundraising, programming, teacher support, board participation, and an active role in the many events hosted annually by the school. At the start of each school year, parent-members are required to sign up for at least one area of involvement. Membership in the co-operative is automatic for those parents who have children enrolled in the school.
The membership of the school changes each year in response to the changing student body. Given that the school has programming for children from the time they are 30 months until 6 years, parents can be members of the co-op for a period of three to four years. Families with more than one child in the school could be involved for a longer period of time.
The board executive is comprised of six parent-members and is responsible for managing the organization as a business. The board is elected each year by the membership at the Annual General Meeting. Stewardship for bylaws, financial prudence, hiring of staff, salaries, parent issues, and development issues are all areas of board oversight. The composition of the board has typically included individuals who have expertise in areas such as law, accounting, marketing, and business.
3. Evolution of the Ukrainian Co-operative Nursery School of Toronto
3.1 A Changing Environment for Child Care
Over the last several decades a number of factors have contributed to changes in the provision of child care in Canada. Changing family demographics due to a number of trends have resulted in an increase in the number of working parents. The Canadian Child Care Federation reportsFootnote 4 that as of 2001, 53% of Canadian children between the ages of 6 months and 5 years were in some form of child care, up from 42% in 1995.Footnote 5 A variety of pre-school child care programs have been developed to address this growing need including full and part-time childcare centers and nursery schools.
While Canada does not currently have a national system of child care, the federal and provincial/territorial governments have taken a number of steps towards a pan-Canadian system of early learning and child care in the last five years.Footnote 6 In Ontario, the provincial government articulated its vision for families with young children through its Best Start PlanFootnote 7, which was announced in November 2004. This plan is expected to take at least ten years to implement and will begin with a major expansion of child care, as well as quality improvements in the regulated early learning and child care system, and implementation of the full Best Start vision in three demonstration communities in the province.
Pre-school programs such as that offered by SVITLYCHKA appeal to a niche market looking for a strong academic program that fosters heritage language and cultural retention. A study conducted on heritage language learning and ethnic identity maintenanceFootnote 8 found that it is common practice for many immigrant children to attend a heritage language school from an early age, especially in large metropolitan areas when heritage language classes are offered by community organizations or as part of the regular school program. A study of 76 ethnic language schools in Toronto, Edmonton, and VancouverFootnote 9 identified the significant potential of these schools for developing ethnic identity, training of future ethnic leaders, and drawing together community members through various symbolic activities. As well, documentation shows that the literacy of minority students in their ethnic language can also support overall academic achievement.
In Toronto, and in keeping with the overall trend in the province, from 1996 to 2001 there has been an 8.2% decline in the number of children under the age of 5 (Statistics Canada). This factor coupled with a general decrease in the number of individuals having Ukrainian as their mother tongue or home language has impacted the overall market for Ukrainian pre-school in the Toronto area.
For a more in-depth discussion of the changing environment in the area of child care in Canada see Appendix A—Factors Affecting the Provision of Child Care in Canada.
3.2 Program Expansion
The nursery school initially started with no kindergarten programs at either the junior or senior levels. The Junior Kindergarten program was added in mid 1980's to enable continuity in the program. The Senior Kindergarten program was added in 2001/02 and provided a third level of education for children in the school. Adding this third program has helped with the management of the overall program as the teachers can adjust their schedules in response to changes in yearly enrolment at the different levels. Smaller classes can be combined where appropriate to maximize teacher resources and minimize overhead. The addition of Senior Kindergarten also enables children to participate in an enriched pre-school program right up to the time where they must enter school on a full-time basis. Children who graduate from SVITCHYKLA can continue to receive instruction in the Ukrainian language and culture at one of the four Ukrainian schools in the Toronto area.
Well qualified teachers are a key component of SVITCHYKLA. The school is fortunate in that the pool of quality teachers to recruit from has been good. Teachers at the co-operative have typically had extensive teaching experience and education gained in Ukraine and other eastern European countries. However, in Canada these credentials are not always formally recognized by the provincial school systems. As a result, the nursery school has been able to hire teachers with superior experience and skills who more than meet the provincial criteria for nursery school programs. These teachers are able to provide students with an enriched curriculum that has all of the components of traditional nursery school and kindergarten programs, as well as instruction in Ukrainian. A number of children are also enrolled in nursery schools which offer programming in English to support a solid grounding in two languages.
A quantitative survey of the membership was conducted in 2002 which indicated high satisfaction levels with the program. According to member responses, SVITCHYLKA's key strength is the development of the Ukrainian language, culture and religion, followed closely by the development of a social circle and skills in a Ukrainian environment. More recent qualitative data indicated that children attending SVITCHYLKA are extremely well prepared for full-time school.
The school has a forty plus year history of operation and has developed a good reputation in the community. Enrolment has varied over the years in response to changing family demographics, neighbourhood evolution, and immigration patterns. The school membership is currently comprised mostly of families who are middle class; first generation parents; Ukrainian speaking at home; and, want to continue with their Ukrainian language and traditions. There are also a small number of families who have recently immigrated to Canada.
Each winter, a recruitment blitz to attract new students and parent-members for the following year is carried out through advertising with Ukrainian radio stations, TV, day schools, businesses, Saturday schools, and churches across the city. The school also maintains a presence at community events and festivals throughout the year. A direct mail campaign carried out in conjunction with Ukrainian churches helps to reach new immigrants. Close linkages are also maintained with a Ukrainian pre-school drop-in group which provides about 80% of the total student population for SVITCHYLKA.
Total enrolment for 2005/06 school year is down slightly from 2004/05, at which time 33 families were enrolled with 17 children in nursery school, and 9 and 7 in JK and SK respectively. Full capacity was achieved in the 2001/02 school year, however the period from 2003/04 to 2005/06 has seen lower enrolment. This decrease can be largely attributed to a shrinking target market. Statistics indicate there are fewer Ukrainian speaking families in the City of Toronto (Statistics Canada). Additionally, the co-operative nursery school model creates challenges for an increasing number of working parents with respect to parent participation, arranging transportation, and care for their child during non-school hours. Furthermore, the nursery school is located in a neighbourhood which is central to its target market but is experiencing increasing rental costs. Any increase in tuition fees, as a result of higher operating costs, can have a negative impact on the pool of potential students, especially for families who have recently immigrated to the Canada and may have limited resources.
Enrolment as of September 2005 for the 2005/06 school year was 31 children—with 20 registered in nursery school, 7 in junior kindergarten, and 4 in senior kindergarten. A number of the current student body are second generation students at the school as their parent(s) also attended SVITCHYLYKA. The co-operative operates in conjunction with the traditional school year with no programming offered during the summer months. Classes for 2005/06 run from September to June annually on the days and times listed below.
Class Schedule and fees for all grades for the year 2005-2006
|Nursery SchoolFootnote *
- 3 half days/week
|9:00 - 11:45 a.m.||9:00 - 11:45 a.m.||9:00 - 11:45 a.m.||$250|
|Nursery SchoolFootnote *
- 4 half days/week
|9:00 - 11:45 a.m.||9:00 - 11:45 a.m.||9:00 - 11:45 a.m.||9:00 - 11:45 a.m.||$275|
|Junior KindergartenFootnote **||12:45 - 3:45 p.m.||12:45 - 3:45 p.m.||12:45 - 3:45 p.m.||12:45 - 3:45 p.m.||$275|
|Senior KindergartenFootnote ***||12:45 - 3:45 p.m.||12:45 - 3:45 p.m.||12:45 - 3:45 p.m.||12:45 - 3:45 p.m.||$275|
During the summer of 2005, the nursery school moved to a new location at 404 Willard Avenue in St. Paul's Runnymede Anglican Church. Prior to this, the co-operative rented space in two church halls, including the most recent location on South Kingsway Avenue. The selection of a new location for the school was based on a number of criteria including a Bloor West location, proximity to the subway, easy drop-off and good parking facilities, potential for an outdoor playground, and ideally not a basement location. In keeping with the trend of rising rental costs in the subject neighbourhood, the monthly rent for the nursery school has increased substantially as a result of the new location. The school has negotiated a 5 year lease for the current premises with the annual lease payment for each year to be increased by the average consumer price index for the preceding year.
In terms of fundraising, the co-operative has been very successful in its endeavours. Using creative ideas, drawing on the support of the local Ukrainian business community, and led by individual parents who have taken on a champion role, the school has been able to stage profitable fundraising events that are typically done by larger organizations with staff. Examples of fundraising events include a Ukrainian Art Show, large family festivals, and Children's Fair.
Fundraising is done throughout the year. Events such as the annual Children's Fair and Family Festival draw from the larger community and beyond the population of the school. The recent 40th Anniversary Fundraising Gala was especially successful and attracted past alumni from the school. This particular event, which was billed as family affair, raised over $13K. It offered a silent auction, activities for kids, food, music, dance, sales of arts and crafts, and prizes.
The school has been able to capture the unique market of a Ukrainian speaking school. The Ukrainian local business community (including private businesses and credit unions) has been very supportive of the school, especially in the area of fundraising where they often provide support/donations for special fundraising events.
The "2000-04 Strategic Plan" for the school outlined the goal of raising $50K for a contingency fund for the co operative. As of December 2005, approximately 80% of this goal has been realized. The money for this fund was donated by families and local credit unions which supported the various fundraising events that the school hosts. A small portion of this fund was used to finance recent moving and renovation costs, with the balance remaining unallocated and available for future rainy day expenses.
To support its fundraising goals and offer enhanced benefits to its supporters, SVITLYCHKA has made application for charitable status through the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency. Obtaining this status would provide the co-operative with the ability to issue tax receipts for personal and business donations. To date the nursery school has not succeeded in this effort. Although some schools have been successful, acquiring charitable status is typically not easy for schools. As some restrictions on obtaining charitable status have been recently lifted, the school may consider re-applying in next year or so if the chances of being successful appear more promising.
3.3 Financial Information
The City of Toronto subsidizes a portion of the costs of the school in the form of an annual "Wage Equalization" grant This funding amounts to approximately 10% of the school's operating budget. The subsidy is based on a calculation made by the province (which is not based on the number of teachers or enrolment) and has not changed in a number of years despite rising salary and operating costs at the school.
SVITLYCHKA is a stable organization, both financially and organizationally. It operates with a high level of management. Many parent-members are professionals who contribute their time and expertise to the organization. There are no paid employees in the organization outside of the two teachers who are currently on staff. Management and administration of the school and its programs are carried out by parent-members who volunteer their time to ensure a high degree of quality and reduced operating costs.
Over the past four years, the organization has managed to ensure break-even results in spite of lower registration numbers and escalating costs. Rent, insurance and salaries have the potential to drive operating expenses higher in the next several years. The organization recognizes that it will need to maintain financial prudence looking ahead and that increasing costs will be need to be balanced by continued strong fundraising efforts and increased registration.
In the 2002/03 school year, SVITLYCHKA became a member of the Toronto and District Parent Co-operative Preschool Corporation (PCPC). The PCPC is an umbrella group for co-operative pre-schools and has enabled SVITLYCHKA to tap into numerous resources, including consultation on operations, professional development, special needs programs and insurance requirements. Teachers have benefited from consultations with PCPC staff and the board has utilized several of the organization's resources.
Chart for the period from July 2001 to July 2005 with financial information dealing with the total revenue compared to the total expenses to understand the total asset of the nursery
|For the Year|
|Ending July 2005||Ending July 2004||Ending July 2003||Ending July 2002|
|Fee Revenues||$77,575Footnote *||$72,161||$78,992||$81,920|
|Unrestricted net assets||$24,627||$21,285||$15,470||$14,606|
Rising costs are a key issue for the Ukrainian Co-operative Nursery School of Toronto. Traditionally, real costs such as rent, salaries and insurance have been covered by tuition revenues, while fundraising has covered all other expenses. Accordingly, any rise in real costs must be passed on to the parents in the form of increased tuition fees. Although the school anticipates that enrolment numbers will stabilize in 2006 and provide increased revenues in the form of additional fees, real costs can be expected to continue rising in the future. While parents are able to offset a portion of the costs of running the school through their in-kind contribution of time and expertise, there is a limit to the amount of participation that can be expected from the members.
The membership has two options for responding to escalating costs if they wish to maintain the linguistic excellence of the program. Firstly, expenses can be passed on the parent-members in the form of increased tuition fees. However, a hike in fees has the potential to restrict the number of families who can afford to participate in the co-operative, especially in the case of those families who have recently immigrated to Canada. The other option is to raise additional revenues through expanded fundraising efforts. The school has been successful in its fundraising activities to date, but would be hampered by the lack of charitable status if significant funds were needed. Additional fundraising activities would also require further parent-member involvement, which could cause difficulties for working parents.
There appears to be little opportunity for government funding to compensate for increases in costs. An annual grant from the City of Toronto helps to offset operating expenses, however, the amount of this grant has not changed in the past ten years. As a result, the school recognizes that it will need to look at recruiting a regular corporate sponsor while continuing to investigate potential sources of government support. Looking ahead, the members realize that it will be important to keep the Ukrainian language and culture alive, as well as maintain the quality of the educational component of program. However, without further government support it will be challenging to maintain the current program over time.
Enrolment has been on the decline at SVITCHYKLA over the last several years. Trends such as a decrease in the number of children 5 years and under in Toronto, an increasing number of working parents who require full-time child care, and a decrease in the number of families speaking Ukrainian indicate continuing downward pressure on demand. The combination of decreasing enrolment and increasing costs has the potential to create a significant challenge for the co-operative in terms of maintaining financial stability and program integrity.
Changing Neighbourhood Demographics
The location of the school is an area that has traditionally been highly ethnic and immigrant- based with a large Ukrainian population. The area is now becoming trendy, and as a result property prices are increasing. This factor is driving people to relocate further west of the area and further away from the school. Transportation is already a key consideration for working parents who must make arrangements for their children to travel to and from the school.
Impact of New Federal Funding
Newly announced federal funding has the potential to create a significant number of new child care spaces in Ontario over the next five years. Additionally, the province is implementing its Best Start Plan which will be phased in over a ten year period. However, it is unclear how new government plans and funding will impact nursery schools such as SVITCHLYKA or other child care options in the City of Toronto.
Difficulty in Obtaining Charitable Status
SVITHCYLKA has operated successfully as a small, non-profit organization for over forty years with minimal government support. Collectively, each year, the parent-members make a significant in-kind contribution to the organization. The co-operative has been successful in its fundraising efforts which offset operating costs and help make the school financially accessible to families wishing to maintain their Ukrainian language and culture. As real costs rise, the need for fundraising will increase in order to maintain the affordability of tuition fees. The difficulty in obtaining charitable status severely restricts the ability of the school to increase its fundraising revenues.
4. Lessons Learned
SVITCHLYKA has consistently placed a high priority on hiring teachers with superior qualifications and experience. Access to a good pool of qualified teachers has been a key factor in the ability of the school to achieve this objective. A good match between the personal goals of the teachers and those of the parents, in terms of the value placed on child development, heritage, and use of the Ukrainian language, is also important. In addition, the school has strived to compensate its teachers fairly.
Program Quality and Evaluation
The nursery school has developed a good reputation for quality programming and delivery. Assisting children to become bilingual and retain their heritage language and culture are viewed as important components of child development by the members. From the outset, parents have had an active role in program development. The co-operative model supports this type of active involvement. The use of surveys allows the school to track parent-member satisfaction and gauge the preparedness of its students for full-time school.
The Role of Community Partners in the Start-up Phase
The role of PLAST, and the parents involved in that organization, was instrumental in the creation of the co-operative. The establishment of the nursery school was an outgrowth of the active Ukrainian Scouting movement in Toronto. A group leader in the PLAST organization acted as a catalyst for the establishment of SVITCHLYKA. The connection to PLAST also provided the school with the benefit of a rent-free location for the first several years of operation.
The membership of the co-operative is somewhat unique in that there is a constant turnover of parent-members. Membership duration may be as short as one year, or can extend for many years, and may be continuous or intermittent, depending on the age and number of children in a given family. In a number of cases, there are students enrolled whose parents also attended the school. This helps to preserve the organizational memory and maintain a sense of community.
The constant turnover of members is advantageous in that it allows for new ideas and expertise. At the same time, there is an ongoing need for orientation as new parent-members join the co operative. Information binders have been developed for specific board positions and parent roles, which are passed on to incoming members to assist in the orientation process.
Parent-members make a significant in-kind contribution to the school in terms of their time and expertise. There are no management or administrative staff employed at the school, which helps to keep overhead costs down. A combination of "champions" and "hard workers" in roles on the board and in key activities such as fundraising, have provided the school with a rich pool of resources. Participation in the school promotes a culture of volunteerism and provides members with opportunities to develop in areas where they might not have otherwise been involved, such as leadership development, team building, fundraising, etc.
Leadership & Governance
The organization is operated like a business. Leadership is provided through the board which is typically comprised of individuals with expertise in key areas such as accounting, business, law and marketing.
Over its forty plus year history, the organization has maintained financial stability. This stability has resulted from good stewardship and knowledgeable board members. The school is largely self-sufficient with little dependence on government funding, which can be unpredictable. Significant contributions of time and expertise by parent-members help to reduce overhead costs and increase revenues through fundraising events. These contributions by parent-members have not been given a financial value and are not reflected in the financial statements.
The school stages several fundraising activities each year. By offering ambitious and creative events, the school has been able to reach supporters beyond its own population. Parents play a key role in this area, and in the past, have championed some large scale events that generated a significant return. The support of the business community has also been an important factor in the success of the school in this area. The key obstacle to increasing fundraising revenues in the future is the difficulty in obtaining charitable status.
The Co-operative Model
The use of the co-operative model provides the school with the advantage of parent-member resources to help keep costs down. As active members in the co-operative, parents benefit from the opportunity to work closely with teaching staff to ensure a quality program for their children. At the same time, the input required from parent-members can present challenges for working parents who feel that they do not have time to help out.
Profiling Canada's Families III (2004). Vanier Institute of the Family, Ottawa, Canada.
Trends and Analysis, Early Childhood Education and Care in Canada 2004, Childcare Resource and Research Unit, University of Toronto, 2004.
Adaptation and Integration of New Immigrants: The Fourth Wave of Immigration from Ukraine in 1992-2001, Wsevolod Isajiv, University of Toronto, Canada.
Heritage Language Learning and Ethnic Identity Maintenance: A Case Study of the Chinese-Canadian Adolescents, Henry P.H. Chow, Prairie Centre of Excellence for Research on Immigration and Integration, April 2004.
Early Learning and Child Care in Canada—Moving Toward a Pan-Canadian System, Canadian Child Care Federation
Best Start Action Plan, July 2005,
Making the right choice: Investing in high quality early learning and child care in Ontario, (a Submission to the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs, Government of Ontario), Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care, February 2, 2004.
Websites of Interest:
- Child Care Advocacy Association of Canada
- Ontario Ministry of Children and Youth Services
- Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care
- Parent Cooperative Preschools International
- The Canadian Child Care Federation
- The Toronto and District Parent Co-operative Pre-School Corporation
Factors Affecting the Provision of Child Care in Canada
i) Family Demographics in Canada
In Canada, the provision of child care has changed dramatically in the last sixty years as a result of significant social, familial and economic changes in Canadian society.Footnote 10 Factors such as an increase in single parents, trends to smaller families, parents beginning their families later in life, and growth in the participation of women in the labour force have all had an impact on the need for access to child care across the country.
The Canadian Child Care Federation reportsFootnote 11 that as of 2001, 53% of Canadian children between the ages of 6 months and 5 years were in some form of child care, up from 42% in 1995.Footnote 12 The number of families in which both parents work outside the home is also increasing, with 7 out of 10 couples with children counting on two wages.Footnote 13 In two parent families, 71% of wives with pre-schoolers work outside the home. In single parent families, 60% of lone-parent mothers with pre-schoolers work outside the home.
A variety of pre-school child care programs are offered to address this growing need including full and part-time childcare centres and nursery schools. Hours of operation, minimum and maximum ages, closure dates, transportation, language, degree of educational instruction, access to complimentary services such as toy-lending libraries, and availability of financial assistance vary from one care centre to the next. Two noticeable differences between daycare centres and co-operative nursery schools are the level of parent involvement and hours of operation. In the co-operative nursery school model, parent-members have an active role as owners and participants at all aspects of operation. Day care centres often run as a more traditional business model requiring minimal parental involvement. The hours of operation for day care centres generally cater to working parents who require access to child care from early morning to early evening. Nursery school programs are typically offered over a shorter time frame.
The Childcare Resource and Research Unit at the University of Toronto, compiles data and information on child care policy and services. In a recent publication,Footnote 14 this organization reported that there were 745,254 regulated child care spaces in Canada in 2004—approximately double the number of spaces in 1992. While much of this growth occurred in the province of Quebec, most provinces experienced a positive gain in spaces over the same time period. In Ontario, an increase of 2.6% was recorded. Furthermore, about 80% of child care in Canada is operated on a non-profit basis, often by community-based or parent organizations. Interestingly, between 2001 and 2004, the increase in for-profit spaces in Ontario was three times that of non-profit spaces.
In terms of factors affecting potential demand for child care, the number of children ages 0-5 decreased in all provinces from 1992 to 2003 (a decrease of 211,000 Canada wide) while the number of children with mothers in the paid labour force rose steadily.
ii) Ukraine-Canada Immigration & Retention of Language and Culture
Immigration from Ukraine to Canada first began in the late 1800's with the majority of immigrants settling in Alberta.Footnote 15 A second wave of immigration took place between 1918 and 1939.Footnote 16 While much smaller in size, a third wave of immigration occurred following the end of WWI and by 1952, a total of 32,000 Ukrainians had immigrated to Canada.Footnote 17 As compared to previous immigration waves, a high proportion of the third wave of immigrants were professionals, politically active and strongly anti-communist. A number of these individuals assisted in the establishment of Ukrainian language and literature programs at universities in Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario (Toronto and Ottawa) and Quebec (Montreal).
The most recent wave of immigration to Canada began in the early 1980's and continued to see immigrants with high levels of education. A study conducted at the University of Toronto in 2001Footnote 18 found that although the newest wave of immigrants were less involved in the community than previous waves; still 92.3% of new arrivals interviewed felt it is important to pass on a sense of Ukrainian culture to their children. The study found that 50% of new immigrants send their children to a Ukrainian school while other activities, such as dance lessons and summer camps, are also used to help retain the Ukrainian language and culture.
A study conducted on heritage language learning and ethnic identity maintenance notes that language is both a part of a culture as well as a means for the transmission and preservation of culture.Footnote 19 This research looked at a number of studies on the topic of heritage language retention and found that it is common practice for many immigrant children to attend a heritage language school from an early age, especially in large metropolitan areas when heritage language classes are offered by community organizations or as part of the regular school program. A study of 76 ethnic language schools in Toronto, Edmonton, and VancouverFootnote 20 identified the significant potential of these schools for developing ethnic identity, training of future ethnic leaders, and drawing together community members through various symbolic activities. As well, documentation shows that the literacy of minority students in their ethnic language can also support overall academic achievement.
iii) Growing Federal Support for Child Care
As of December 2005, there is no national strategy in place for early learning and child care in Canada. Rather, each province and territory is responsible for child care within their own jurisdiction. The range of services, availability of subsidies and grants, and requirements for staff training and child/staff ratios vary from region to region. However, all the provinces and territories share a growing awareness and a larger voice from the community and child care advocates regarding the importance of good quality care for the health and well-being of Canadian children.Footnote 21 The need to improve funding and regulations to address this growing realization is also recognized.
The federal and provincial/territorial governments have taken a number of steps towards a pan-Canadian system of early learning and child care in the last five years.Footnote 22 In Ontario, these steps resulted in a multi-year funding agreement signed in November 2005 between the federal government and the Province in Ontario to support early learning and child care. Specifically, this agreement stated that Ontario will receive approximately $1.9 billion over five years to support its early learning and child goals.Footnote 23 Funding for the period ending March 31, 2006 has already been made available to the province.
An overview of the individual steps in the development of a pan-Canadian system of early learning and child care is outlined in Appendix B -"Steps in the Development of a Pan-Canadian System of Early Learning and Child Care".
iv) An Evolving Child Care and Early Learning Framework in Ontario
The province of Ontario articulated its vision for families with young children through its Best Start PlanFootnote 24, which was announced in November 2004. The vision of Best Start is "children in Ontario will be ready and eager to achieve success in school by the time they start Grade 1". This plan is expected to take at least ten years to implement beginning with the following key steps:
- a major expansion of child care with priority placed on children enrolled in Junior and Senior Kindergarten across the province during non-school hours and the summer months in order to provide a full day of early learning and care;
- quality improvements in the regulated early learning and child care system; and
- implementation of the full Best Start vision in three demonstration communities in the province (Timiskaming, Lambton/Kent, Hamilton)
The Agreement-in-Principle between the Government of Canada and the Province of OntarioFootnote 25 (May 2005) notes that the province of Ontario has agreed, subject to the availability of federal funding outlined in the February 2005 budget, that funds provided by the Government of Canada for the Best Start Plan will be invested in regulated early learning and child care programs and services for children under age six.
Regulated programs and services are defined as those that meet quality standards that are established and monitored by the Government of Ontario. Early learning and child care programs and services are defined as those supporting direct care and early learning for children in settings such as child care centres, family child care homes, pre-schools and nursery schools. Types of investment could include capital and operating funds, fee subsidies, wage enhancements, training, professional development and support, quality assurance, and parent information and referral. Programs and services that are part of the formal school system will not be included in this initiative.
According to the provincial Ministry of Children and Youth Services, there were 124,442 licensed child care spaces for children up to and including age five as of March 31, 2004. More than 4,000 new subsidized child care spaces were created by the province in 2004-05. The ministry forecasts that about 25,000 new licensed child care spaces will be created across the province by the end of 2007-08, with 5,855 of those spaces in the city of Toronto.Footnote 26
v) The Market for Ukrainian Pre-school in Toronto
In keeping with the overall trend in the province, there was a decline in the number of children under the age of 5 living in Toronto from 1996 to 2001 of 8.2% (Statistics Canada). Family demographics for the City of TorontoFootnote 27 indicate that as of 2001, 68% of all families have children (48.2 are couples and 19.7% are lone parents). The number of children at home and under the age of 6 years is 173,975.
In terms of immigrant status and place of birth, statistics reported by the City of Toronto (based on 2001 data from Statistics Canada) indicate that of the total population of people age 15 years and older (2,021,385 individuals), 58.3% percent are first generation Canadians, while 20.1% and 21.% are second and third generation respectively. Recent immigrants to Toronto total 280,655, of which 2.6% or 7,385 people were born in Ukraine. In general, the number of individuals having Ukrainian as their mother tongue or home language has decreased.
SVITLYCHKA is located in Ward #13 (Parkdale—High Park) of the City of Toronto, in the Etobicoke York Community Council Boundary. The nursery school draws primarily from the communities of south and central Etobicoke, Bloor West Village (Swansea), and High Park or Wards #3, #4, #5, #6, #13 and #14. A few families also travel from the communities of east Mississauga and downtown Toronto. Demographic information for these six wards is outlined in Appendix C—"Demographic Profile of Toronto Wards 3 to 6, 13, 14".
Statistics for these six wards as reported by the City of Toronto (based on the 2001 Census results from Statistics Canada) indicates that 4.3% of the total population or 14,235 individuals in the six wards outlined are of Ukrainian origin. Recent immigrants from Ukraine total 3,040, of which the highest percentage per ward is in neighbouring Wards #5 and #13. In all cases, there is a higher representation of first generation and third generation status (for the population 15 years and older from all origins) than second generation.
In all wards, there is a significant decrease in the number of children ages 5 and under from the period 1996 to 2001. This trend is in keeping with the rest of the province. For 12,045 individuals, Ukrainian was the first language learned at home in childhood and is still understood as of 2001. A much smaller number, or 4,860 individuals, reported Ukrainian as being the language spoken most often at home or on a regular basis. These two statistics are very relevant given that all children attending SVITLYCHKA must speak and understand Ukrainian and would most likely learn the language from their parents or other family members.
Steps in the Development of a Pan-Canadian System of Early Learning and Child Care
- 2001: The Early Childhood Development Agreement is signed by federal, provincial and territorial ministers. This commitment is the first one specific to the early years.
- 2003: The Multilateral Framework Agreement on Early Learning and Childcare is signed by the federal, provincial and territorial governments. In this step, governments agree on the principles of a national system and agree to specifically fund child care.
- 2004: A Canada Fit for Children is adopted by the federal government which identifies an early learning and child care system as a national priority. This document is Canada's response to the international agreement entitled A World Fit for Children.
- 2005: In February, the federal budget promises a $5 billion investment over five years for Canada to build a national system of early learning and child care. Provinces and territories will be engaged by the federal government in bilateral agreements. Details will differ on a regional basis, but all agreements will share the same framework and commitment to the principles of QUAD (quality, universally inclusive, accessible and developmental).
- 2005: In November, the federal government and Province of Ontario sign a multi-year funding agreement on early learning and child care. The agreement specifies that Ontario will receive approximately $1.9 billion over five years to support its early learning and child goals.Footnote 28 Funding for the period ending March 31, 2006 has already been made available to all the provinces.
- 2005: In December, as part of its election platform, the Liberal government announces that it will extend its subsidized child care and early learning program until 2015 and increase the total amount of funding to $11 billion from $5 billion. In response, the Conservative party proposes a payment of $1200 per year for every pre-school child, as well as $1.2 billion in grants or tax credits to encourage businesses and community groups to create 125,000 new day care spots over 5 years.Footnote 29 The NDP party outlines its Child Care Act which would see an initial investment of $1.8 billion, followed with $250 million increases in each of the next three years to create a total of 275,000 new child-care spaces.Footnote 30 The NDP stipulate that federal money would be targeted to licensed, non-for-profit child care, and not commercial, for-profit day care.
Demographics considered include: mother tongue, age and citizenship status for the year 2001
Wards 3,4, 5,6,13 & 14
|Unless otherwise stated, source of information is Statistics Canada, 2001 Census of Canada (as reported by the City of Toronto)|
|Total Population (2001)
|Population by age (2001):|
|Less than 5 years:
|Number of children 6 years or younger at home||173,975||3,185||3,170||3,590||3,630||3,360||3,900||20,835|
|Percentage of population 6 and under||21.8%||18.6%||17.9%||21.6%||22.7%||23.5%||28.8%||11.9%|
|Population having Ukrainian as Mother TongueFootnote *||Not in top 10 groups||1,820
|Population having Ukrainian as Home LanguageFootnote **||Not in top 10 groups||405
|Population having Ukrainian Origin||Not in top 10 groups||2,315
|Population (15+) by generation status:|
|Recent Immigrants from UkraineFootnote ***||7,385||420||575||715||565||505||260||3,040|
|Percentage of Total Recent Immigrants||2.6%||10.6%||12.1%||16.4%||12.6%||15.2%||3.9%|
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