Independent School Information for Administrators

Independent schools are regulated by the Independent School Act (PDF). The Independent Schools Branch administers the Act as well as any regulations, Minister’s orders and inspector’s orders made under the Act. 

Last updated: September 13, 2023

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Feeding futures funding application form

The Province has announced $214 million over three years to create or expand school food programs to support students experiencing food insecurity. This includes $12.2 million for independent schools over three years, with $4.5 million being made available for eligible Group 1, 2, and 3 independent schools in the 2023/24 School Year. 

To apply for Feeding Futures funding, please use the Feeding Futures Funding Application Form. The application form includes instructions and detailed information on the application process. Questions about the application process should be sent to: Deadline for application submission: October 9, 2023.

Our responsibilities

Operating an independent school

Specific processes and guidelines are used in the day-to-day operations of an independent school — starting from the initial setup.

Create school-specific policies

Independent schools strive to ensure that every child feels safe, accepted and respected regardless of individual differences. Schools should develop school-specific policies that outline responsibilities of administrators, teachers and students in certain situations.

Admissions Policy:  Schools should outline their admissions criteria and procedures.

Anaphylaxis Policy and Procedures: Schools should outline clear policies and procedures for treating children experiencing an anaphylactic reaction.

Anti-Smoking Policy:  Schools must maintain this policy as it is required under the Tobacco and Vapour Products Control Act (Section 2.2).  Policy should include prohibition of vapour products.

Appeals Policy: Schools should construct a multi-step appeal process and should consider an external ombudsperson as a final step in their Appeals process. Policies and procedures will promote consistency and fairness in the decision-making process and provide a way for students and parents to appeal decisions.  (Please note: BC Ombudsperson only reviews complaints relating to public boards of education and does not deal with concerns related to independent schools).     

Boarding Policy: Independent schools with boarding are required to have a written policy, and associated procedures, that contribute to strong educational, social, mental, safety, and overall health outcomes for boarding students. Please see the following for guidance:

Cash Payment Policy: Schools are required to have an anti-money laundering / cash payment policy which describes the school’s policies and procedures regarding cash payments. 

Child Abuse Prevention Policy: Schools must have a policy to align with the Child, Family and Community Service Act which indicates that anyone who has reason to believe a child is in need of protection must report the matter to the Ministry of Children and Family Development.

Discipline Policy and Procedures: Schools should outline the school’s philosophy on discipline, the types of behaviour that may result in disciplinary action being taken and procedures to be followed when taking such disciplinary action.  Policy should include measured and graduated responses and be developed in relation to the School's expectations/Student Code of Conduct).  

Educational Resource Policy: Schools should develop a policy outlining the process the school uses for selecting resources and the process for resolving appeals regarding educational resources. Independent schools may wish to refer to the public school policy noted below for guidance.

Emergency Drills Policy and Procedures and Emergency Response Plan: Schools must schedule regular Fire, Earthquake and Lockdown drills (please note recommended frequencies in Emergency Management Guide) to ensure everyone is familiar with emergency procedures. Schools should develop a plan for responding to a variety of emergencies that extend beyond Fire, Earthquake and Lockdown.

Field Trip Policy: Schools should develop a policy for student transportation, safety and supervision while away from the school on field trips and using facilities rented by the school.  The policy should include a plan for the management of communication during emergencies on Field Trips/International Trips.  Schools using busses for field trips should include bus safety protocols and evacuation drills.

Graduation program credits: Sections 5(8) and 5(9) of the Educational Standards Order (PDF) refers to options for obtaining graduation credits and the relevant sections of the Graduation Program Order (PDF) that apply.  Note that some of these options require an independent school authority to establish specific processes – for example, an equivalency review process or challenge process. 

Harassment and Bullying Prevention Order: Schools must establish clear expectations for acceptable behaviour and processes to hold students accountable for adhering to expectations. This policy must include all 5 elements listed in the Harassment and Bullying Protection Order. 

Homeschooling: Schools accepting homeschoolers should develop a policy to ensure consistent procedures for registration and access to educational services for homeschoolers.

Independent schools may register a child who is being educated at home and must provide access to educational services. Evaluation and assessment services normally offered to students of the school must also be made available to registered homeschoolers free of charge.

International Student Policies: Schools admitting international students should develop the following policies when applicable:

Privacy: Independent school authorities must have policies and procedures in place for complying with the Personal Information Protection Act (PIPA).  Policy should include the appointment of a Privacy Officer (a staff member or team to be responsible for creating and maintaining PIPA-specific policies and processes to be followed, including a process for responding to complaints about potential non-compliance with PIPA.)

Refund Policy:  All schools should have a clear fee refund policy and procedure in place. Group 4 schools should ensure their documentation meets the requirements outlined in the Group 4 Independent School Bonding Policy.

Group 4 independent school authorities must maintain a bond, in accordance with the Independent School Act (PDF)   and the Bonding Act. The purpose of the bond is to enable the repayment of fees in the event that an authority is unable to provide fee refunds after a school closure.

School Closure Policy (Permanent): New independent schools are required to maintain a risk mitigation plan for unforeseen permanent school closure within the first five years of operation  and all schools are required to follow specific procedures and considerations in the event of a permanent school closure to minimize the impacts on students, families, and staff, to facilitate an orderly permanent school closure and to ensure compliance with legislative requirements.

Special Education (Disabilities /Diverse Abilities) Policy: Schools should consider how they address needs of their student population. When reporting to the Ministry, Independent schools who designate students with diverse abilities or disabilities must meet specific provincial criteria as outlined in the Independent Schools-Special Education Programs and Funding Policy.  Group 1 and Group 2 Independent schools receiving funding allocations are required to develop a budget for how special education supplemental funding will be spent.  Independent Schools must have policies in place for students with special needs (disabilities/diverse abilities) which include the requirements set out in sections 5.1 to 5.3 of the Educational Standards Order (PDF). Policy should include program/school admission, program delivery as well outline requirements for awarding a School Completion (Evergreen) Certificate.

Student Records Policy: Under the Independent Schools Regulation, written procedures for the storage, retrieval and appropriate use of student records are required. This policy should include provision for the sharing of information regarding enrolled or registered children, without requiring parental consent for the delivery of Health, Social or other Support Services (Student Records Order, Section 6(1)).

Student Supervision Policy:  Schools should create and implement a plan for providing appropriate student supervision before, during and after school hours for activities held in and around school facilities. 

Teacher and Principal Evaluation Policy:  Schools should develop a policy addressing the cycles/processes and tool(s) used to evaluate teachers and school leaders.  

Note:  Principal evaluations should be conducted by individuals who have current teacher certification from the BC Teacher Regulation Branch for Groups 1, 2 and 4 schools. 

Water testing (Lead Content) Policy:  Independent school authorities are expected to test for lead content in drinking water in their school facilities to ensure these meet provincial requirements established by the Ministry of Health, such as the Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality for lead.