Classification of Independent Schools

Date came into force or revised

January 23, 2017

Status

Current

Policy statement

All independent schools must hold a valid certificate of group classification.

Rationale or purpose of policy

Independent schools are classified for the purposes of funding and accountability.

Authority

Policy in full

Certificate of Group Classification

An independent school authority must apply to the Inspector of Independent Schools (the "Inspector") for a Certificate of Group Classification to operate an independent school in British Columbia.

An independent school cannot open or operate without a valid Certificate of Group Classification for the school. The Inspector issues Interim or Certificate of Group Classification.

British Columbia has four independent school classifications - Group 1, 2, 3 or 4. An independent school may hold no more than two group classifications:

  • One classification may be issued with respect to schools that enroll students only in primary Grades (K-3), or intermediate (Grades 4-9), or only in the graduation program (Grades 10-12).
  • If a school holds two group classifications, the grade level groupings holding the same classification must be sequential and adjoining.
  • Two group classifications for one school are limited to Group 1 and 3 or Group 2 and 3 combinations.
  • An independent school authority may operate two or more school facilities (campuses) in the same or adjacent school districts, if the Inspector is satisfied that the second or additional campuses belong to the same school and can and do function as such.

Term

The terms for the Certificate of Group Classification vary according to the following group classification:

  • Certificates of Group Classification for Groups 1 and 2 are issued for up to six years.
  • Certificates of Group Classification for Groups 3 and 4 are issued for up to two years.

The Inspector may cancel or suspend an independent school's Certificate of Group Classification if the school fails to maintain the standards and requirements for the certificate, or breaches a condition of the certificate, or fails to comply with the Independent School Act (ISA) and its subordinate legislation or a requirement of the Inspector.

Procedures related to policy

Basic Requirements for all Independent Schools

All independent schools must fulfill the following procedures, based on legislative requirements:

  • The independent school must be operated by an authority. The Independent School Act (ISA) defines an authority to be a society under the Society Act, a corporation under the Business Corporations Act or a private Act, or by a person designated by regulation. If the authority is a society or a company, it must be in "good standing" with the Registrar of Companies and comply with relevant legislation.
  • The independent school, defined in the ISA,  must offer an educational program for 10 or more school age students.
  • The independent school must not offer programs that in theory or in practice will promote or foster doctrines of racial or ethnic superiority or persecution, religious intolerance or persecution, social change through violent action, or sedition.
  • The independent school facilities used must be in compliance with provincial law, as well as regional and municipal bylaws, codes and ordinances.
  • The independent school must be operated by an authority and be in compliance with the ISA and its subordinate legislation.
  • The independent school authority must provide the Inspector with reports and statements in the form and at the times required. This includes student permanent record cards and records (Student Records: Requirements and Best Practice Guidelines for Independent Schools), and basic safety items as specified by the Inspector.
  • The independent school authority must appoint a teacher as the independent school's principal responsible for the educational program, administration and supervision of the school.
  • The independent school authority must hold a valid Interim or Certificate of Group Classification for the independent school.
  • The authority must ensure that every person employed to work in the presence of children has signed an Authorization for a Criminal Records Search Form and that the form has been forwarded for processing (Criminal Records Review Act, sections 8, 9 and 10).
  • The independent school authority must notify the Inspector upon closure of the school.

Additional requirements for specific groups

In addition to the basic requirements listed above, each independent school has a specific set of requirements or conditions:

Group 1 Independent Schools (in addition to basic requirements)

  • The independent school is operated by a non-profit authority "in good standing" with the Registrar of Companies.
  • At least 50 percent of the students enroled in the school are "eligible students" (as defined in Section 1 of the Independent School Regulation).
  • The authority has operated the independent school for at least the school year immediately before the date of application for a Group 1 classification status or it is acquired in whole or in part from another authority.
  • The school's facilities are adequate for instructional purposes (as described in the  ISA, Schedule, section 2(d)).
  • All teachers are certified by the Teacher Regulation Branch.
  • The independent school's educational program must comply with the instructional time and program requirements determined by the Minister in the ISA and set out in the (ISA, Educational Standards Order).
  • Independent schools offering Grades 10, 11 and 12 must offer a program that meets provincial graduation requirements set out in the  Education Standards Order.
  • The independent school must have an evaluation program that satisfies the Inspector and demonstrates student progress in achieving intellectual, human, social and career development.
  • The independent school must participate in provincial academic assessment programs (e.g. Foundation Skills Assessment tests in Grades 4 and 7) and Graduation Program Examinations in Grades 10, 11 and 12, where applicable to the grades offered by the school.
  • A Group 1 independent school's operational per student cost  must be the same as, or less than, the operational per student grant amount of the local public school district in the district in which the independent school is located and the government grant must not exceed the independent school's total operating costs.
  • The independent school's principal is a British Columbia certified teacher.
  • The independent school will undergo a full external evaluation at least every six years and be inspected at least once every two years.

Group 2 Independent Schools (in addition to basic and Group 1 requirements)

  • A Group 2 school must satisfy all the requirements for a Group 1 school, except the per-student operating cost requirement.
  • If the school's per-student operating cost exceeds the per-student operating grant amount issued to the local public school district in which it is located, the independent school is classified as Group 2.

Group 3 Independent Schools (in addition to basic requirements)

  • At least 50 percent of the students enrolled in the school are "eligible students" (as defined in Section 1 of the Independent School Regulation).
  • The independent school will undergo an evaluation at least once every two years to satisfy the Inspector that the requirements for Group 3 classification are being met.

Group 4 Independent Schools (in addition to basic requirements)

  • The majority of the students enrolled in a Group 4 school are not eligible students. (Group 4 schools mainly provide services to Canadian students from outside British Columbia, or to international students.)
  • The independent school's facilities are adequate for instructional purposes (as described in ISA, Schedule, section 6 (f)).
  • All of the independent school's teachers must be certified by the Teacher Regulation Branch in order for the independent school to offer a certified graduation program (Grades 10-12) and for the independent school's Grade 12 graduates to be eligible to receive British Columbia Certificate of Graduation (Dogwood Diploma).
  • The independent school's educational program must comply with the instructional time and program requirements determined by the Minister (as described in ISA, Schedule 6 (a)).
  • Independent schools offering Grades 10, 11 and 12 must offer a program that meets the provincial graduation requirements as set out in the the Educational Standards Order.
  • The independent school must have an evaluation program that satisfies the Inspector and demonstrates student progress in achieving intellectual, human, social and career development.
  • The independent school must participate in provincial academic assessment programs (e.g. Foundation Skills Assessments) and provincial academic examinations where applicable (e.g., Graduation Program Examinations).
  • The independent school's program, fees, accommodation, and policy pertaining to the refund of independent school fees or other costs must be consistent with any promotional literature or other informational material published or supplied by the independent school or its authority.
  • The independent school will undergo an external evaluation at least once every two years and a monitoring inspection on alternate years.

Bonding Requirements for Group 4 Schools

All Group 4 independent schools must be bonded. Independent school authorities of all Group 4 schools must post financial guarantees in accordance with the Bonding Act, equal to 75 percent of all fees collected from students for one of the periods of July through December, or January through June, whichever generated the most fees, of the previous school year. Group 4 schools must maintain valid bonds continuously while they are operating.  If the schools should close, they must maintain valid bonds for two years beyond the date of closure.

Authorities applying for Group 4 classification for the first time must post the minimum bond of $100,000 or $5,000 per student if more than 20 students are enrolled. For example, if 30 students are enrolled, the bond would be $150,000. Detailed information concerning the bond’s protection must be included in the school calendar and promotional materials so that it is available to all students, parents, and the public.

Bond instruments must be deposited with the Inspector of Independent Schools.

As of September 1, 2017, only the following bonding instruments may be used:

  • Irrevocable letters of credit issued by a savings institution, with a termination date beyond the required term of the security and containing a promise to pay the minister a specified sum on written demand
    or
  • Surety bonds issued by a person authorized Financial Institutions Act to carry on insurance business
     

The following are procedures for meeting bonding requirements:

  • The independent school authority forwards an audited statement to the Independent Schools Branch by September 1 of the current school year.  This audited statement must indicate the total amount of all fees collected for the previous school year (July 1 through December 31 and January 1 through June 30).
  • On the basis of the audited statement referred to above, the authority shall deposit, by September 1 of the current school year, a bond equal to 75 percent of the amount collected in the six months with the highest income.
  • The authority determines which of the two bonding instruments named above it wishes to use and posts the bond no later than September 1.
  • The authority must ensure that the financial institution that issues the security sends any new or revised bonding documents to the Independent Schools Branch.
  • Upon completion of all requirements (including bonding), the Inspector of Independent Schools issues or extends the Certificate of Group 4 Classification.

Requesting a bonding reduction

  • An independent school authority may request that their bonding be adjusted in accordance with sections 13 of the Independent School Regulation, if they can satisfy the Ministry that fees for the current school year will decrease 20% or more compared to the previous school year.
  • Under sections 13 to 15, eligible schools may apply a 50% bonding reduction. Applications for a 50% reduction must be received by the Independent Schools Branch on or before May 1each year. For further information on eligibility and procedure for the 50% bonding reduction

Bonding Reduction - Application Process

NOTE: Sections 13 to 15 of the Independent School Regulation (the Regulation), set the legal requirements for bonding reduction. The information below is provided in summary form for your convenience. In the case of a conflict between that table below and the Regulation, the Regulation will be considered the authoritative version. 

Applications must be received by the Independent Schools Branch on or before May 1 each year to request a bonding reduction for the following September.

Contact information for B.C. Coprorate Registry:

Stand Alone Group 4 School

The school must have been in operation for the previous 10 years without suspension or cancellation of Certificate of Group Classification.

School authority must be ‘in good standing’ with the B.C. Corporate Registry.

Application letter from Group 4 school authority requesting bonding reduction.

AND

A Certificate of Good Standing from the Corporate Registry Office. The certificate must not have been issued more than 30 days before the application is submitted.

 

Group 4 school sharing facility with Group 1 or 2 school

The Authority operating the Group 4 school must have been established by the Group 1 or 2  Authority.

At least one of the two schools must have been in operation for the previous 10 years without suspension or cancellation of Certificate of Group Classification.

School authority (or authorities) must be ‘in good standing’ with the B.C. Corporate Registry.

Application letter from Group 4 school authority requesting bonding reduction including confirmation of the authotrities relationship with the Group 1 or 2 school authority.

AND

A Certificate of Good Standing from the Corporate Registry Office. The certificate must not have been issued more than 30 days before the application is submitted.

 

B.C. Group 4 school with offshore partner

The offshore partner must have been operating at least one offshore school, under agreement with the BC Ministry of Education, for 10 years and must not have been placed on probationary status during that time.

The B.C. Group 4 school authority must have a student transition agreement with a B.C. public post-secondary institution.

Application letter from school authority requesting bonding reduction.

AND

A Certificate of Good Standing from the Corporate Registry Office dated within the 30 days prior to being submitted.

AND

A letter signed by the offshore owner/operator confirming that the onshore school authority is a wholly owned subsidiary of the offshore school owner/operator.

AND

A letter signed by both the Group 4 school authority and the B.C. post-secondary institution confirming that  a local transition agreement is in place.

 

 

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