Alberta’s government is investing an additional $113 million to provide targeted supports for students experiencing both academic and mental health challenges.
As part of the Alberta Child and Youth Well-being Action Plan and through Budget 2022, Alberta’s government is allocating an additional $110 million over three years to address mental health, specialized assessments and learning loss supports. Alberta’s government will also reintroduce a pilot program to provide $3 million to non-profit organizations to lead innovative school nutrition projects next school year.
“Alberta’s government helped students with increased supports when they needed them most during the pandemic. Now, as we emerge from that difficult time, we will continue to fund initiatives that build resiliency and improve students’ well-being. We are committed to Alberta’s recovery by providing supports to students. This will have long-lasting positive impacts for students and will be integral to the future prosperity of the province.”
Adriana LaGrange, Minister of Education
“The last couple years have been challenging for all but especially for children and youth. We’re taking action across government to expand and provide a variety of more consistent supports for kids and families.”
Rebecca Schulz, Minister of Children’s Services
The Government of Alberta has allocated up to $10 million per year for 2022-23 and 2023-24 to support pilot projects focused on improving delivery of mental health supports and services for students, and tools, training and resources for the school community. Understanding and promoting positive mental health in schools is a shared responsibility of parents, educators and community partners.
“A comprehensive and coordinated approach is the best way to promote positive mental health. Current research clearly identifies the importance of mental health to learning, as well as to students’ social and emotional development. Students and staff who experience positive mental health are resilient and better able to learn, achieve success and build healthy relationships.”
Jennifer Turner, director, Centre for Wellbeing in Education, Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary
Alberta’s government is also investing up to $10 million per year for 2022-23 and 2023-24 to support increased access to specialized assessments. This includes funding to ensure children and students, who may not have had access to specialized assessments during the pandemic, can be assessed by qualified professionals including speech language pathologists, physical therapists, occupational therapists or psychologists.
“Alberta School Boards Association appreciates government’s announcement of supports to address challenges due to the pandemic, including mental health and the long-term effects of learning loss. These assessments are critical for student success and targeted supports will assist school boards as they continue to make informed decisions based on the needs of their local school communities.”
Marilyn Dennis, president, Alberta School Boards Association
Learning loss supports
Assessing students in the critical early years of their education is key for ensuring long-term learning success and ensuring early interventions are in place to prevent future learning challenges. Up to $10 million for the 2022-23 school year, as a one-time extension of the 2021-22 funding, will support additional interventions for students in grades 2-4 to continue getting back on track.
School authorities must have participated in the 2021-22 learning loss funding program and filed their required year-end report with Alberta Education by June 15 to qualify for the extension funding. They will be required to administer literacy and numeracy screening assessments selected from the approved list. This approved list was made available in April when the government announced that school authorities will be required to administer literacy and numeracy screening assessments starting in September 2022.
"Today’s funding announcement is evidence of the government's continued focus on enhancing student success. Increasing access to specialized assessments and mental health supports will directly impact learning, achievement, and overall well-being for Alberta's children."
Wilco Tymensen, president, College of Alberta School Superintendents
Alberta’s government will also reintroduce a pilot program to provide $3 million to non-profit organizations to lead innovative school nutrition projects during the 2022-23 school year. As part of Alberta’s Recovery Plan, non-profit organizations selected through a call for proposals will collaborate with schools to pilot innovative ways to support vulnerable youth and reduce operating costs and the administrative burden on schools while ensuring students receive healthy, balanced meals.
“I’m pleased to see non-profits and civil society coming together with Alberta’s schools to improve outcomes for vulnerable children. I’m confident these partnerships can be extremely effective and informative in helping ensure students receive the quality food they need to succeed.”
Jeremy Nixon, parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Community and Social Services for Civil Society
Alberta Education will also explore research partnerships to investigate ways to improve school nutrition in Alberta.
- Decisions on the remaining $60 million in supports funding for the 2023-24 and 2024-25 school years will be made at a later date. Funding allocation will be informed by the pilots taking place in the 2022-23 school year.
Existing supports in schools:
- The additional funding for mental health supports and specialized assessments is in addition to the $1.4 billion in Learning Supports Funding provided directly to schools each year. This funding envelope includes the Specialized Learning Supports (SLS) grant, the Nutrition grant and Program Unit Funding (PUF), which support student mental health, specialized assessments and allow school authorities to provide supports to students and staff.
Previous and ongoing learning loss supports:
- $45 million to support targeted interventions in 2021-22 allowed school authorities to address learning gaps in literacy and numeracy for students in grades 1-3.
- About 45 per cent of the grades 1-3 student population, or about 73,000 students, were deemed to be at risk by their school authority in 2021-22 and are receiving intervention supports through the grant program now. It is anticipated that some students will still be at risk at the end of the intervention period or school year.
- The 2022-23 $10-million learning loss funding extension follows the grades 1-3 student cohort that received interventions through the 2021-22 learning loss funding. School authorities have the flexibility to design programming to best meet local needs and the school calendar.
School nutrition pilot program:
- The initial school nutrition pilot announced in November 2019 was cancelled due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The $3 million was repurposed for non-profits to provide meals or food to support vulnerable students and their families when in-school classes were cancelled.
- The reintroduced pilot grant is in addition to the $17 million in school nutrition program funding allocated to public, separate, francophone and interested public charter school jurisdictions for the 2022-23 school year.
- It is estimated that more than 40,000 students currently receive a daily nutritious meal though the program. Meals follow the Alberta Nutrition Guidelines for Children and Youth.
- Mental health in schools
- School nutrition program
- Child and Youth Well-being Action Plan
- Alberta's Recovery Plan
What about new schools who were not previously receiving funding for learning supports? My child’s previous school had funding but now he’s in a new school.
Alberta Education Funding Manual for School Authorities (states that); page 40 * The Specialized Learning Support (SLS) Grant provides additional funding for the entire school jurisdiction to provide a continuum of supports and services to children/students in an inclusive learning environment. School jurisdictions are responsible for ensuring their SLS funding is disbursed based on child/student needs related to supports required for learning.