Frequently asked questions
How long has Pear Tree Elementary existed?
Pear Tree Education was founded in 2011. Our school, Pear Tree Elementary, opened September 2016.
Is Pear Tree Elementary licensed?
Yes! Pear Tree Elementary is certified by the BC Ministry of Education as a Group 3 Independent School: Certificate No. 3996918.
Pear Tree Elementary’s curriculum is based on the revised B.C. curriculum to ensure that there is continuity between our school and your child’s future high school.
However, Pear Tree Elementary takes a different educational approach. We do not teach subjects separately, because fragmenting and categorizing knowledge into separate subject areas is an unnatural way of thinking that bloats the curriculum.
Instead, Pear Tree Elementary integrates subjects around relevant and engaging educational themes. Not only is this a natural and captivating way of thinking and learning, but it also means that we can cover the requirements of multiple subjects in less time, thereby giving our students and teachers more time for deeper, broader, and more meaningful learning.
Pear Tree Elementary extends far beyond the expectations of the B.C. curriculum. As such, we are able to constantly evolve our curriculum content to keep it up-to-date and immediately relevant.
Why do you have combined grade classes?
Children are not homogeneous. Even within one grade, there are significant differences between your child and other children: academically, socio-emotionally (incl. maturity) and physically. In part, this is because of when your child was born. It is also because of their genetics and upbringing.
There are a number of benefits to combined grade classes:
- Developing a strong teacher-student connection is essential to learning; likewise, it’s crucial that our teachers know their students extremely well, academically and socio-emotionally, as well as their physical talents and needs. Having the same teacher/students for 2-3 years provides continuous growth and development, with no time wasted in September with teachers getting to know an entirely new group of students.
- Equally, teacher-parent relationships are very important! Continuing that teamwork between home and school is so much easier with combined grade classrooms.
- Older students are generally amazing role models for younger students, and learn to be much more empathetic. At the same time, older students learn to recognise the strengths of their younger peers, rather than assume that they are better at everything just because of their age. This is a very common need in today’s workplaces.
- At Pear Tree, we foster a sense of community, not competition. This enables us to utilise collaboration, which is necessary not just for project-based learning, but for real life! In our combined-grade classes, students learn to appreciate each other’s strengths, and to help one another with challenges.
- With a greater range of abilities in the class, everyone feels they belong, regardless of their strengths/weaknesses.
- Different levels of maturity mean that children naturally make friends with others of different ages to themselves – this happens all of the time at Pear Tree!
These benefits are ones we witness all of the time, and are similar to the experiences of the educational community at large:
Pear Tree Elementary’s grade groupings are:
- K-1 (Early Years Program)
- 2-4 (Primary Program)
- 5-7 (Intermediate Program)
Also, just to make clear that unlike many public schools that split their students into grade groupings within a combined class. At Pear Tree, we teach all of our students together with one classroom teacher and a maximum of 15 students. Our classroom assistant also supports classes with busier activities.
Pear Tree Elementary uses an online portfolio and report card system for our students. We keep an ongoing record of students’ work using various methods: videos, photographs, scanned work, and audio recordings. This method complements our project-based learning method perfectly, and enables parents to have an ongoing awareness of their child’s progress at our school.
This system is password protected, and only accessible by the school and child’s parents.
In conjunction with this, we provide report cards with written feedback on academics, socio-emotional development and physical development.
Pear Tree Elementary does not provide paper versions (i.e. hard copies) of report cards.
Tuition Fee Usage
Tuition fees for the following requirements:
- Staff salaries + professional development
- Technology + classroom supplies
- Facility costs, maintenance, and improvements
- Healthy hot lunch program
- Professional services
Tuition Fees Comparison with other Private Schools
The majority of independent private schools are either Group 1 or 2 schools, meaning that they operate as non-profit schools controlled by parent committees. These schools receive significant per-student government grants. As such, in addition to their tuition fees (e.g. $20,000), they may receive an additional $2,500, meaning that the amount of funding they receive is actually around $22,500. Please note that hot lunches are not included in other schools’ fee structures and often not offered as an option.
In comparison, Pear Tree Elementary is a Group 3 independent school. We do not qualify for any government grants. Our only source of income are the tuition fees that we receive (i.e. $16,125 for domestic students).
Another important consideration are the extra fees or ‘voluntary donations’ expected by many other schools. Some private schools charge ‘entrance fees’ and ‘investment bonds’ in addition to their tuition fees. These combined can add an additional $30,000 to your first year’s investment. Other schools also have a policy of expecting sizable donations from parents and alumni on an ongoing basis. On top of that, these schools will likely charge you for books, classroom supplies, and technology.
Pear Tree Elementary does not charge any such fees or deposits, and does not ask for any donations from parents.
Anything Not Included in Tuition Fees?
- Uniform costs
- Field trips (entrances + transportation) @ $20/month
- Outdoor education (overnight field trip)
Pear Tree Elementary is very fortunate able to provide its students with a diverse range of sports and recreational activities. The school’s location gives it easy access to a number of different recreational facilities.
Like most urban Vancouver private schools, Pear Tree Elementary utilizes public parks and sporting grounds for outdoor sports. Pear Tree has access to Connaught Park, Tatlow Park, and Kitsilano Beach.
For most sports/games requiring seasonal indoor space (e.g. martial arts), Pear Tree Elementary uses a modern gym facility at its location.
Additionally, for more specialised activities (e.g. ice skating, swimming, climbing), Pear Tree uses facilities at Kitsilano Community Centre and the University of British Columbia (UBC).
For water-based activities, Pear Tree has access to facilities located at Jericho Beach.
Like the other private schools in our neighborhood, Pear Tree Elementary utilizes Connaught Park public parks for its primary outdoor space for recess. This is a short walk from our school that is supervised at all times by Pear Tree staff.
We are also within walking distance of the beach, and a short bus ride to Pacific Spirit Park.
Autism & Special Needs
Pear Tree Elementary prides itself on being an inclusive environment. We attract a tremendous range of families and demographics who all share our common goal for a progressive, whole-child education.
Despite this, we’ve realised from first-hand experience and from consultation with experts that our progressive style of education is unrealistically challenging for students who are on the autism spectrum and likewise for their families.
Students on the spectrum benefit from a sequential, pre-planned approach to learning, which is how traditional schools teach, e.g. step 1, step 2, unit 1, unit 2, etc. They also benefit from concrete methods of learning.
However, Pear Tree Elementary uses more creative, abstract and non-linear approaches that encourage critical thinking (higher-order thinking), problem-solving, risk-taking, and multiple solutions. These approaches includes project-based learning, problems-based learning, and inquiry-based learning.
We also expect our students to be able to function both independently and in group settings, which is challenging in terms of executive functioning and social skills.
Additionally, as a Group 3 category school, Pear Tree does not receive any government funding, including for special needs funding. This means that any in-class support, which is likely required by a student with autism, must be paid for by the family. This is in addition to other forms of external specialist support that the child may need, such as speech therapy, ABA training, etc. All of these things combined are beyond the financial means of any average family. Other private schools that are Group 1 or 2 category are eligible for special needs funding.
Labels (e.g. "Gifted", "ADD", "ESL")
Labels are generally avoided at Pear Tree Elementary.
Aside from some physical, developmental and learning disabilities, most other labels are still quite subjective and somewhat unscientific. While labels are designed to help children, they often do more harm than good. Negative labels make it hard for anyone (parents, teachers, or the child) to see any positive attributes or achievements. Even ‘positive’ labels are loaded with unfair and unrealistic expectations of what child can(not) and will (not) do. Labels are also used to receive special funding which, based on their subjective nature, is not necessarily fair and carries the risk of exploitation. Furthermore, labels pigeonhole children in a way that is hard for them to ever escape.
From Pear Tree’s perspective:
- Everyone has strengths and weaknesses
- Everyone has different biological development speeds.
- Everyone has different personalities and preferences.
While people do not necessarily change completely, we do nevertheless change with time based on biological and external factors. Few things are ever permanent. A child that is developmentally slow can excel later in a healthy educational and family environment.
Pear Tree Elementary provides a whole-child approach. As such, we do not focus exclusively on a child’s current strengths or their current weaknesses. We aim for all of our students to be well-rounded, so that no matter what path they choose in life, they will be happy and successful.
Every parent is provided with a comprehensive digital handbook upon acceptance of registration.
Pear Tree Elementary has detailed policies for earthquake and fires, as well as emergency lock-downs. Each class conducts regular practice drills.
Sex Education Policy
Pear Tree Elementary uses an external sex education expert for this aspect of our program – paid for using tuition fees.
Child safety, welfare, and self-empowerment are key reasons for why we teach sex education at all grade levels, including kindergarten. While the age-relevant content of sex ed classes changes as students get older, all students will learn about the human body, about tolerance, about STDs, about myths, about (in)appropriate body contact, and about responsible decision making.
Pear Tree Elementary limits the amount of homework provided to roughly the following amount:
- Grades K-1: 15 minutes
- Grades 2-4: 30-45 minutes
- Grades 5-7: 1 hour
Instead of providing excessive quantities of homework, we believe in allowing for a healthy amount of evening / weekend time for downtime, family time, sleep, and recreational activities.
High School & Provincial Exams
While Pear Tree Education has long-term visions of creating its own middle and high school, the reality for the short-term is that students will currently leave PTE at the end of Grade 7.
As mentioned above, Pear Tree Elementary follows the B.C. curriculum to ensure continuity between our academic content and other schools. In addition, our students experience a far more advanced method of education through theme- and project-based learning.
This means that Pear Tree Elementary students not only finish Grade 7 with a deep and broad knowledge base, but are also equipped with essential 21st century academic and social-emotional skills, including:
- Executive functions (e.g. working memory, focus, self control) and
- Higher-order thinking skills (e.g. critical thinking, problem solving)
- Social-emotional skills (e.g. empathy, sympathy, ethics/morals, self-esteem)
- Collaborative skills
- Leadership skills
- Public speaking / presentation skills
- ‘Learning how to learn’
Equipped with such advanced academic and life skills, a student of Pear Tree Elementary will be able to flourish in any academic environment, including IB schools and mini schools. When our students are in Grade 7, we assist them with finding the right high school for them.
Additionally, the B.C. Ministry has changed Provincial Exams to reflect the updated B.C. Curriculum. These changes take effect in Summer 2018. This means that high schools will need to change, too, to become more modern and more supportive of the academic and social talents of Pear Tree’s students.