About school climate

School climate is the learning environment and relationships in a school and school community.

A positive school climate exists when:

  • everyone in the school community feels safe, included and accepted
  • everyone actively promotes positive behaviours and interactions
  • equity and inclusive education are embedded in the learning environment
  • there is a culture of mutual respect

A positive school climate is a crucial component of preventing inappropriate or harmful behaviour.

Developing a more positive school climate

We all have a role to play in modelling positive, inclusive and respectful language and behaviour.

To help achieve a positive school climate, boards and schools should:

  • actively promote and support positive behaviours that reflect their board's code of conduct and equity and inclusive education policy
  • involve members of the broader community by inviting them in this effort as part of the school community

Characteristics of a positive school climate

In a positive school climate:

  • students, staff members and parents feel – and are – safe, included and accepted
  • all members of the school community demonstrate respect, fairness and kindness in their interactions, building healthy relationships that are free of discrimination and harassment
  • encouragement and support is given helping them become positive leaders and role models in their school community, for example, by speaking on issues such as bullying
  • students, principals, staff members, parents and community members engage in open and ongoing dialogue and all partners are actively engaged
  • principles of equity and inclusive education are embedded across the curriculum
  • strategies for bullying prevention and intervention and awareness-raising are reinforced for students and staff
  • the learning environment, instructional materials and teaching and assessment strategies reflect the diversity of all learners
  • every student is inspired and given support to succeed in an environment of high expectations

School climate surveys

School boards must administer school climate surveys to their students, parents and school staff at least once every two years. Boards must inform parents these surveys are voluntary and that they can choose not to have their child participate.

These surveys are anonymous and help schools:

  • assess perceptions of safety
  • make informed planning decisions about programs to help prevent bullying and promote safe and inclusive schools
  • determine the effectiveness of their programs on an ongoing basis
  • build and sustain a positive school climate
  • Schools must share survey results with the school’s Safe and Accepting Schools teams.

Data and results

Schools and school boards use data from the surveys. It assesses students’, parents’ and staff members’ perceptions of safety to make informed decisions to help prevent bullying and build on sustaining a positive school climate.

The results of the school climate surveys identify schools’ progress and the challenges that should be addressed.

Sample surveys

Sample school climate surveys assist schools and boards to meet these obligations. Surveys are available in English and French in many of formats, including:

  • a Word version that can be adapted to meet local needs
  • a PDF  that goes to students, parents or school staff who wish to complete the survey in written format
  • an online version, which includes a data roll-up function and report of summarized data – access the Online School Climate Survey Tool.

Word and PDF versions, plus information in other languages, are available from the Inclusive Education, Priorities and Engagement Branch, which can be contacted by email: IEPEB@ontario.ca.

Urban and Priority High Schools Initiative

All students deserve an education and an opportunity to be successful. However, not all students have the same supports in place necessary to succeed in school.

The Urban and Priority High Schools (UPHS) Initiative supports the academic success of secondary school students across Ontario who may be experiencing significant numeracy and literacy challenges, together with suspension and expulsion, conflict with the law, poverty and a lack of access to community resources.

The schools offer activities and initiatives that support:

  • social and emotional student well-being
  • student academic achievement
  • bullying prevention and intervention
  • violence prevention and personal safety
  • engagement and leadership for disengaged students
  • family and community engagement

Benefits of the program

The UPHS initiative allows schools to work with community partners to identify and respond to issues and challenges experienced by students in a focused and immediate way. As a result, more students are engaged and attend school regularly. The program supports students to:

  • improve their literacy and numeracy skills
  • participate in school activities
  • connect to their community
  • learn valuable leadership skills
  • plan for their future

Focus on Youth program

The Focus on Youth (FOY) program provides learning and employment opportunities for youth in select low-income neighbourhoods who face personal challenges and barriers to employment due to circumstances directly linked to systemic inequality, racism and discrimination, and their lived experiences of socio-economic disadvantage.

The program is offered to 24 school boards located in Brantford, Hamilton, the Greater Toronto Area, Kingston, Ottawa, Peterborough, Sudbury, Thunder Bay, and Windsor.

Using the FOY program model participating school boards provide high-quality program opportunities for children and youth by:

  • creating high quality employment experiences for in-risk high school students
  • increasing access to free/low-cost camps for children and youth (kindergarten to Grade 12) in high needs areas where such opportunities may be limited