Find a School for Your Child as a Newcomer in Canada

Moving to a new country in a whole new part of the world can be nerve-wracking, especially if you have a family to get settled in as well. Here, our Ottawa and Orleans immigration physicians share some useful information about choosing the right school for your child and offer advice for newcomers to Canada with young foreign students. 

Bringing Your Children to Canada

Immigrating to a new country can be challenging, especially if you have children to tend to. Once you've scheduled your Immigration Medical Exam, submitted your residency application, and received your approval, it will be time to prepare for your new home. This plan will include deciding on your children's education.

The education system in Canada is excellent with options to suit all types of families and needs, but how do you choose the one that is right for for your child? Our team at Immigration Physician Ottawa offers some information to help get you started on this journey.

The Canadian Elementary School System

Provincial Jurisdiction

The education system within Canada is broken up by province and each one is responsible for their own educational system, curriculum, and guidelines. Elementary school begins with Kindergarten and goes through to grade 8. Some schools may only have up to grade 6 with grades 7 and 8 occurring in middle school.

Public, Catholic & Private Schools

In Canada, you will find three main types of schools. These are public, Catholic and private schools. Both Catholic and public schools are publically funded however, private schools require an annual tuition and successful application to attend.

School Year

While the school year varies in some areas, it generally runs from September until June. Most schools have two extended breaks - one in the winter and one in the spring.

What to Consider When Choosing a School


The curriculum can deviate between provinces and regions so you should take some time to look at what the different areas offer before you decide to settle on a specific location. For example, some schools focus on the arts or music while others lean more strongly into sports.

some elementary schools also offer advanced programs in preparation for post-secondary education.

Language of Instruction

English and French are the main languages spoken across Canada. While the majority of the schools across Canada are English-speaking with French classes, French immersion and Francophone schools can provide a more immersive education, especially for those living in areas with a high population of French speakers. 


You may also want to consider the location of the school in proximity to your home or workplace. This can play a factor in situations when you will need to reach the school quickly.

Most schools have what is known as a catchment zone where those living within the zone have priority for enrollment.

If you do not live within this zone it may still be possible for your child to attend although it can require applications completed annually with no guarantee of approval and a lack of transportation.

Ratings & Reviews

A great way to get an idea of what a school is like is to ask around. You can look at online forums for the community and speak with your friends and neighbours.

Extracurricular Activities

While the academic side of school is very important, extracurriculars are equally vital to your child's development. You can usually view the extracurricular opportunities on the website for any particular school.

How to Research Schools

Visit Official School Websites: When a school catches your eye, you should first visit their website. This is where you will find all of the information related to their curriculum, extracurricular activities, and admission process.

Browse Online Forums: Online platforms often have honest reviews from parents and members of the community giving you insight into the school's reputation.

Explore the Local Community: Get out and meet other parents. They will usually be happy to share their experiences.

The Enrollment Process

While the enrollment process can differ between provinces there are a few steps that are alike across the board.

Verify Eligibility: You will need to provide identification and proof of address.

Gather Documents: Gather documents including proof of residency, your child's birth certificate, and any immunization records that you have.

Submit Your Application: While online applications are becoming more common, many schools still require a formal in-person visit to complete the application.

Undergo an Assessment: Some schools might require an academic assessment to determine your child's placement level.

Finalize Enrollment: Once enrollment is finalized you will receive your children's enrollment package including important information about what to expect, identification information and class information.

Choosing the right elementary school for your young foreign student is a crucial part of planning for their future. The good news is that with some research and planning you will be well prepared to make the right decision.

With how many foreign students there are in Canada, you can be sure that your child will settle in well and have a successful start to their new life. You're likely to meet other families in similar circumstances as well, providing the core for your new social circle.

If you have older children who are planning on moving to Canada on their own to study, please take a look at our guide for foreign students working in Canada.

Our Immigration Physician Ottawa panel physicians offer a range of services to help with your immigration process. If you have not already done so, please contact us to schedule your immigration medical exam at one of our three convenient locations.


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