Sask. Children’s Advocate Seeks Improved Oversight of Registered Independent Schools

Saskatchewan’s Advocate for Children and Youth, Dr. Lisa Broda, released a report that examined the Ministry of Education’s oversight of the province’s registered independent schools.

Immediately upon learning of the allegations of historical abuse in 2022, the Advocate compelled information from the Ministry of Education to ensure steps were taken to safeguard the protection of students currently attending the impacted schools. During this process, however, the Advocate noted concerns with potential ongoing gaps in oversight and accountability processes implemented by the Ministry.

“The school-age years are vital to a young person’s development, and children and youth have a right to a quality education. It is incumbent upon the Ministry to provide appropriate oversight to all forms of educational services,” said Dr. Broda. “Our overarching focus has been on how the Ministry assesses and ensures the protection of the rights, interests, and well-being of children and youth within independent education and determine whether there were gaps in its oversight processes.”

Since the fall of 2022, the Ministry of Education has implemented changes to regulations, policy, and practices. While acknowledging these efforts, the report identifies oversight and quality of service issues that require further improvement.

Given the Advocate’s legislative mandate to review services for children and youth, an investigative review was initiated, focusing on inspection and supervision processes, complaint mechanisms, students’ right to participate and be heard, safety and protection, and the quality of education.

“Whether young people in this province receive education through public or private systems, we must be confident that sufficient standards are established and that all children are educated in safe environments. It is also vital that adequate processes are in place to ensure all institutions providing services to children are accountable for their obligations to respect, protect, and fulfill students’ right to access quality education that supports their development to their fullest potential.”

Based on the findings of this review, the Advocate issued 36 recommendations to the Government of Saskatchewan and the Ministry of Education. If fully implemented, these will

  • Result in continued improvement in oversight and accountability;
  • Better enable students to have a voice and raise serious concerns;
  • Ensure policy and practice are aligned with regulatory obligations;
  • Lead to improved monitoring of learning output; and,
  • Offer clarity on how the rights and interests of young people can be further supported in independent education while balancing the rights and freedoms of the schools and respecting the need for choice in education.

“Our recommendations are directly connected to the evidence we gathered and analyzed. Although the Ministry has enhanced several aspects of its oversight, our recommendations will facilitate ongoing improvements to support the best outcomes for children as we move forward in independent education.”

By the Advocate’s legislation, the Ministry of Education had an opportunity to review the report and make representations on the facts presented. The Ministry accepted the report but requested additional time to review and contemplate the 36 recommendations.

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