What most parents want to know
We’ve answered the questions below that we hear the most but if you have further questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Independent schools in our province are owned and governed by not-for-profit societies with a volunteer board of directors, and are licensed by the BC Ministry of Education. We cover the BC curriculum and employ certified teachers. What differentiates us at PSS is our play-based, arts-enriched programs and our beliefs in the values of small classes, more time to play outside, minimal homework, and parents welcome in our classrooms. We receive 50% of our funding from the provincial government, with the rest of our operating costs funded through student tuition and charitable donations.
When BC introduced new curriculum in 2017, we were delighted by how closely it mirrored many of the practices of collaborative project and inquiry-based learning, and social and emotional development, that have been at the core of our educational philosophy for over 20 years. We used to consider ourselves an alternative school, but we are thrilled that the mainstream has finally caught on. What continues to make us the school of choice for so many families is that we have already spent two decades mastering this innovative and powerful way of teaching. If you’ve read about Finland’s remarkable education revolution, you’ll find a lot of their values reflected in our approach.
We are passionate about cultivating our students’ love of learning, and we take our responsibility as educators seriously. We cover the BC curriculum, but what makes PSS special is that we teach math, science, language arts, French and social studies in a way that makes school fun. Instead of triggering competition and anxiety, our students dive into their academic pursuits with curiosity, collaboration, intrinsic motivation and a growth mindset.
Our main intake year is kindergarten, which fills up the fastest. Grade 8 is our main intake year for high school. At times, we may have places that become available in other grades. Space permitting, we accept new students in all grades, in September or mid-way through the year.
Many of our families travel from Commercial Drive, Fraser and Main Street areas to attend our school. Families do carpool to ease the regular commute but with the increasing number of students travelling from East Vancouver, we are considering investing in a school bus. Please email our Program Administrator, Julie Mitchell, to add your name to the growing list of families who would pay extra for a school bus service from East Vancouver, and please let us know if a school bus service is critical in your decision to enrol your child at our school.
We receive a tremendous amount of interest in our program from families in East Vancouver and North Vancouver, so we are investigating a second location for our school in East Vancouver. Please email our Program Administrator, Julie Mitchell, to add your name to the growing list of families who would consider enrolling their children in our school if a second campus was located centrally in East Vancouver.
We are a currently tight-knit community of 88 students.
Our graduates have enrolled in mini schools, late French immersion, private and independent high schools, and large mainstream high schools across Vancouver. Due to overwhelming demand from elementary school parents, in 2021 PSS began expanding into the high school grades so students can also now attend Pacific Spirit High School!
Our students typically enter high school excited for new opportunities, curious, and full of love for learning. As each child is an individual, academic performance for our students in high school ranges from being straight A students to having subjects in which they struggle. It depends on the child. We meet each child where they are at in their learning, foster their curiosity and encourage them in their efforts to achieve their own personal bests, whatever they are.
One thing we deeply value is hearing from our alumni how our school equipped them with resilience, self-advocacy, the skills to manage anxiety and peer-pressure, and inherent self-worth to help them navigate the many life transitions they faced, in high school and beyond.
We assign very minimal homework, and only when it is meaningful homework. Our philosophy is that children spend most of their day at school so time after school is better spent playing outside, going to soccer practice, making cookies, inventing comic book heroes, reading, decompressing, or just spending quality time with their family. For parents who are nervous that their children might be falling behind without homework, we point to the results of Finnish students – who receive no homework – and their consistent academic outscoring of even the highest-performing nations whose students complete hours of homework each night.
In the younger grades, we teach with very little technology, emphasizing physical activity, creativity and human interaction. We see major benefits for our younger students to focus their learning in a more hands-on way without too many screens or gadgets. As our students enter the higher grades, we introduce iPads and laptops in limited use as a learning tool, for example, to conduct research, edit a film, or design a small robot. At the high school level students bring their own laptops to school every day to support their work and are supported in developing healthy habits and balance in their technology use as they approach life in the adult world.
It might surprise you to know that the chief technology officer of eBay sends his children to a tech-free elementary school in Silicon Valley, as do executives from Google, Apple, Yahoo and Hewlett-Packard. At PSS, we are not opposed to technology; we just don’t see a dominant place for it in our elementary school where real engagement comes from great educators and curious children who co-author their learning every day simply by letting their curiosity run free.
We are a small school, which makes it challenging to mobilize teams with enough students to compete against other independent schools. Each child does, however, have regular PE times and at least 90 minutes of outdoor free play every day. Since PSS does not have school on Fridays, many families use that day to go swimming, skiing or hiking as a family, while other children do parkour or gymnastics on Fridays. Many PSS children also play competitive sports in club teams outside of school.
It is not the focus of our educational approach; however we have had gifted students and those with special needs designations enjoy great success at our school. We approach each child and family on a case by case basis just as we do with all prospective students, to ensure that we are the right school to maximize your child’s happiness and potential. Please see our enrolment page for more information on our admissions process.
We are dedicated to fostering a school culture where all students feel welcome, supported and safe. We have the advantage of a small school and high adult-to-student ratio, so our educators are tuned in and aware of the relationship dynamics at play in the classroom. While our students enjoy plenty of free play outdoors, we are aware of the importance of having adults to help navigate stress in the children's play, so we always have several educators outdoors with the children.
Our integration of social and emotional learning in all of our curriculum also plays a key role in cultivating a school environment characterized by empathy, kindness and healthy relationships.
We are deeply committed to cultivating a safe, inclusive and welcoming learning and working environment for all members of our school community.
Children are welcomed to use whichever bathroom they choose. This is supported and discussed throughout the grades. It is not about what gender you are but whether you feel and act safe and respectful.
We are exploring a second campus in East Vancouver. Please email our school administrator, Julie Mitchell, to add your name to the growing list of families who would consider enrolling their children in our school if a second campus was located centrally in East Vancouver.
For now, many of our families travel from neighbourhoods across the city to take advantage of a school where their children wake up excited to go to school on Monday mornings. Our philosophy is that what is most important is not the location of friends, but the quality of friends. One of the reasons families choose PSS is that they are sending their children to a community of families who share the same values of empathy, compassion, responsibility, joy, creativity, attachment parenting and global citizenship.
There is a great deal of misinformation about the "elite" demographics of families in the independent school system. Of course, there are families with greater financial resources than others but that is equally true in the public school system.
The demographic of most independent schools, and particularly PSS, is middle-class hard-working professionals, artists and entrepreneurs who understand the value of a play-based, progressive, arts-enriched education and who want their children to develop the foundations they need to live genuinely fulfilling lives.
We do strive to keep our school as inclusive as possible and we work hard keep our fees low. We are currently one of the most affordable independent schools in Vancouver. For families with more than one child enrolled at the school, there is also a sibling rate discount.
Our students start learning French in kindergarten and they continue building their French language skills right through into high school. Our French program is taught through immersion and play, and includes a series of role-playing game adventures in French, where students create their own character, encounter French characters, and interact with them in French in order to advance in the game. This method results in impressive leaps in reading, writing, speaking and listening fluency. Children love it and are very motivated to learn more French to advance in the game!
We don’t currently offer financial assistance to families considering enrolling their child at PSS; however, our School Tuition Assistance Fund directly supports currently enrolled families that have demonstrated financial need through a confidential application process each year. Gifts to this fund have enabled many families who have hit hard times to stay in the school community and maintain the support that is so needed during difficult periods.
We strive to make our programs as financially accessible as possible by keeping our tuition fees low. We therefore rely on the generosity of our community to help us meet our resource needs, and are so grateful for their support. Monetary gifts directly support the school's priority projects and initiatives, which have included:
- Playground improvement
- Hiring special performing arts resource teachers
- Professional development opportunities for staff
Any amount helps, and Canadian tax receipts are issued for donations over $25. To donate to our school please visit our Community page - thank you!
We do not currently offer before or after-school care; however, with our school day going until 4pm, many families find they are able to juggle their work commitments without needing additional child care. Other working parents trade play dates to share the after-school child care duties.
Our kindergarten program runs from 9am to 4pm, Monday to Thursday; however, many families opt to have their younger children attend shorter days. We fully support each family’s needs in this regard and collaborate with parents on the length of their child's school day.
There is no admissions test. To learn more about our admissions process, please visit our Enrolment page.
We don't offer a homeschool program on-site within our classrooms, however, we do register homeschoolers. Learn more on our homeschool registration page.
Our educators are responsible for creating the learning environments for our students, and our board of directors oversees the strategic direction, and financial and legal stewardship for our school. Where we rely on parent volunteers is to contribute to the school in practical ways such as doing the dishes, washing costumes, assisting on field trips, and organizing our Sports Day. We are also supportive of attachment parenting, and encourage parents to participate in the classroom whenever their child needs their support.
Pacific Spirit School is owned and operated by New Learning Society, a volunteer-based not-for-profit organization. Our society's mission is to maintain a community that provides educational programs for children and adults that promote community and the growth of the whole person.