What the Vancouver School Board suspected appears to be true.
In June, board staff reported enrolment in Vancouver’s public schools is declining in tandem with the decline of the school-aged population in the city and that the number of school-aged children in Vancouver is dwindling because families with children are moving away.
According to results of an exit survey administered by the board last spring, 56 per cent of respondents were moving from Vancouver for reasons of affordability, employment, family circumstances or they were leaving the country.
“It just confirmed things that [staff] already knew from the data analysis,” said acting associate superintendent Valerie Overgaard.
The results of the exit survey were presented to the board’s management coordinating committee Oct. 2.
The school board sent an online survey to 522 caregivers who were withdrawing their children from Vancouver public schools — 177 of the surveys were completed.
Of the 177 respondents, 108 or 61 per cent were enrolling their children in schools outside of Vancouver, 62 were enrolling their child or children in independent, or private, schools and four per cent were switching to home or online schooling.
Forty-one respondents said they were moving their children because they were dissatisfied with their learning experience, 18 said their kids were being moved to pursue enriched or alternative opportunities not available in Vancouver’s public schools and 11 respondents were moving their charges to a faith-based school.
Forty-seven respondents specified what they were dissatisfied about. Only 14 of the 47 said they were dissatisfied with educational programming, which Overgaard says raises additional questions.
“If there are a number of people going to independent schools and yet they’re still very satisfied with the public school system, what are their reasons,” she said.
The board plans to conduct another exit survey in spring 2014 and is considering asking respondents for their contact information so staff can follow up on responses.
The board will continue its plans to promote awareness of the various programs, services and options offered in Vancouver’s public schools and to target this strategy to parents of pre-school children.
The board will implement an online registration system for its international baccalaureate, Montessori, French Immersion and Mandarin bilingual kindergarten programs this year, as part of a more systematic method of tracking students.
“One of the anecdotal pieces of information we have is that if people don’t get into their program of choice then they move on to a private school,” Overgaard said.
Associate superintendent Scott Robinson reported last December that enrolment in Vancouver’s public schools had declined over the past five years and would not return to its peak numbers because fewer school-aged children live in the city.
The board, which serves 54,000 elementary and secondary students, reported a drop of 788 pupils last fall. Preliminary data for 2013 reports a decline of about 400 students. More than 900 fewer students entered kindergarten this year (3,836) than the number leaving Grade 12 (4,760), not including international students.
Slightly fewer than 84 per cent of students in Vancouver study in public schools, a rate that remains steady, according to the board.
© Copyright 2013