We believe that every learner is a unique individual with their own strengths, interests, and areas for growth. We support engaging and meaningful learning opportunities that are responsive to student needs and contexts. Our learners have access to an abundance of information, resources and people and these opportunities require a diversity of skills and approaches. Thinking critically, collaborating successfully, communicating effectively and demonstrating new learning in multiple formats are all foundational elements of learning design.

Literacy and numeracy skills are the foundations of lifelong learning and full participation in society. These skills empower students to make meaning, think critically and creatively, and reach their full potential. Throughout the grades, literacy and numeracy are applied across all areas of learning.

“Literacy is the ability to understand, critically analyze, and create a variety of forms of communication, including oral, written, visual, digital, and multimedia, to accomplish one’s goals. Literacy helps students apply reading, writing, speaking and listening skills across a variety of subject areas.”  (Ministry of Education)

“Math skills, or numeracy is the ability to understand and apply mathematical concepts, processes, and skills to solve problems and make decisions in a variety of situations, including real-life scenarios.” (Ministry of Education).


Principles of Learning Wordmark


  • Learning is holistic, reflexive, reflective, experiential, and relational (focused on connectedness, on reciprocal relationships, and a sense of place).
  • Learning is embedded in memory, history, and story.
  • Learning involves patience and time.
  • Learning involves exploration of one’s identity.

Supporting the Early Years

We recognize the importance of providing additional support for our youngest learners to ensure their future success and lifelong learning. In that regard, the district continues to support a model of additional early literacy and numeracy support in Kindergarten and Grade One classrooms in inner city schools. This work involves Early Literacy and Early Numeracy teachers working collaboratively with classroom teachers to provide additional strategic, in-class support for ‘at promise’ students. In 2016-17, 31 schools received literacy support and 13 schools received numeracy support. Use of the district’s ELPATS (Early Literacy Phonemic Awareness Test Surrey) and ‘What Do They Know’ (WDTK Early Numeracy Assessment) in these classrooms help teachers identify learning gaps and plan instructional strategies to meet student needs and maximize learning. These assessments indicate a significant reduction of the number of Kindergarten children experiencing difficulty with phonemic awareness and early numeracy skills. A classroom teacher noted that “being able to learn from each other, share ideas, try new approaches and co-teach had an amazing impact on the students and myself.”

In the fall WDTK [assessment] he was not able to create or identify patterns; he could only subitize to 3 and he could not partition to 5 … The ‘aha’ moment came during the Spring WDTK Pattern Task, when he said, ‘I can make pattern three ways.’ He described his pattern by letters (AABC), colour (yellow, yellow, brown, grey) and vehicles … (truck, truck, car, van). He could tell me the core, what came before and after in the pattern. He wasn’t finished yet, he said, ‘I have to show you how I can make an ABAC pattern. That’s (truck, car, truck, van) or (grey, brown, grey, yellow).’ I was amazed at the growth he has shown …

Early Numeracy Teacher

As well, various programs support the transition of students to Kindergarten. These programs focus on oral language and play-based learning to strengthen early literacy and numeracy development. For example, PALS (Parents as Literacy Supporters) is in 39 schools and IPALS (Immigrant Parents as Literacy Support) runs in four schools. We run a two-week summer learning program called “Play, Connect, Learn” (PCL), PCL: Little Eaglets (to support Aboriginal learners), and PCL: First Steps (to support refugee children). These programs support the early literacy and numeracy development of our youngest learners and assist families in supporting their child’s development.

Supporting the Continuum of Growth

A variety of programs support literacy and numeracy development for students throughout the grades. For example,

  • Five inner city schools receive collaborative late literacy support in grades 3-7 (similar to the Early Literacy model). The focus is on engaging with non-fiction texts. Classroom teachers have noticed: Toggle Content
  • Grade 3-6 students from 25 schools are participating in a project to authentically integrate literacy and numeracy through the inquiry lens of exploring identity. Students investigated the question, “What can we learn from fictional characters?”
  • The Novel Approach is a project that involves 47 elementary teachers from 25 schools and 5 secondary teachers from 3 schools. Students receive explicit instruction in reading, writing, and oral communication strategies and learn to think deeply about what they read. Their thinking is made visible through response writing, blogging, and intentional conversations.

Supporting Ongoing Professional Learning

We support a variety of teacher-directed, inquiry-focused professional learning opportunities for Surrey teachers. Some current examples include:

  • Changing Results is a case study inquiry that focuses on the learning needs of one student. By adjusting teaching based on those needs, the entire class benefits. Teachers meet regularly to reflect on what they are learning about their student and to receive professional learning to develop their practice in response to those needs. We currently have three groups of teachers receiving this support: Toggle Content
  • Putting the Pieces Together PLC is an inquiry project with 12 grade 2 and 3 teachers from 9 schools. They are using district cost share book clubs as a starting point for designing curriculum. The books have framing questions (ie “why is it important to believe in yourself?” and “what can we learn from fictional characters?”) and incorporate the district’s priority practices by intentionally looking at formative and summative assessment, using SEL-based framing questions, and designing learning opportunities with a focus on instructional design.
  • Secondary English Language Arts Curriculum Design Network (grade 10-12) involves teachers from seven schools (5 teams of 2 teachers). They are designing English courses that align with the ELA graduation program, emphasizing the use of Big Ideas, instructional strategies, and quality assessment.
  • Competencies in the Classroom: Numeracy is a collaborative inquiry project involving grade 3-6 teachers working in school teams. There are 13 schools and 41 teachers participating. Areas of focus align with core competencies and topics include computational fluency, student inquiry, mathematical mindset, and mathematical discourse. Teachers are learning how to bring the competencies to life in their classroom while deepening their appreciation of students as learners of mathematics.
  • The Junior Mathematics Network includes 38 teachers from all 19 of Surrey secondary schools (1-3 per school). This series intends to build teachers’ understanding of the big ideas in BC’s redesigned curriculum. By modeling and discussing pedagogy that actively engages teachers themselves in “doing mathematics” we develop their capacity to bring competencies to life in their classroom. This series allows us to directly share ideas regarding district priority practices with those teachers implementing “new” curriculum at Grade 8 & 9. A large focus of the first session was assessment; this was in anticipation of and in response to the most pressing question on teachers’ minds.
  • The numeracy/literacy integration project involves 45 grade 3-6 teachers from 25 schools. Teachers are learning to authentically integrate literacy and numeracy using an inquiry lens. The district’s priority practices are also emphasized – a social and emotional learning inquiry question is used for students, instructional strategies and curriculum design are done collaboratively and an emphasis is placed on quality assessment (both formative and summative).