Grade 1 French immersion won't happen this year
Gallant government promises details on rollout 'in the coming months'
The province's plan to restart early French immersion in Grade 1 will not be ready to implement in time for the start of the next school year. Instead, schools across the province will continue to enrol students in Grade 3 in September 2015.
The Department of Education informed school districts of the news on a late afternoon conference call Monday.
I think there's a will from the politicians here to bring early immersion back and I think there's a resistance from the Department of Education.- Bob Bernier, Canadian Parents for French
When to enrol English students in the French immersion programs has been a contentious issue for years, particularly since the former Liberal government of Shawn Graham changed the entry point from Grade 1 to Grade 3 in 2008.
Restoring the entry point to Grade 1 was a high-profile promise in now Premier Brian Gallant's Liberal election campaign last September. Today the province told school board officials it won't be soon.
'Still work to be done'
"We had a conference call with the Department of Education and we got the news that for the 2015-16 school year, Grade 3 will remain the only French immersion entry point at the elementary level," said Janice Ingersoll, the elementary-level French as a second language coordinator in the Anglophone East School District.
Nobody from the province was available for an interview Monday. The office of Serge Rousselle, the minister for education and early childhood development, issued a written statement to CBC instead.
It says: “Parents have been advised that registration is open for Grade 3 entry into French immersion programs in September. Our government has committed to reinstating the Grade 1 entry for French immersion, but there is still work to be done. We look forward to commenting in detail once we are ready to share the plans in the coming months.”
Ingersoll said officials at the Anglophone East board were glad to have confirmation of next year's plan.
Bob Bernier, a member of the group Canadian Parents for French, says he is disappointed but not surprised by the news.
He says it would have been a tight timeline to bring in the changes for Sept. 2015.
"I'm concerned that the students are losing the opportunity," Bernier said.
"Another group of students is losing the opportunity to have the best program but I understand that ... to get it back to grade 1 there are things they have to get ready."
Bernier wants to see the politicians now put more pressure on the school districts in the province.
"I think there's a will from the politicians here to bring early immersion back and I think there's a resistance from the Department of Education — that's what I think is happening so I think the politicians have to ask for a timeline."