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Parents drop their children off Tuesday at Bond Lake Public School in Richmond Hill, Ont., on the opening day of classes. ((CBC))

It's the first day of school in Ontario and the launch of full-day kindergarten at 600 sites in the province.

About 35,000 four- and five-year-olds will attend kindergarten Tuesday. 

Premier Dalton McGuinty says full-day kindergarten programs will be available for every child by 2015, and will increase students' chances of completing university, attending post-secondary education and landing a good job.

However, Annie Kidder of the Ontario parents group People for Education says the program leaves a lot to be desired. In particular, she said only about 15 per cent of the sites will offer after-hours child care.

The kindergarten program will cost Ontarians an estimated $1.5 billion a year.

Job market grim for new teachers

Ontario employs over 100,000 teachers, but the first day of school doesn't mean work for everybody.

After years of teacher shortages, Ken Coran, president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation, says the job market is grim.

"The jobs that are available would only be predicated on the number of retirements or people leaving the board so it's very, very, very few and a difficult position for the new graduates to be in," Coran said.

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Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty visits kindergarten at Roden Public School in Toronto last fall. Full-day kindergarten has started at 600 schools in the province. ((Nathan Denette/Canadian Press))

Last year, more than 12,000 newly trained teachers were qualified to work in Ontario schools, but enrolment is declining and fewer teachers are retiring. 

Research by the Ontario College of Teachers shows three-quarters of newly trained English-speaking teachers are not getting a regular job in the first year after graduating.

The province plans to phase out about 1,000 teacher-training spaces at the universities over the next three years.

Susan Logue, principal of Unionville High School in Markham, spent the last work day before classes conducting job interviews with prospective teachers. 

Despite the time crunch, Logue says the talent pool is deep.

"Finding teachers the week prior to school starting or even days before doesn't put you under a crunch for quality often," she said. "You can often find terrific candidates." 

'Teaching is my calling'

Teacher Doug Macanally said the search for work has been frustrating. He was looking in schools from Mississauga to London, Ont., but instead has supply taught at 14 different schools since graduating last year from Trent.

"I feel that teaching is my calling," he said. "If it means I'm supplying for the next four years until I get a contract, I'm supplying for the next four years."

 

With files from the Canadian Press