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English as a Second Language

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The first step in enrolling your child in the Secondary ESL program is to have them assessed.

An ESL Assessment:

  • Gathers information regarding educational history and background
  • Assesses students to determine proficiency in Mathematics, English and first language.
  • Identifies the appropriate level of language and literacy acquisition.
  • Informs teachers of program adaptations and instructional strategies.
  • Provides information on programs available within the school board and the community.

Who Needs to be Assessed?

  • Students who are new to Canada, entering the Ontario school system for the first time and whose first language is not English.
  • Grades 9 to 12 students who are re-entering the Ontario school system after an absence of one term
  • Any students from a French language school in Canada.
  • All International students.
  • All students who attended schools where English was not the language of instruction.

Pertinent documentation may include some or all of the following for the Assessment:

  • Birth Certificate
  • Passport
  • Immigration Documents
  • Permanent Resident Card or Canadian Citizenship Card
  • Proof of Address and Telephone Number
  • School documents (report cards, transcripts), if available

Secondary ESL Assessments

About the Welcome Centre:

The Welcome Centre conducts assessments for all secondary students entering the system who are new to Canada, and whose first language is a language other than English.

The purpose of this initial assessment is to gather information about the student’s educational background, identify academic skills, and literacy proficiency in Mathematics and English. Recommendations regarding English and Math placements will be provided to the student and the school

How does a Newcomer register a child in grades 9-12?

  • Click here to learn how to register. Submit your child’s registration form online and upload all immigration documents, proof of address and high school records. On the website, use the “Find a School” tool to find out which school is your child’s catchment (home) school.
  • Call the Welcome Centre to book an assessment appointment 905-521-2554.
  • The student and parent attend an appointment with the required documentation.
  • At the time of the assessment, the assessor will determine the appropriate school and provide school contact information to the parent or book a school appointment directly.
  • All documents and reports will be sent to the school.
  • The school will contact the family to complete the registration process and timetable the student.

For Welcome Centre details, location, and hours click here.

HWDSB’s Secondary School ESL Program teaches children in grades 9 to 12 to communicate in English effectively. A strong command of the English language will help make your child successful in Canadian society.

HWDSB supports the learning of Secondary School English Language Learners by offering ESL/ELD credit courses and programming at four Secondary Schools:

  • Bernie Custis Secondary School
  • Glendale Secondary School
  • Nora Frances Henderson Secondary School
  • Westdale Secondary School

Secondary aged ELLs work to complete 30 credits needed for graduation and can substitute up to three ESL or ELD credits for compulsory English credits.

The goals of HWDSB’s ESL/ELD programs are to:

  • Assist the Newcomer with English language acquisition;
  • Provide orientation to Canadian society and culture;
  • Develop basic interpersonal communication skills in English;
  • Enable students to graduate from Secondary skills with the academic language and skills needed to be successful in Canadian post-secondary institutions and workplaces.

HWDSB offers English as a Second Language (ESL) support at the secondary level to assist students in acquiring English language proficiency. Students who require English language support at the secondary level are required to attend the nearest secondary school that offers ESL and English Literacy Development (ELD) Credit courses.

Bernie Custis Secondary School, Glendale Secondary School, Nora Frances Henderson Secondary School, and Westdale Secondary School all provide ESL/ELD programming.

Bernie Custis Secondary School
1055 King Street East
Hamilton, ON
Glendale Secondary School
145 Rainbow Drive
Hamilton, ON
Nora Frances Henderson Secondary School
1770 Upper Sherman
Hamilton, ON
Westdale Secondary School
700 Main St. West
Hamilton, ON

 Secondary English as a Second Language Credit Courses

The purpose of high school ESL/ELD credit courses is to provide students with language learning opportunities to assist them to develop the level of proficiency in English required for success at school, the community, post-secondary education and the workplace.

ESL courses are designated according to levels of proficiency in English and literacy development, not by grade. There are five levels of ESL courses and four levels of ELD (English Literacy Development) courses. Some students may take ESL and ELD courses concurrently.

Up to three ESL/ELD courses can be applied to the four compulsory English credits required for diploma purposes. Additional ESL/ELD courses may be counted as optional credits for diploma purposes.

ESL/ELD Course Name Course Code Credit Level Value
1  Beginning Communication in English  ESLAO 1
1  Beginning Literacy  ELDAO 1
2  English in Daily Life  ESLBO 1
2  Basic Literacy Skills  ELDBO 1
3  English for School and work  ESLCO 1
3  Literacy in Daily Life  ELDCO 1
4  Study Skills in English  ESLDO 1
4  Literacy for Schools and Work  ELDDO 1
5  Bridge to English  ESLEO 1

The expectations in all ESL/ELD courses are organized into the following four categories: Oral and Visual Communication, Reading, Writing, and Social and Cultural Competence.

Along with ESL/ELD courses, an English Language Learner’s timetable may also include some congregated ESL/ELD classes in other subject areas. Congregated courses are designed to support English Language Learners to develop academic language proficiency in various content areas. These courses are credit bearing and are normally offered at the grade nine and ten level. Students may take a combination of congregated and mainstream content area courses.

Find more information on the ESL/ELD curriculum.

See the chart below – Ontario Ministry of Education Pathways to English from ESL or ELD courses.Pathways to English

















































Additional Links

Many Roots Many Voices


If you have any further questions regarding ESL/ELD programming, please contact HWDSB’s Welcome Centre at 905-521-2554.

Updated on Thursday, April 11, 2024.
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