REVIEW OF Ashwood Glen BY parent, Marsha Pereira
- Date of Review
February 27, 2023
- Child 1
Gr. 1 - Gr. 3 (Female, Current Day Student)
- Child 2
Preschool (Male, Current Day Student)
(3.5) Student Experience
Our family has been amongst the first to join the Ashwood Glen school community in its opening year. We transferred in from another Montessori school in the neighborhood and were immediately drawn to the pedagogy of the school and its overall philosophy to approach learning and developing independence and leadership skills from the early years. As an IB graduate, knowing it’s never too early to plan and prepare for secondary school and further studies, we were keen to enroll our children in a program anchored in IB foundations, which enriches the Ontario curriculum in a nurturing environment. Our children are now 8 and 4 years old and have embraced the small class sizes and integrated curriculum, particularly in the primary years' program, where a unit of focus being taught by the homeroom teacher is reinforced across all subjects - such as performing arts, visual arts, and French. For instance, studying the indigenous community as part of history and social studies is incorporated into language arts for creative writing, indigenous painting, music, and some basic vocabulary in French. Experiencing movement across classrooms promotes independence, encourages creativity, and serves as preparation for the eventual transition into secondary school. Older students are paired with younger students for buddy reading, extra-curricular activities, and seasonal programming, such as concerts. Teachers and staff are always available to discuss student progress and are open to continuous improvement opportunities and feedback. It has been a dream to be part of this school community for the past three years.
(3.5) School Leadership
The school leadership is always available to address questions and concerns; however, the responses can be vague and do not always translate into meaningful action. Leadership and administration have experienced some turnover creating a lack of continuity in investments toward the long-term North Star of the school. Regardless, each administration has always fostered a sense of community, inclusion, and belonging. They provide a nurturing environment to the students and ensure the health, safety, and well-being of the students and staff remain at the forefront.
The teachers are extremely passionate about the success of students. The small class sizes allow teachers to tailor the progress and intensity of the curriculum based on the pace of individual students as well as the class overall; again, fostering inclusion while recognizing individual needs. The holistic view of how key themes can be reinforced across multiple subjects is a unique and engaging teaching method that captures the student’s attention. Formal progress is communicated to parents at the end of each trimester, but online tools allow informal progress and visibility into what the students are working on and how we as parents can reinforce core concepts at home. The one area of concern regarding the level of expertise for teaching remains Physical Education, which has not been appropriately filled during the former teacher’s maternity leave. Turnover among the teachers is also a concern.
The academic program at Ashwood Glen follows the Ontario curriculum but enriches this further with an outline of the International Baccalaureate program. Students have an opportunity to apply their core knowledge with hands-on practical examples. For example, the students were introduced in Grade 3 to budgeting and some basics on inflation as this has been topical in earlier 2023. Upon making a budget, the students took a field trip to a local grocery store to purchase items aligned to their budget, but also overlayed health and well-being as well as a charity so that they could consider giving back to their community as part of their budgeting. This is an amazing example of how something rooted in math springboarded into economics, health/well-being, and community giving. The primary opportunity for improvement is greater transparency into where and how the Ashwood Glen curriculum is tracking vs. surpassing the Ontario curriculum. This lack of visibility can create some anxiety that students are falling behind in areas outside of the core subjects, such as French, History/Social Studies, Language Arts, etc. The curriculum also likely needs to introduce the basics of longer-term group work and projects to prepare for senior years of education.
The extracurricular activities are basic. Most of the offerings are rooted in fun and these programs started strong with administration and teachers leading these activities. More recently, the programming has been conducted by older students and/or outsourced. While the older students are passionate about their areas of interest and this develops mentoring and fosters a sense of school community, the students themselves are not necessarily building upon prior week instruction. All of the extracurricular activities more recently are also desk-type activities (e.g. art club, comic club, chess club, etc.) and not for physical fitness.
The student body for the younger years has remained steady since the inception of the school but continues to struggle with maintaining enrollment from Grade 1 onwards. The size of the student body is not conducive to allowing students to explore complex social relationships, which is an important aspect of forming and embracing individual personality. While we enjoy the small class sizes and everyone’s values align with the school’s learner profile, a broader school body would allow for real-life experiences such as authentic student council elections, sports teams, social clubs, etc. New students generally find it difficult to integrate with the existing cohort in the more senior years. This is a consistent area of feedback from parents.
(5) School Life
Students absolutely love their time at school. Honestly, the best compliment is the fact that they despise weekends, PA days and school breaks. The student life at Ashwood Glen promotes independence, leadership, and time management. The opportunities to engage in different activities keep students learning and developing without them even knowing it. Returning students are never apprehensive of the start of a new academic year and are very welcoming to new students even in younger grades. The quality of student life shines through seasonal concerts and monthly cultural celebrations as older students decorate the school, and promote gift-giving at school drop-off and pick-up. There is honestly nothing I can suggest in terms of improvement to quality of student life! Keep up the amazing work to keep students and staff thriving, engaged, and connected!
Parents are consistently welcome to be part of the school community. The Parent Engagement Committee was formed in the 2022-2023 Academic School year and has bolstered parent involvement further. Parents are invited to showcase their careers throughout the year so that all students understand the diversity of careers available to them. Similarly, parents are welcome to share their talents through any volunteer work that might be of interest to them and beneficial to the students and the school community overall. This varies from simple opportunities like accompanying a class on a field trip, to assisting with school fundraising campaigns, ideas for marketing, playground design, etc. Other private schools in the neighborhood mandate a minimum number of volunteer hours per academic year to help offset tuition fees, but Ashwood fosters a more discretionary model allowing parents to contribute what they can when they can without feeling overwhelmed.
(2.5) School Location
The school is conveniently located in the center of Burlington making it appealing to families from all neighborhoods and walks of life. The location is very limited in outdoor play space which is a factor for daily recess, physical education, extracurricular activities, and seasonal events. The primary surface is the asphalted parking lot which is required for pick-up and drop-off. Students do venture into the neighborhood for field trips and community-giving opportunities. This has been convenient, given that the school relies on public transit for field trips.