Four years ago the Ministry of Education put together a couple of trustees, some school board administrators, a municipal councillor, and an MPP, called them the

**“Working Group on Declining Enrolment,”**and charged them with examining the challenges of**“re-sizing”**our education system. They produced a document called**, which you can access***Planning and Possibilities***here****.**The group began their report by pinning Ontario . You may remember that this was also the last year in which the

**2002-03**as the pivotal point at which the phenomenon known as “declining enrolment” spread across**“OAC”**(Ontario Academic Credits, formerly known as “Grade 13”) were part of secondary school education.

Giant school boards, minimal governance, "declining enrolment": does this man's legacy know no bounds? |

The move to phase out OAC was one of the last educational “reforms” initiated by the Harris government, then in its death throes. Harris, not too dim to see that the government over which he had presided was about to run aground like an Italian cruise liner, jumped ship in April 2002, leaving Parry Sound MPP Ernie Eves to oversee the administration’s disastrous end, and be defeated in October of 2003 by Dalton McGuinty’s Liberals. Meanwhile, the

**“double-cohort”**of graduating Grade 12 and Grade 13 students over-crowded

**precipitated the phenomenon of “declining enrolment.”**

On page 4 of Ontario student enrolment graph beginning with

**is a total***Planning and Possibilities***1998-99**and projected through to**2012-13.**I've copied and pasted the graph below**.**You can see that it has been obviously**designed to make the annual decline appear precipitous**by using an*x*-axis baseline not of**zero**students but of**1.8 million**students. Observe that there was**almost no decline between 2003-04**(the first year without OAC) and**2005-06**, indicating that**almost****the entire decline between 2002-03 and 2003-04 was due to the elimination of OAC**.Even in Ontario ’s student population began to noticeably shrink, then, it would be

**2006-07**, the first year in which there were significantly fewer students enroled than in the years preceding, the total of**1.95 million**is**about the same as 1998-99**, the first year in the survey. If we need to establish a date at which**2006-07**, not 2002-03.The Ontario ’s total population continued to

**group projected that between***Planning and Possibilities***2006-07**and**2012-13**the total number of students would fall by**100,000**to**1.85 million**– a decline of**less than 1% per year**. During this same period, according to the province’s “demographic fact sheet,”**rise**by just over**1%**per year.Have a quick look at the government’s Ontario , meaning about

**demographic webpage**and you’ll find that in**2002**there were about**12 million**people in**one-sixth (16.7%)**of our population consisted of school-age children and teens. In**2010**, our total population had grown to**13.2 million**. In late**2008**, when**was presumably written, the Ministry was projecting that our student population would be about***Planning and Possibilities***1.88**million in**2010**, meaning a drop to about**14.2%**of our total.How

**accurate**were the Ministry’s projections?Let’s look at a more recent document on the Ministry website, called

**"education facts"****.**Here we find the total Ontario student population for**2009-10**listed at about**2 million**, even if we calculate half-day Junior Kindergarten students and part-time returning seniors as “half-students,” the way the Declining Enrolment Working Group did in their chart. This is equal to**15.5%**of our total population.In other words, by the Ministry’s own count, the

**decline****predicted**for 2009-10**didn’t happen.**The grade-by-grade “snapshot” of Ontario schools, as we mentally advance the cohorts through the grades. However, it doesn't tell us anything about what future Kindergarten enrolments might be - and therefore what the

**2009-10**provides a picture of what the immediate future may hold for**differential**will be between a graduating grade twelve cohort and a group entering Kindergarten. There were**126,000 SK**students (the first year we can expect a full complement), compared with**148,000 grade****eight**students, and more than**160,000**secondary students in each grade of high school. The larger-than-average differential between grades eight and nine reflects**transfers into**the system, and the large number of**grade twelve**students indicates that around**one-third**of students take**five****years**to finish high school, proof that the Harris elimination of the OAC year**never quite caught on**.Ont. student pop. 2009-10 | |

Jr K | 118,869 |

Sr K | 126,094 |

1 | 131,089 |

2 | 129,637 |

3 | 134,463 |

4 | 133,015 |

5 | 137,475 |

6 | 140,805 |

7 | 143,015 |

8 | 148,841 |

9 | 163,035 |

10 | 164,332 |

11 | 166,940 |

12 | 223,248 |

We have been led to infer from the trend in lower numbers in each successive cohort in the above "snapshot" that future cohorts will be correspondingly smaller still. But on what basis can we make this assumption, given that Ontario ’s population keeps growing?

Glance back at that

Glance back at that

**“demographic quarterly”**webpage and you’ll see that from July 2010 to July**2011, there were****144,000**births,**96,000**deaths, and about**100,000**new arrivals to Ontario, All these numbers are roughly consistent with the pattern established over the preceding five years, with the births and deaths increasing proportionally with the total population, and the number of immigrants dropping slightly.If this is the way things are going, then, what will the future look like? We can find a Ontario ’s future in a document entitled

**“big picture”**analysis of**“**Ontario Population Projections Update,”accessible**here.**A few minutes gazing through the government finance department’s crystal ball will leave you enlightened as to the “reality” of “declining enrolment.”The increase in total population over the next

**25 years**is projected to be in the neighbourhood of

**one-third**– or about

**4.5 million**. This is the effect of an annual growth rate of just over

**1%,**which is roughly consistent with that of the past fifteen years.

Skim through the document’s “highlights” and you’ll find these important statements regarding the

**future school-age population**:“Over the next

**five years**, the**number of children aged 0–14**will be**relatively stable**around**2.2 million,**before**rising more rapidly**to almost**2.9 million**by**2036.**The children’s

Thereafter, the share is projected to resume declining, falling to

**share**of population is projected to fall from**16.7**%**in****2010**to**16.2**%**in****2015,**and to**rise slightly**over the**2015–2027**period to reach**16.7**% as the baby boom echo generation (children of baby boomers) have children.Thereafter, the share is projected to resume declining, falling to

**16.1**% by**2036.”**Note that the proportion of the population

**under age 15**over a twenty-year span will**fluctuate only between 16.1% and 16.7 %**of the total population – a range almost**exactly equivalent**to the range existing between**2010**and**2015**, of which we are currently in the midst. But because the**total population**is expected to**continue to increase steadily,**so will the**actual**.*number*of childrenWhat is the upshot of all this demographic speculation for our education system?

**There will be no decline in the number of children needing**Ontario schools in the foreseeable future. There will only be an

**increase**.

All that is fine and dandy for , you might say. But what about ? Don’t we have a reputation for having an “older-than-average” population?

**Ontario**

**Peterborough**

A quick trip through thePeterborough County as

**“charts”**in the**“Population Projections Update”**will tell you the real story. Skim down through the document’s**colour-coded**Ontario maps, beginning with one at the**top**of the document identifying**“Census division 14.”****Chart 7**acknowledges that it is true that we will experience negative “natural” growth over the next quarter century.

But continue on to Peterborough , as we are coloured

**Chart 9**– evidently, there will be a continuing influx of newcomers to**light blue,**signifying a**15%-40% total population growth**over the next 25 years.**Chart 10**tells us that these people won’t all be retirees, either, as we are projected to have a

**significantly smaller proportion of seniors**than the surrounding areas by the year 2036, between

**25%**and

**30%.**

**Chart 11**confirms that the growth in the numbers of

**seniors**will be

**lower**than in neighouring counties.

And

**Chart 12**tells us that we can expect a**10%-25%****growth**in the number of**children**, higher than in Northumberland, Hastings or Victoria.Knowing that the student-age population of the Peterborough area isn’t likely to decline any further beyond the current baseline, and will likely begin increasing again in about five years,

**how can KPR justify taking the axe to Peterborough schools**?We must remember that while Peterborough County aren’t likely to decline, the trend may not be Peterborough as opposed to the county? And what about our pattern of urban growth, which has been relatively symmetrical so far – will it continue that way? Are some schools becoming

*overall*student numbers in**uniform**. What about the*city*of*over*populated while others become*under*populated?Now that we’ve looked at the

**big-picture demographics**, and have**eliminated the idea of across-the-board “declining enrolment” as a factor in our decision-making**, in our imaginary roles as**school board managers**we'll begin in the next post to**“zoom in”**our focus to examine the**enrolment patterns**and**organization**of Peterborough-area**elementary-secondary school networks**in their neighbourhood contexts to determine which might ones might need to be the subject of an "accommodation review."Monaghan Road landmark Queen Mary Public School, one of four PCVS "feeder schools" |

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