School councils play a vital role in the education system in Ontario. They provide a forum through which parents/guardians and other members of school communities can contribute to improving student achievement and school performance.
In April 1995, the Ministry of Education and Training issued Policy/Program Memorandum No. 122: School Board Policies on School Councils, which required boards to develop policies that would establish school councils in each school in their jurisdiction by June 1996. This PPM 122 outlined the minimum requirements for the composition and functioning of school councils.
In 1997, the Education Quality Improvement Act mandated that there be school councils in all publicly funded schools in Ontario.
In 1998, the Education Improvement Commission (EIC) conducted focus groups throughout Ontario and conducted research on the work of school councils.
The EIC findings concluded that most parents/guardians wanted their school councils to remain advisory bodies while having opportunities for meaningful input and an ability to influence decisions that would affect their children and their local schools. As well, the feedback stated that parents/guardians wanted their advisory role to be clear, consistent and province-wide. At the same time they wanted school boards and principals to be clear about their roles and responsibilities in dealing with school councils.
In 2000-2001, the Ontario government took significant steps to ensure that parents/guardians, through their school councils, would have greater influence in their children’s education. New regulations were created that confirm the advisory role of school councils and clearly state that their purpose is to improve student achievement and enhance the accountability of the education system to parents/guardians. This regulation also clarifies the role of school councils and establishes their right to express their views on any SCHOOL-WIDE issues that are important to them.
School councils are able to make recommendations to their principals and school boards on any matter (O. Reg. 612/00). Principals and school boards, in turn, must consult with school councils on a variety of matters that affect student learning. They must also consider recommendations made by school councils and report back to the councils on how they plan to act on their advice (O. Reg. 613/00).
In 2010, the Ministry of Education published Parents In Partnership...A Parent Engagement Policy for Ontario Schools that outlines ways in which the Ministry is committed to supporting the long-term development of school councils, strategies for engaging more parents in education of their children, plus funding to support this work.