Ottawa, ON | Grades 1 - 12 | Shortlist
My daughter went from hating going to school and feeling 'stupid' to enjoying school and improving her confidence. The teachers were caring and took the time to support and encourage her. Her mental health was our primary concern and reason for removing her from the public system and thank goodness we did. She went for a half-day 'trial' and liked it so much we started her the next day and never regretted it. I think had she remained in the public school system her outcomes might have been very different. We considered keeping her there for high school but she wanted the experience of a bigger school and more friends and it worked out great. She looks back at her time at Heritage very fondly.
The whole experience was positive. When there were behavioural issues with students they were dealt with swiftly and appropriately. That said this was seldom an issue. I am writing this years after leaving the school so my memories are not 100% clear. Communications were very responsive though I did experience some problems with billing and calculations which were not communicated clearly by the administrative assistant and took some time to resolve but that was the only negative experience in all the years at the school.
Teachers were fabulous and each deserves awards for how they handle the kids who can be challenging at times. They were always kind and patient and really showed they cared about the kids and this was not just a job for them. Charlotte's favorite (and ours) was Mike and she had a special bond with him and still talks about him today. When Charlotte was struggling with math we were able to hire one of the teachers to tutor her at our house after school which was very convenient and ensured the teaching methodology was consistent. We always felt that the teachers were there for the right reasons and we never had to deal with school strikes as many people are in Ontario today including ourselves. They truly are in it for the kids.
The reason I am submitting this review four years after my daughter left Heritage is because I wanted to report back. Charlotte went from reading at a grade 1/2 level in grade 4 to have an 85% average at Canterbury High School and having just been accepted into all 5 universities that she applied to. I would say the 'proof is in the pudding'. In addition to teaching the kids the curriculum and skills they need in the future they also teach them to advocate for themselves and to understand they learn differently and that it is ok. Our daughter has continued to use the learning skills she acquired at Heritage and to know when she needs extra help and that it is ok to ask for it. For the most part, she has not needed many accommodations in high school but has been ok asking for them when she needs them.
Extracurricular activities were great and always enjoyed by the kids. The challenge is team sports because there are not enough kids to do that. But they focused on individual sports. In fact, Mike started a Ju-Jitsu program that our daughter loved and she transitioned into wrestling in high school as a result and has competed provincially 4 years in a row.
The class sizes were obviously great - you always had confidence your child was getting all of the help they needed. The homework fights were gone. It improved our family life immeasurably learning new techniques and having support for all the school work during school hours. The kids were mostly all in the same boat so to speak so they were all respectful and understanding of one another. The only downside with a small school population and disproportionately more boys than girls is that if you don't happen to gravitate to the one other girl in your class those bonds don't always form. That said our daughter still keeps in touch with many former classmates and her friend group included kids both younger and older which is not a bad thing.
Overall I think the school did a lot to engage parents. Not all of us participated to the same degree (we didn't due to work issues) but certainly, when I did, I felt welcomed and enjoyed the other parents. Parents were included in field trips and parent/teacher interviews and the like were also occurring as they do in public school. That said because the school was as intimate as it is - you felt free to chat with the teachers at any time and if there were any concerns they were handled at the moment. The school experience in this regard was the same as in public schools. Holiday shows, graduations etc, were all the norm at the school. I didn't feel any need for more parent involvement from my perspective.
The kids participated in many extracurricular activities that got them out and walking in the neighbourhood. Fishing in Dow's Lake, for example, was always a fun trip. The neighbourhood is nice, there is ample parking and it is conveniently in downtown for picking up and dropping off. It is also close to public transit once kids are old enough to get home on their own. The neighbourhood felt safe and I was comfortable letting my daughter walk to the bus stop. Given the area is so residential, the school is definitely part of the community. Given the location - it allowed students access to many museums etc that were within walking distance which was a nice bonus. I don't know if any of the older kids were able to leave the property and go to Preston Street for lunch and the like.
Our daughter loved Heritage - she really enjoyed the teachers and it was a positive experience for her. Having left a negative experience in the public school system we were happy to be able to send her to a place where she got the support she needed. Most importantly she was respected. Some of the public school teachers treated her very badly for not being able to do her work and her emotional wellbeing was suffering a lot. We wanted her to be in a safe space where she would not be penalized for having a learning disability. We had low expectations of academic outcomes and can now say we should not have. Heritage teaches kids to succeed even when others believe they will not.