The Ontario government is committed to enabling all students to reach their potential, and to succeed. With the release of the Ministry of Education document Achieving Excellence: A Renewed Vision for Education in Ontario (2014), expectations have been raised both for the education system and for the development of the potential of Ontario's children. The ministry recognizes that every student is unique and that each must have opportunities to achieve success according to his or her own interests, abilities, and goals. It also recognizes that among children and youth who are at risk of not succeeding are those with special education needs.footnote 1 To ensure that these students have every opportunity to succeed, the vision for special education in Ontario continues to be refined and, in the process, achievement gaps are being narrowed.footnote 2

The current provincial education priorities are defined in Achieving Excellence:

  • achieving excellence
  • ensuring equity
  • promoting well-being
  • enhancing public confidence

These four goals are all fundamental to special education programs. Of particular importance, however, is the goal of ensuring equity, with its focus on providing the best possible learning opportunities and supports for students who may be at risk of not succeeding. Everyone in our publicly funded education system – regardless of background or personal circumstance – must feel engaged and included. Ontario's diversity is one of the province's greatest assets. Embracing this diversity and moving beyond tolerance and celebration to inclusivity and respect will help us reach our goal of making Ontario's education system the most equitable in the world. The fundamental principle driving this work is that every student has the opportunity to succeed, regardless of ancestry, culture, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, language, physical and intellectual ability, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, or other factors.

Ontario has come far in closing gaps for many learners, yet more work needs to be done for those students who struggle most. Special Education in Ontario, Kindergarten to Grade 12: Policy and Resource Guide (2017) is designed to aid those committed to helping children in Kindergarten and students from Grades 1 to 12 achieve their full potential in life.

This document has benefited from feedback and input from a wide variety of organizations and individuals.


  • footnote[1] Back to paragraph For the purposes of this document, the term students with special education needs includes all students who are receiving special education programs and services, whether or not they have been identified as exceptional.
  • footnote[2] Back to paragraph Achieving Excellence notes that the “achievement gap between boys and girls is narrowing, as is the gap between elementary students with special education needs and elementary students generally” (p 2). (emphasis added)