The result of June’s provincial election will bring some changes to the classroom as students return in September.
During the campaign, Doug Ford committed to repealing the 2015 version of Ontario’s health and physical education curriculum – in particular the sexual education sections – with a pledge to replace it after a large-scale consultation. The premier also said his government would look at other areas of education, like mathematics.
Several school boards, including the York Region District School Board (YRDSB), said over the summer they were looking for more information about which, if not all, sections of the most recent curriculum would be scrapped for this school year.
Education Minister Lisa Thompson said in July that she understood the importance of consent, cyber safety and gender identity – major themes in the 2015 curriculum that weren’t in the prior curriculum, which was installed in 1998. Reversion to the old curriculum has been criticized by the NDP as intended to appease social conservatives, but Ford and his government argue the issue was how excluded parents felt by the consultation process. While the previous Liberal government touted consultation with 4,000 parents, it was limited to one selected from each school, rather than an open process.
Both the YRDSB and the York Catholic District School Board (YCDSB) told the Review they plan to be involved in the forthcoming consultation.
“YCDSB has been closely following the discussion that is taking place throughout the province on the health and physical education curriculum,” said Sonia Gallo, YCDSB communications manager. “As always, we will take our direction from the Ministry of Education and the various other provincial governing bodies.”
Gallo added that both the 2015 curriculum and the 1998 curriculum were “taught in our YCDSB schools through a Catholic faith lens,” which she said will continue with whatever changes are introduced. “We will ensure that the (health and physical education) curriculum taught in September will be consistent with our Catholic teachings, education policy and within the context of a Catholic classroom.”
A YRDSB spokesperson provided a statement from board chair Corrie McBain and director of education, Louise Sirisko, which included a call for “clarity” from Education Minister Lisa Thompson.
“The announcement that the province’s previous health and physical education curriculum from 1998 will be re-introduced to all schools in September may be interpreted to mean that revisions reflective of today’s world will no longer be taught,” the statement read. “This may affect content on important topics such as consent, sexual orientation, and gender identity. Such changes require urgent clarification by the government given the significant impact it will have on our students.”
McBain and Sirisko said students will “continue to learn important and relevant information,” citing a commitment to diversity among students, “including those who identify as a member of the 2SLGBTQ+ community.”