A report from Canadian Parents for French BC and Yukon states that French Immersion enrolment in the Surrey School District is down. (Graph: Canadian Parents for French BC and Yukon)

French Immersion enrolment down in Surrey: report

District spokesman says ‘very little’ enrolment at Cougar Creek resulted in closure of program

Surrey school district’s French Immersion enrolment is down, according to a report released Tuesday.

School district spokesperson Doug Strachan says that French Immersion is down in the district, but it’s following the closure of a French Immersion program at the end of the last school year.

A report from the Canadian Parents for French B.C. and Yukon states French Immersion enrolment is down in Surrey, but Strachan says a French Immersion program created a few years ago at Cougar Creek Elementary School to accommodate parents received “very little enrolment.”

According to the report released by Canadian Parents for French B.C. and Yukon (CPF) Tuesday (Sept. 4) — the day students went back to school following summer holidays — it states that more students in B.C. are participating in French Immersion “than ever before.” The report states that French Immersion enrolment has been increasing for 20 consecutive years, but enrolment is down in Surrey.

In the 2017-2018 school year, according to CPF, 3,252 students in Surrey were registered in the program which is 4.5 per cent of the entire student body. Whereas in the same school year, 53,487 students — or 9.5 per cent of the B.C. schoolchildren — were enrolled in French Immersion. The numbers are based on public school numbers, according to CPF.

Strachan said the “decline” in French Immersion enrolment in Surrey is a result of a French Immersion program at Cougar Creek Elementary that was closed in June.

Strachan said the school district opened the program a few years ago with an enrolment of about 16-17 students. The hope, he said, was the school district could build on that.

“It, in fact, shrank,” Strachan said.

Strachan said a typical classroom in elementary schools is about 20-25 students.

“It’s difficult to commit available space to a choice program,” Strachan said. “But the (school) board did do that for French Immersion.”

However, he said, the program didn’t have enough enrolment to sustain it.

The Now-Leader reported in February that there were “significant waitlists” for early French Immersion program in Surrey, and that the district was struggling to find specialist teachers for French Immersion as well as fine arts and Montessori programs.

The release from CPF says that “as a result of the booming popularity” of French Immersion, districts around the province are “scrambling to find enough qualified teachers and teachers assistants.”

Strachan said it always is a struggle to find teachers as teachers with specialized skills are “generally in high demand.”

RELATED: ‘Significant waitlists’ for early French Immersion programs in Surrey

At the time, a report from the district stated there were 102 students on kindergarten waitlists for French Immersion programs and 58 Grade 1 students were awaiting entry.

Strachan said Wednesday (Sept. 5) that there are still waitlists at a number of schools that offer early French Immersion programs, but he added that he expects some schools will have accommodated the students in the coming weeks.

RELATED: B.C. student enrolment up, but slow compared to 2017



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