Toronto District School Board
Skip to main content

English as a Second Language & English Literacy Development : Programming and Support

TDSB is proud of the linguistic and cultural diversity represented by our students and communities we strive to serve. Many students in the TDSB speak a language other than English at home. Students whose first language or preferred language is other than English or a significantly different dialect of English are often referred to as English Language Learners (ELL)

While some ELLs are born in Canada, many arrive in Canada at various stages in their lives. ELLs who are learning the language of instruction as they are learning the curriculum benefit from the opportunities provided by English as a Second Language (ESL) and/or English Literacy Development (ELD) programming. Courses and support offered in these programs offer a variety of strategies and tools to help students acquire English for personal and academic purposes. 

ESL/ELD programming offered at Elementary and High School levels vary. The TDSB strives to offer ELLs meaningful learning opportunities and effective accommodations in all learning environments to ensure students become proficient in English in order to reach their academic and lifelong goals. After the registration process is complete, some students may be sent to a TDSB Secondary Assessment Centre (TSAC) to better understand a student’s educational background and learning needs. To learn more about the TSAC, please click here


English as a Second Language (ESL) in Elementary 

There are several types of support offered to English language learners at the elementary level. Two of the most common are: 

  • In-class support: ESL/ELD teachers in collaboration with homeroom teachers provide support with class work and assignments. Homeroom teachers provide accommodations based on language acquisition needs in all subject-areas. Studies have shown that learning strategies which effectively support ESL/ELD students, are also effective in meeting the learning needs of many different types of learners. 
  • ESL Withdrawal Support: A small group of ELLs work with an ESL teacher who offers focused support for English acquisition. Students are integrated in other subject areas and continue to receive accommodations in all areas of study outside of English. 


English as a Second Language (ESL) in High School

ESL programming in high school consists of five courses. ESL courses are designed to offer focused support for English acquisition for a variety of academic purposes, as well to support students’ abilities to build relationships and ties to their school and community.  Students earn credits for successfully completing ESL courses which help them meet graduation requirements.  While some students may benefit from taking the full range of ESL/ELD courses available, others may only require a few courses to help them meet the English proficiency requirements for their chosen learning pathway. 

Schools offer all or some of these courses based on the number of ESL students enrolled and their learning needs. Students, parents/guardians and guidance counsellors will collaborate to determine the best options available that support the learning needs of a student, their future goals and aspirations along with the programming offered at their local school and/or nearby school sites. 

Students have the right to attend their local school and school are responsible for providing programming and support. However, some students may choose to attend a different school site that offers more ESL courses.  Greenwood Secondary School offers ELLs a wide variety of ESL courses and supports for students. For more information, please click here. Students should speak with their families and homeschools about exploring this option further. 


English Literacy Development (ELD)

The TDSB offers the ELD curriculum through the Literacy Enrichment Academic Program (LEAP). LEAP is a program for students aged 9 - 20 who have recently arrived in Ontario schools with prior limited schooling opportunities. This program is intended to help students make gains in secondary language development, literacy and numeracy skills, and academic skills and knowledge. LEAP aims to build academic and cultural bridges in an inclusive and equitable manner. LEAP strives to help students connect their life experiences with various academic subject areas to emphasise that learning which takes place outside of traditional classroom settings is relevant and important, thereby empowering students to acknowledge and value their unique journey in education. 

For more information about LEAP, please contact your guidance counsellor or your school principal. 


Equity & Inclusion 

TDSB is committed to providing equitable access to learning opportunities for all students. This includes our ongoing commitment to human rights, equity, anti-racism, anti-oppression, and our commitment to combatting anti-Indigeneity and anti-Black racism, and all other forms of racism and discrimination. Part of this commitment is recognizing and valuing student identities and understanding the intersectionality of their multiple identities. The TDSB strives to respond to equity and issues related to intersectionality with ongoing professional development, new and meaningful learning experiences available to our students and most importantly to improve the ways in which we listen and respond to students, families and our communities. We hope to continue to build on the relationships with the communities we serve to create a more safe and inclusive learning environment. 

As such, all English Language Learners are entitled to accommodations, and if needed modifications, to ensure their learning needs are met and meaningful opportunities for success are accessible in every classroom, across all grade levels. Schools also actively engage with various community partners to ensure a comprehensive set of support is made available to students and their families. As we learn and grow alongside our students, the TDSB continues to seek ways to enhance student voice and parental involvement. 

For more information about community partners, please click here. 

For answers to frequently asked questions about ESL/ELD, please click here.