Establishing an Independent School

Date came into force or revised

Revised: May 1, 2014 (July 31, 2013)



Policy statement

Independent schools must be established in accordance with the Independent School Act (PDF).

Rationale or purpose of policy

To provide an outline of the process for establishing an independent school


Independent School Act (PDF) section 4 and Schedule

Policy in full

All British Columbia independent schools must meet the requirements specified in the Independent School Act (PDF), and Regulations, Minister's Orders and Inspector's Orders under the Independent School Act. The procedures below set out the steps that must be taken to establish an independent school. Please note that the Ministry of Education is not currently entering into Distributed Learning Agreements for new distributed learning schools.

Procedures related to policy

To comply with the legislation, the following steps must be followed to establish an independent school:

Key Steps to Establishing an Independent School

Bricks and Mortar

Step 1 - Contact the Independent Schools Branch.

  • It is requested that the proponents of a prospective school contact the Independent Schools Branch during the early stages of their planning process.

Step 2 - Establish the "authority" under either the Society Act or the Business Corporations Act.

  • Application should be made to the Registrar of Companies. The assistance of a solicitor may be desirable for processing the application.  Please note:  only not-for-profit authorities are eligible for provincial funding.
  • The Independent Schools Branch requests that new authorities established under the Society Act constitute themselves as reporting societies as defined by that Act.

Step 3 - Obtain a suitable facility for the school:

  • Ensure the facility's location meets any municipal/district by-laws for school use. A sample letter to the municipality (DOC) is provided for reference.
  • Ensure the facility is suitable for the delivery of the educational program.
  • Have the building inspected by the local building, fire and health authorities or those approved by Aboriginal and Northern Development Canada (AANDC) and obtain written confirmation that the facility complies with their standards.
  • Obtain an "occupancy permit," or equivalent, from the local building permit authority, or from AANDC.

Step 4 - Submit a school information package by May 1, including:

  1. A completed application form (Doc).
  2. A copy of the society or company Certificate of Incorporation (issued by the Registrar of Companies); and
  3. A copy of the letter from the municipality confirming compliance (see step 3).
Important Notes:
  • Schools must demonstrate that they offer the full BC education program for the grade/grade ranges offered as evidenced within the external evaluation catalogue submission requirement.
  • An Interim Group 3 Certificate will be issued only when the above noted steps have been completed and the Inspector is satisfied with the information package submitted.
  • Mid-year school start-ups are not available.
  • Late school information packages may not be eligible for interim certification for the next school year.
  • Upon issuance of Interim Group 3 Certification, the Independent Schools Branch will arrange for an initial on-site inspection of the independent school facility at the beginning of the first year of operation.  Upon completion of a successful on-site inspection, a Group 2, 3 (or Group 4) classification will be issued.
  • An authority wishing to operate a DL school may only do so with the prior written agreement of the Minister.
  • New schools must have 10 or more school age students who are enrolled with the school and reported as 1.00 FTE each in accordance with the 1701 instructions for independent schools (PDF) for the September data collection.
  • Certification will only be granted for schools seeking to offer adjacent grades.  For example Grades K-6 inclusive, but not Grades K-3 and 6.
  • A prospective school, planning to offer Grades K-9, may start by offering one grade or multiple adjacent grades.  If a school seeks to alter its certification to add grades in a subsequent year, approval will only be given to the addition of adjacent grades.  For example if a school is initially certified to offer grades K-3, it would not be approved to offer Grade 5 without also offering Grade 4.
  • A prospective school seeking to offer grades that comprise the Graduation Program (Grades 10-12), will only be approved for certification if it offers at least Grade 10 at the time of initial certification.  It may seek approval to offer further adjacent grades in subsequent years. For example, a school certified to offer Grade 10 would not be approved to offer Grade 12 without also being certified to offer Grade 11.

Independent Schools Website and E-board

Independent school authorities and principals should regularly visit the Ministry of Education Independent Schools website and E-board. The E-board is the Ministry's main communication tool to independent school authorities and principals. New school principals will be provided E-board access after receipt of interim certification. Communications are posted every Friday afternoon. School authorities and principals are encouraged to share this information as appropriate with staff.