REVIEW OF Blyth Academy Etobicoke BY parent, Lesley Houle
- Date of Review
May 29, 2020
Gr. 11 - Gr. 12
(5) Student Experience
My child likes the quality of the instruction provided by the Blyth Etobicoke teachers, including the willingness to provide one on one help when required. The staff is truly invested in helping the students succeed. The teachers provide a flexible approach to learning to meet individual needs and styles. Small class sizes ensure that everyone participates and feels heard. The quality of the teaching process has been maintained through the shift to online education during Covid-19. The transition to online was well thought out, systems tested and modifications to the offering made as needed. The teachers and administrative staff work as a coordinated team to deliver a very positive learning environment and are always open to feedback to improve the way that material is delivered.
(5) School Leadership
Leadership at Blyth Etobicoke is excellent. The Principal is very responsive (typically same-day response) to questions and feedback and ensures action is taken as needed. My sense is that there is very strong communication and coordination amongst the various functions - teachers, guidance counselors, Principal, and admin. The leadership and admin team work to create a positive school community with numerous clubs and extra-curricular events despite this being a small school. Communication with students and parents is sent with appropriate frequency and is very clear.
The teachers at Blyth are well-qualified and very passionate about their subject areas. Despite small class sizes, the teachers ensure students are exposed to practical learning experiences in and out of the classroom - labs, field trips, etc. The various Blyth campuses pool resources when needed to allow for experiences that would otherwise only be possible at a larger school. Support is always available, either at afternoon studio sessions or through the teachers making themselves available for one on one interactions with the students. Parents are regularly updated on progress, facilitated by Edsby, and automated system for communication. The four-term structure allows the students to really dig into their courses and facilitates communication with parents with four sets of parent-teacher interviews per year.
The academic program at Blyth Etobicoke reflects the passion that the teachers have for their subject areas. The expectations are high, in particular for completion of assignments and ISPs. My impression is that more content is covered in the Blyth curriculum vs. the Toronto District School Board. Assignments are creative and catered to the smaller class sizes. My daughter was recently able to participate in a university-style lab session to expose the students to how university expectations differ from high school. Class sizes are very small, which is typically a positive, although it can be difficult to support group work/students having an opportunity to work with different people, etc. It will be an adjustment moving from such a small group to a large university setting.
Despite being a small school, Blyth Etobicoke offers a number of clubs and other extra-curricular events. They often offer field trips in conjunction with other Blyth locations in order to have enough people to make the events possible. I have been pleased with the number of social outreach opportunities and ability for the students to earn volunteer hours. Sports offerings are limited, particularly for students who are interested in competitive teams. Blyth Downsview would be a better choice for sports-oriented students.
Blyth Etobicoke is a small school in the build phase. It has been open for less than 2 years, as of Spring 2020. It has a very inclusive atmosphere where students are encouraged to participate in the betterment of the school and surrounding community. Students feel comfortable approaching teachers and admin staff with questions and feedback. Classroom sessions are very interactive with good participation. It is a welcoming atmosphere - you feel it when you walk through the front door. Sitting areas and lounges are available for students to work in after class and get together socially. Given the size of the school, the students are able to learn in a very unique environment and feel a high level of individual support in academics as well as planning for future education needs/interests.
(4) School Life
Going to school at Blyth is a very different experience than attending a typical high school. While my child enjoys the smaller classes and ability to easily access opportunities to be in clubs, on student council, etc., some children may prefer the breadth of offerings available at a larger school, particularly if they have a high interest in sports/competing against other schools. Some students may miss being part of a larger student body as it relates to participating in some social activities such as school dances/prom. Blyth Etobicoke makes an effort to join with other Blyth campuses for these types of events but these opportunities are more limited compared to a typical school because here students feel like they are part of a small community.
Parents are encouraged to take part in a number of events within the school including orientation events, parent-teacher interviews, fundraisers such as food drives and bake sales, speaker series, and online offerings. I have been very impressed with the number of events hosted by the school and invitations to provide feedback to continually improve. Blyth takes advantage of electronic platforms to expose parents and students to interesting speakers. This has been particularly important during the Covid-19 period. The size of the school does limit opportunities for parents to take part in some types of activities e.g. there is no formal Parent Council, although I'm not sure it is unnecessary given how accessible the staff is to the parent community.
(3.5) School Location
The school is conveniently located close to the Bloor and Jane subway station and is an easy walk to the Bloor West Village shops and restaurants. Proximity to the subway makes it easy for students to get to field trip locations or community service events such as food banks, senior's homes, etc. The school lacks dedicated outdoor space for students to enjoy between classes or after school.
The Blyth application process was simple and personal - an online application form plus a meeting/interview with the Principal followed by a tour of the school. The interview was very focused on determining fit with the school and a better understanding of our daughter's areas of interest, learning style, and reasons for wanting to attend Blyth. The Principal was responsive in answering follow-up questions. The process is simple and streamlined. The tuition framework is fairly straightforward, with no surprises after the fact. Our daughter has also participated in online learning through Blyth and we have found it easy to navigate the two systems. The availability of online, full time and part-time/evening classes provides a lot of flexibility in meeting the changing needs of the student.
(5) University placement and counselling
The guidance team at Blyth Etobicoke is excellent. They truly want to understand our child's areas of interest and strengths to counsel on options available for post-secondary education. Consideration is given to academic interests as well as cultural fit with the various universities as well as the impact of learning style. Blyth participates in university fairs and provides sessions to make students aware of scholarship opportunities and the process for applying. The school recently held a session with Blyth alumnae to discuss their experiences attending the first-year of university. Guidance is provided in a timely manner and the team is always available to answer questions and act as a sounding board when needed - both for future planning and when working through challenges with current courses.