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.
Definition of Instruction
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
Definition of Teacher-Directed Instruction
For ECS programming for children diagnosed with severe disabilities or severe language delay and moderate language delay, an Alberta certificated teacher takes the lead role in the program planning process and takes responsibility for ensuring each child receives instruction, services and supports in order to meet the 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 for either 300, 400, 475 or 800 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 a child and/or a group of children’s learning.
- Teacher-directed instruction can take place in a variety of settings like classrooms, playschools, preschools and daycares.
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
Teacher-Directed Instructional Time
For ECS programming for children diagnosed with severe disabilities or severe language delay and moderate language delay, teacher-directed instruction may include:
- IPP/ISP development
- lesson planning
- assessment of child's learning
- reporting progress to parents
- liaison and coordination of IPP/ISP activities with playschool, preschool, etc. staff
- transition planning for following school year
- individual sessions with parents and their child
- coordination of direct and/or consultative services from therapists in support of the child's IPP/ISP goals
Other instructional activities may include visits to the child's home to coach parents and caregivers on specific skill/strategies related to the child’s learning, or, demonstration of child learning in child-parent-teacher conferences as a means of reporting the results of the teacher’s evaluation of the child.
- Examples of other professionals are speech language pathologist, occupational therapist, physical therapy, psychologist, and behaviour specialist.
Roles/activities of other professionals may include:
- participating in IPP/ISP meetings with family and teacher(s)
- parent consultation and strategy demonstrations
- direct services to child and/or teacher
- teacher consultation on programming goals
- conducting formal and informal assessment of progress
- location or classroom observations
- record keeping
- contributing to reports for parents (for example, monthly progress reports, report cards, etc.)
Minimum Hours of Instruction
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.
Minimum Hours of Teacher-Directed Instruction
For children diagnosed with severe disabilities or severe language delay and moderate language delay, half-day ECS programs must provide access to a minimum number of hours of teacher-directed instruction per year as follows:
- Children 2 years, 8 months to 3 years, 7 months – minimum of 300 hours
- Children 3 years, 8 months to 4 years, 7 months – minimum of 400 hours
- Children 4 years, 8 months and older – minimum of 475 hours
A program that provides access to less than the required minimum hours as defined above will not qualify for funding. School authorities may operate a full-day educational program, totalling access to a minimum of 800 hours of teacher-directed instruction per year. Programs providing more than half-time program requirements but less than 800 hours will be funded at the half-day rate. Separate programs cannot be combined to create a 300/400/475/800 hour program, for example 2 separate 400 hour programs cannot be combined, or attended in 2 different authorities to create an 800 hour program.
For children diagnosed with severe disabilities or severe language delay and moderate language delay, ECS programming hours may include:
- up to 20% of total required hours in half and full day programs for children 2 years, 8 months to 4 years, 7 months, and
- up to 10% of total required hours in half and full day programs for children 4 years, 8 months and older
in parent and child engagement sessions, such as visits to the child's home and demonstration of skills and strategies to parents and/or caregivers.
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.