REVIEW OF Pickering College BY parent, Sonya Bonerath
- Date of Review
March 22, 2021
Gr. 7 - Gr. 10
(5) Student Experience
My daughter and son started their studies at Pickering College in grades 7 and 9. My daughter's joy for attending school and her confidence returned upon joining Pickering College. She describes her school experience as much better, fun and that she is really happy at school. My son was anxious about starting high school and joining a new cohort of peers, yet within a day he felt right at home and he was surprised by the ease of the transition. Both of my children felt accepted and at home immediately. The school provides a secure environment and age appropriate independence enabling students to co-create their school experience as well as opportunities to mature, develop and demonstrate ownership, accountability, and responsibility. The school motto is Bene Provisa Principia Ponantur or "Let foundations be well planned". For my children their student experience at Pickering College has been extremely positive and nurturing for their development as a whole person.
(5) School Leadership
Leadership is part of the culture at Pickering College and thus as part of the DNA it is exemplified and demonstrated in action. The school leadership takes the lead in inspiring the vision, demonstrating values and principals and being in service of and aspiring towards the greater good. Pickering College's Global Leadership Program is integrated throughout all of the grades and has a global perspective, mentoring students to become global citizens. The school leadership and administration responded with speed, agility and resilience to the global disruptions caused by the Covid-19 virus. In short order the transition to online learning was effective and enabled a seamless transition despite the challenges faced and the less than optimal environment. Upon return to in-classroom learning, the focus on student, teacher and staff safety was exceptional. All available space was maximized to enable social distancing with extensive cleaning and safety precautions in place. There is also daily student self-screening using a convenient app. This enabled students to safely return to a more beneficial learning environment.
Education at Pickering College focuses on the development of the whole child. Teachers demonstrate the values of the school, setting an example for the students. Students are motivated to be curious and to explore while learning in order to understand and develop thinking abilities and not just memorize facts in a curriculum. All of the teachers that both of my children have had, so far, have been stakeholders in their overall education. Teachers have come to us as parents letting us know when our children have excelled and also with a suggested plan of action when there were concerns. There are regular formal parent teacher conferences throughout the year to augment the informal connections between teachers and parents. My children are very different and they both have very different needs and both of my children have been supported by all of their teachers as well as motivated and challenged to go beyond the basic requirements and to leverage their strength to grow in other areas in order to excel.
Pickering College senior school courses are from the Ontario curriculum and prepare students for university. There are opportunities to reach ahead in course selection and there are several courses that are enhanced with advanced STEM content. More grade 12 AP classes have been added, thereby increasing the overall number of AP classes being offered. In middle school my daughter was able to learn hands-on in outdoor classes on the Pickering College Farm. A unique academic opportunity for all grades at Pickering College is the Global Leadership Program. The Global Leadership Program develops students critical thinking abilities as well as the inspiration, motivation and competencies to make a difference in the world.
With the challenges presented by the pandemic the extracurricular programs have needed to be modified. Despite the difficulties Pickering College, where possible, has redesigned the extracurricular programs. My daughter's current extracurricular activities include YEO (Youth Engagement Organization) where she develops content and presents a topic on a timely social issue as well as outdoor frisbee. My son's current extracurricular activities include Math Club and Debate. Prior to Covid my son had an amazing experience being part of the soccer team. Another amazing extracurricular activity, that my son was able to participate in, was the Robotics club and a VEX competition. Hopefully these programs will return soon.
Students include and accept each other. Even though my children began their Pickering College experience in grade 7 and 9, they both quickly felt at ease and part of their peer group. The students are motivated to excel academically and they inspire each other academically. In my children's experience, students support each other and feel comfortable reaching out to one another if they’re having challenges with coursework. The small class sizes have always been an asset at Pickering College. During the pandemic, the safety of the students was taken very seriously, and class sizes were reduced even further to approximately 10 students per class. Prior to the pandemic walking through the hallways students were always smiling, holding the doors open and there was a sense of belonging. Students can build strong relationships and feel connected with all the staff.
(4.5) School Life
The small school feel of Pickering college allows the students to have a sense of belonging and get to know other students in other grades as well as teachers and staff throughout the entire school. Teacher advisors provide students the additional support and sense that there is always someone that they can go to whether they are having academic or social challenges. Boarding students from other countries provide day students with the opportunity to gain a global perspective. Prior to the pandemic, field trips were always a highlight of our children’s experience. Once circumstances have normalized, Pickering College could add more class field trips for students to develop their independence and as part of their overall experience. They may also consider offering grade 12 students the opportunity to prepare for university by allowing them to spend a week or two in boarding to give them the experience of living on campus and experience developing skills to be disciplined and organized.
The Pickering College community is welcoming and inclusive. There are many opportunities to make connections within the community. I was able to quickly make connections with other parents even though our family was new to the community. The school has provided opportunities for parents to get engaged with one another virtually; through events such as cooking classes and book clubs. Online school music events were enjoyable and innovative ways to feel connected despite these disruptive times. The parent council is engaged and inclusive and there are opportunities for parents to volunteer at the school. Parents have been asked to be judges during the schools version of a "Dragon's Den" in which students present real world solutions from their Global Leadership Program projects. Here again, once times are more normalized there will be opportunities for more direct in person parent engagement within the school community.
(5) School Location
Pickering College is located on 42 acres on top of a hill within walking distance of the centre of the town of Newmarket. The campus includes an indoor arena with an ice surface, a full track, an athletic complex, as well as playing fields, soccer fields and a baseball diamond. Additionally, Pickering College's offsite Blue & Silver Farm provides a venue for outdoor education. For those arriving from outside Newmarket, Pickering College, located on Bayview Avenue, is easily accessible from Hwy 404 and Mulock Drive or Hwy 400/Hwy 9 to Bathurst and Mulock Drive.
The application process was not as intimidating as I had thought it would be. My children had the opportunity to attend two half days in a regular class to see how they felt about the environment and the other students even before we begin the admissions process. This experience was helpful in getting feedback from my children with regards to how they felt about the prospect of attending Pickering College. Being new to independent schools we had a lot of questions. There always was somebody who had the answers to our questions. One important question was if we could afford an independent education. The caring admissions team helped us feel at ease as we discussed our situation and informed us of the various options available. We feel that we have made the right decision for our children and our family. The financial sacrifice is definitely worth it. The Pickering College Youtube channel provides a good perspective and feel of the school.