Early Childhood Services (ECS), in the Guide to Education, refers to programming offered by school authorities prior to compulsory schooling that meets the diverse needs of young children and their families. Pre-Kindergarten refers to the two years of educational programming before Kindergarten. Kindergarten is part of the ECS continuum of programs and refers specifically to the education program for children in the year prior to Grade 1.
In ECS programs, young children participate as active learners within developmentally appropriate learning experiences and develop knowledge, skills and attitudes that lay the foundation for subsequent learning.
ECS programs may be offered in accordance with section 21 of the Education Act. As per section E1.2(5) of the Funding Manual for School Authorities, an approved ECS operator must be prepared to accept and organize programming for all funded children for whom programming is requested, including children with disabilities or who require specialized supports and services.
The guiding principles within the Kindergarten Program Statement (English and French versions) are the basis of all ECS programs. Additionally, these program statements describe the learning that is foundational for future learning and development.
Pre-Kindergarten, as part of ECS programming, is intended for children who require additional supports prior to their Kindergarten year. Children who are eligible include those who are learning English as a second language or who require Francisation, those who are gifted and talented, and those who are diagnosed with a mild/moderate/severe disability/delay.
Kindergarten, as part of ECS programming, is intended for children in the year prior to entry into Grade 1 and shall be planned and implemented to help children achieve the learner expectations outlined in the Kindergarten Program Statement, the Programme d’éducation pour la maternelle – Français langue première or the Programme d’éducation pour la maternelle – Immersion.
Minimum Hours of Instruction: Early Childhood Services
As per the Funding Manual for School Authorities, all school authorities that provide an ECS program must provide children with a minimum of 475 hours of instruction during a school year.
For children with severe disabilities or severe language delay, ECS operators must provide access to a minimum of 400 hours of instruction. A school authority may operate a full-day educational program, totalling access to a minimum of 800 hours of teacher-directed instruction per year, and/or a half-day educational program, totalling access to a minimum of 400 hours of teacher-directed instruction per year, under all of the following conditions:
- An Alberta certificated teacher takes the lead role in the program planning process and takes responsibility for ensuring that each child receives instruction, services and supports in order to meet the IPP goals.
- A program that provides access to less than 400 hours of teacher-directed instruction will not qualify for funding.
- Programs providing access to less than 800 hours but greater than 400 hours will be funded as a half-day program (400 hours).
- Two separate 400-hour programs cannot be combined or attended in two different school authorities to create an 800-hour program.
Definition of Instruction: Early Childhood Services
Instruction is the process in which Alberta certificated teachers take responsibility for ensuring that learning activities for children are directed toward achieving the outcomes of approved programs of study and/or individualized program plans (IPPs)/instructional support plans (ISPs) through:
- face-to-face interaction with children for the purpose of teaching and assessing children’s achievement of outcomes, and/or
- interaction with children who are engaged in classroom learning in a Kindergarten, preschool, playschool, daycare or child-care setting
ECS teachers are expected to take the lead role in the program planning process and take responsibility for ensuring that each child receives the required hours of instruction, services and supports in order to meet their IPP/ISP goals.
Teacher-directed instruction does not mean that the individual is in a classroom and delivering instruction to a child or group of children with severe disabilities or severe language delay for a minimum of 400 hours per school year. Rather, teacher-directed instruction must be scheduled in a manner that is flexible enough to accommodate daily, weekly and monthly adjustments that best support the learning of a child and/or a group of children. For additional information, see the Funding Manual for School Authorities. The teacher must fulfill all requirements in the Teaching Quality Standard.
Instructional Time: Early Childhood Services
Instructional time includes time scheduled for the purposes of instruction and other activities for children where direct child–teacher interaction and supervision are maintained.
Instructional time does not include:
- teacher convention days
- professional development days
- teacher planning days
- staff meetings
- statutory and school authority–declared holidays
- lunch breaks
- time taken for the registration of children
Program Option for Remote Areas
A child who is eligible for ECS and who lives in a remote area that has no ECS program within a reasonable transportation distance may be served by an ECS home program. The ECS home program must be planned, delivered and evaluated by an Alberta certificated teacher, and must be composed of at least 22 visits to the home of one and a half hours or longer per visit.
For additional information, see the Funding Manual for School Authorities.
For individual children with disabilities who live in a remote area, the ECS operator should contact School Accreditation, Standards and Print Services to discuss program options. For contact information, see Appendix 1.