Part 01

The benefits of choosing a specialty private school

Having a distinct focus can help students excel

Increasingly, Canadian parents are choosing to send their children to private schools, and many are opting for one that provides more than just a worldclass education. Called “specialty,” “specialized” or “special-emphasis” private schools, they offer an added layer to a student’s education: a distinct focus, environment or teaching modality.

These types of private schools include: Montessori, STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), military, language immersion and performing-arts schools; schools with a faith-based, special-needs or single-gender student population; and schools located in unique settings, which inform what—and how—students learn. Specialty private schools offer an array of benefits to students and their families.

An end-to-end education

A specialized private school’s distinct focus is typically woven throughout the fabric of its operations—from the school’s mission statement to its curriculum, staff, facilities, activities and campus culture—to create an immersive, supportive and cohesive educational experience that helps students thrive. “Our focus is clearly articulated in our mission, and that mission guides everything we do,” says Catherine Hant, head of school at St. Mildred’s-Lightbourn School, an all-girls school in Oakville. “Girls occupy every leadership role, every spot on the debate team and every position in the robotics club. This is a significant advantage that speaks directly to our school’s ability to set girls up for a lifetime of success,” says Sarah Scandrett, head of admissions and enrolment at St. Mildred’s-Lightbourn school.

An extraordinary environment

Sometimes, a private school’s campus location provides a literal and figurative foundation for unique and exciting learning opportunities. “[Our school] was founded to challenge conventional learning methods by allowing students an opportunity to live and learn actively, close to the natural environment,” says Glen Herbert, director of marketing and communication at Rosseau Lake College in Muskoka. “We’re literally on a lake. There are classrooms and dormitories, and there are also canoes, climbing walls, kayaks, sailboats and a snowboard terrain park.” Davide D’Alessandro, director of Canadian College Italy—a boarding school in Lanciano, Italy—cites the personal- growth opportunities afforded to his students. “[They] naturally develop worldliness and maturity being away from home and on our educational tours of Italy,” he explains.

An exceptional experience

In addition to extensive in-class learning, special-emphasis private schools help students excel in a particular area of interest; foster a greater sense of connection to their faith or culture; and support their unique educational objectives or abilities. “[Our school] is all about rigorous academics and preparing young people for university,” D’Alessandro says. “But we wouldn’t have a school in Italy if we didn’t want our students to develop passions for both their chosen field of study and for being in the world itself. We want our students to be armed with the knowledge, skills and confidence to go out and seize the world, but we also want them to have a mindful gusto about embracing its splendour.”

Finally, Herbert recommends that any parent considering a specialty private school keep one key factor in mind: their child. “Look first to the learner,” he says. “Be honest with their needs, and then look for a school that can best meet those needs, socially, academically and culturally.”