Education Partnerships Program: Structural Readiness component: National Program Guidelines 2019-2020

Table of contents

1. Introduction

Established in 2008, the Education Partnerships Program (EPP) is a proposal-based program designed to promote collaboration among First Nations, provinces, Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) and other stakeholders to advance First Nations student achievement in First Nations and provincial schools.

The Program has two distinct components that can be utilized for the purposes of this call for proposals:

  1. Partnership Establishment and Partnership Advancement: The first component of the EPP supports the establishment and the advancement of formal tripartite partnership arrangements. These partnership arrangements aim to share expertise and resources, and assist in the development of practical working relationships between First Nations and provincial officials and educators, to ensure supports are in place for all First Nations students. These arrangements also open the way to better coordination and transition between First Nations and provincial systems. The result will be concrete benefits for the students, teachers and administrators involved, which should lead to improved educational outcomes for First Nations students. For eligible recipients that are interested in applying to the Partnership Establishment or Partnership Advancement components of the EPP, please refer to the Education Partnerships Program – Partnership Establishment and Partnership Advancement Component Guidelines 2019-2020.
  2. Structural Readiness: The second component of the EPP supports capacity and governance development under the heading of Structural Readiness. These activities build the capacity of First Nations organizations to strengthen their organization, to cover start-up costs for First Nations school boards, and to support the conclusion of agreements allowing the operation of on-reserve schools by provincial school boards. This document concerns eligible recipients that are interested in applying to the Structural Readiness component of EPP. While both the Partnership Establishment and Structural Readiness components of EPP use the same proposal template, each component has different eligibility criteria and guidelines and must be accessed via a separate proposal.

Recipient eligibility for Structural Readiness is not dependent on having a tripartite Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).

Although the EPP was set to expire on March 31, 2020, a process is underway to ensure the sustainability of the program beyond 2020.

A third component, Regional Implementation is being contemplated, based on the policy proposal that was recently co-developed with First Nations. It aims at fundamentally improving the way ISC funds elementary and secondary education, while supporting regional and local diversity, and implementing the principle of First Nations control of First Nations education. The new component will provide support for:

This new component will use the EPP Data Collection Instrument (DCI); however, Regional Implementation is not part of the current EPP calls for proposals. More information on the new Regional Implementation component will be available on the Education Partnerships Program page by the spring of 2019. This will include details on the application process, eligibility criteria and guidelines. In the interim, for further information about opportunities to participate in information sessions, technical tables, or other activities supporting regional implementation of the new policy framework, please contact your ISC regional office.

2. Objective

Structural Readiness supports time-limited activities that build the capacity of First Nations organizations to deliver First Nations education services, and to develop and implement transformative education systems and agreements that fully delegate responsibility for elementary and secondary education to a First Nations School Board (notably).

3. Funding recipients

A "funding recipient" means an individual or entity that has met the eligibility criteria of the program and has signed a funding agreement with ISC to deliver an initiative (program, service, or activity).

4. Program recipients

Eligible recipients

Band councils, organizations designated by band council, and designated First Nations regional management organizations that currently undertake (as a key function) elementary and secondary support for a defined group of band-operated schools, are eligible to apply for funding.

Organizations designated by a band council and First Nations regional management organizations must meet the following minimum requirements for funding consideration:

  • be provincially or federally incorporated
  • have a documented management framework (meaning policies or by-laws) outlining the organization's governance structure and procedures
  • have documented support from First Nations communities or schools (such as a band or tribal council resolution, or formal letters of support)
  • have documented and publicly available policy guidelines
  • demonstrate economies of scale
  • have an organizational structure that includes an Executive Director or equivalent, a Finance Officer, and a Board of Directors or equivalent
  • undertake (as a key function) elementary and secondary education support for groups of First Nations communities or schools
  • be in a sound financial position
  • agree to produce publicly available annual reports on structural readiness projects and expenditures
  • if new, replace an existing organization or an amalgamation of existing organizations

Entities such as bands, First Nations organizations, etc. that are delivering education services under a self-government arrangement are not eligible to apply to the Structural Readiness component.

5. Activities

Structural Readiness supports activities that build the capacity of First Nation organizations to deliver First Nation education services as well as activities to develop and implement transformative education systems and agreements (e.g. agreements that fully delegate responsibility for elementary and secondary education to a First Nation School Board).

Broad parameters

Priority areas: all structural readiness activities must address one of the following:

  • activities that strengthen the organizational capacity and governance of First Nations organizations for the delivery of educational services to First Nations schools
  • activities to support the establishment of a First Nations School Board to which interested First Nations communities fully delegate the responsibility for all aspects of elementary and secondary education including:
    • the administration of multiple First Nations schools
    • a sufficient number of students that demonstrates economies of scale
    • to enable the delivery of services to a standard comparable to that of a provincial school board (preference may be given to proposals that address this priority area)
  • activities to support the establishment of agreements with a provincial school board, including new approaches to school management by First Nations and First Nations organizations, tuition or service agreements, or an agreement that fully delegates the administration of First Nations schools on reserve by a provincial school board
  • activities that directly respond to recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's Calls to Action with respect to education (notably changes to the curriculum to include Indigenous perspectives and treaty education, or creating strategies with provincial school boards to preserve Indigenous languages)

Single-year funding for 2019-20: applicants may only submit a one-year proposal for 2019-20 for structural readiness activities.

Organizations that submitted a two-year structural readiness proposal for 2018-20 must submit a new proposal for 2019-20, using the 2019-20 Data Collection Instrument. The 2019-20 structural readiness proposal may include the same activities as originally submitted for 2018-20, or may incorporate new or updated activities.

6. Expenditures

Eligible activities and expenditures

ISC is encouraging all program applicants, submitting a proposal for Structural Readiness activities, to include copies of their capacity development plan, notably using the Education Organization Planning Tool (EOPT), as an attachment to their proposal submission.

Priority may be given to proposals which include this supporting document, and demonstrate the greatest need for developing structural readiness as well as the ability and willingness to work to address these needs identified with the EOPT.

Education Organization Planning Tool

The EOPT has been developed to help applicants "self-assess" their organizational capacity. The tool provides a step-by-step guide for organizations to complete their own assessment of their regional First Nations organizations' capacity to deliver education support and services for band-operated schools. Funding for the EOPT is also available to help regional First Nations organizations reflect on current priorities, map assets, assess needs, and to build an organizational capacity development plan.

The completion of a self-assessment using the EOPT is recommended for those organizations that wish to seek funding for Structural Readiness activities through the EPP. However, if an organization has used other organizational capacity tools or has an education capacity development plan, such will also be accepted for review. For recipients who have completed the EOPT, the results of the tool or capacity development plans should be submitted as supporting documentation.

6.1 Eligible activities

6.1.1 Strengthening capacity for governance and leadership

  • developing processes for improving leadership attraction and selection (such as board and executive director selection codes, clear articulation of roles and responsibilities)
  • establishing new governance structures related to the administration and management of direct school supports, programs and services
  • professional development to strengthen leadership skills of the executive director, board members and other managers
  • leveraging provincial school board expertise to strengthen board governance practices
  • formalizing processes, policies, protocols and agreements for First Nations membership in the organization (such as membership codes, or codes of conduct)
  • developing formal agreements with individual First Nations that fully delegate responsibility for elementary and secondary education funding and services on reserve (including the operation and management of First Nations schools and tuition agreements) to an aggregate First Nations education authority
  • developing formal mechanisms to assess and support member schools capacity to efficiently and effectively deliver education programming
  • developing or formalizing board governance policies, processes, and mechanisms (such as for convening meetings, decision-making, conflict resolution, conflicts of interest monitoring, communications, ethics and fairness)
  • developing processes to encourage cultural consideration in policy-making and governance (notably enabling the involvement of Elders)
  • developing strategies for classroom-based Indigenous language instruction, in partnership with other communities and provincial school boards and ministries
  • developing or formalizing dispute resolution measures and appeal mechanisms for member First Nations
  • developing or formalizing processes, policies, protocols or agreements with local provincial school boards or authorities such as:
    • tuition agreements
    • education standards to ensure the transferability of students between systems without academic penalty
    • protocols amongst partners relating to sharing of information and services, reasonable-cost access to education initiatives, performance measurement and reporting, engagements on curriculum and programming
  • developing and negotiating agreements that fully delegate to a provincial school board or authority the responsibility for elementary or secondary education funding and services on reserve, including the operation and management of First Nations schools and management of tuition agreements
  • developing and negotiating agreements that fully delegate to First Nations or First Nations organizations the responsibility for operating and managing a provincial school

6.1.2 Strengthening capacity for external relations

  • establishing external partnerships and strategies
  • developing a network with governments, non-governmental organizations and corporations
  • participating in education related intergovernmental forums, committees, working groups
  • developing policies, processes and procedures for communicating with the public, professional organizations, private and non-governmental sectors and other governments
  • developing mechanisms for participating in policy and program development

6.1.3 Strengthening capacity for parental and community involvement

  • formalizing parental and community engagement policies and processes that allow First Nations schools and communities to participate in decision-making, and that keep the community informed of decisions and changes to programs and policies
  • supporting engagement with First Nations communities on First Nations education transformation

6.1.4 Strengthening capacity for planning, performance, and risk management

  • developing processes or mechanisms for acquiring stakeholder input and support for organizational vision, mission, priorities and goals
  • developing new policies, systems and procedures
  • professional development for strategic planning, policy development and risk management
  • developing and implementing a risk management framework
  • conducting a self-assessment through the EOPT or similar tool, and establishing an education capacity development plan
  • developing a long-term strategic plan which includes needs identified in the self-assessment process
  • establishing policies and procedures to administer, monitor, and report on the performance and delivery of school supports and services
  • developing an organizational performance and evaluation framework which links the delivery of school support services to student outcomes and school success
  • developing unique student identifiers with the provincial system to better track student needs, facilitate supports, and document graduation rates
  • purchases of education, research or reference products, tools or materials, and training resources

6.1.5 Strengthening capacity for financial management

  • developing a financial management plan
  • developing and implementing processes to track financial transactions and monitor assets, liabilities, revenues and expenditures
  • professional development for financial management
  • developing policies, procedures and processes for financial management (such as for the collection of revenues, development and distribution of audited financial statements, tendering and awarding of contracts)
  • developing formal processes and procedures for allocating funding to First Nations in a fair and transparent manner

6.1.6 Strengthening capacity for human resource management

  • establishing or formalizing human resources policies and processes for recruitment, screening (including volunteers), hiring, retaining, terminating, professional development and compensation for personnel required to deliver education services
  • developing a human resources plan
  • professional development related to human resources management
  • training or professional development for staff

6.1.7 Strengthening capacity for information management and technology

  • developing or improving business practices related to information management and information technology (such as data security, access to information and privacy policies, document management, and computer hardware and software)
  • developing an information management and technology management plan and policies
  • professional development related to information management and technology
  • software purchases and licensing fees, and IT equipment purchases related to the implementation of an organizational IT strategy, including repairs and maintenance related to school data systems

Proposals seeking information technology resources must be accompanied by a price quote and an information technology strategy and implementation plan that provides sufficient detail to show how the technology will work and be implemented as part of a comprehensive technology strategy for the organization.

6.2 Eligible expenditures

Eligible expenditures include:

  • salaries and benefits for staff, including a Structural Readiness coordinator
  • travel and accommodations within Canada
  • meeting costs (meeting rooms, audio-visual, hospitality, child care)
  • communications with First Nations and education partners (such as ministries of education, teacher's associations, school board associations)
  • professional consulting fees and Elder fees (indicating daily rate and duration of contract)
  • legal advice (not including litigation)
  • administration costs as outlined in section 6.3.1, up to a maximum of 10% of total costs
  • costs associated with the implementation of joint agreements, protocols or strategies as they relate to First Nations schools (such as data-sharing protocols, preparation for students entering provincial schools, and the purchase of services directly linked to joint partnership plans)
  • costs associated with extending provincial initiatives or programs to First Nations schools
  • information technology set-up services, the purchase of hardware and software, license fees, professional development and training
  • the purchase of learning and instructional materials
  • costs associated with establishing a First Nations School Board which will assume responsibility over elementary and secondary education on reserve, including the operation of schools and management of tuition agreements
  • costs associated with developing agreements allowing provincial school boards to assume responsibility over elementary and secondary education on reserve, or for First Nations to assume responsibility over schools off reserve, including the operation of schools and management of tuition agreements costs

Travel expenses cannot exceed the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat's guidelines, as specified in the Travel Directive in effect at the time of travel. All travel and accommodations must be within Canada.

6.3 Ineligible expenditures

Ineligible expenditures include, but are not limited to the following:

  • provincial tuition
  • activities related to the negotiation and implementation of self-government agreements
  • infrastructure, planning, construction, operation or maintenance of federal and First Nations school facilities
  • any activity expenditure that would result in a duplication of funding (namely receipts of funding from more than one source for the same expenditures on an activity), including fees and services covered through tuition agreements
  • travel outside Canada

In addition, funding may not be used to support the acquisition or maintenance of equipment and supplies in provincial schools, or the provision of professional development to provincial staff. Federal funding is intended to primarily support services to elementary and secondary First Nations students that are ordinarily resident on reserve, between the ages of 4 to 21 years and attending schools on reserve. Provinces are expected to be primarily responsible for financially supporting joint activities directed to students in provincial schools.

6.3.1 Maximum administration costs

Eligible administration costs for Structural Readiness include only the actual costs associated directly with administering structural readiness projects, and must not exceed 10% of total costs. The program's Data Collection Instrument will automatically calculate the percentage based on the amount entered for administration.

Eligible administration costs include the following, but are not limited to:

  • clerical support
  • administrative overhead (such as office space, equipment and supplies)
  • the collection, maintenance, and reporting of data and information, in accordance with program and financial reporting requirements
  • costs associated with ensuring that personal information is appropriately managed and safeguarded during its collection, retention, use, disclosure and disposal

Further distribution of funds by ISC's funding recipients: When a funding recipient transfers, to a third party, funds that were received under the EPP, the 10% allowed for administration costs must be divided between the parties, as agreed to between the parties. The total administration expenditures by all parties must not exceed 10% of total costs.

6.3.2 Activities must be time-limited

Structural Readiness does not provide core operational funding. Recipients are advised that program funding should not be relied upon as a source of ongoing revenue. Program funding is time-limited and may not be used to fund identical projects year-over-year with the same beneficiary. Continued funding is permitted in some cases, such as start-up costs of First Nations school boards, piloting a new time-limited initiative, or providing a professional development activity for new beneficiaries that have not previously attended the training. In such cases, it is recommended that applicants provide evidence of the success of the activity to date, and a rationale for continuing or expanding the activity.

Recipients and beneficiaries should not interpret funding for current year's activities as a guarantee that ISC will fund related activities planned for upcoming fiscal years.

6.3.3 Recipients under default management

Recipients in default management are encouraged to apply for Structural Readiness funding, for use in capacity development projects that will help them to complete their management action plan. Program funds may not be used to support the core costs of co-managers or third party managers.

6.3.4 No duplication of funding

Structural Readiness is not designed to duplicate activities funded by other programs, or to supplement funding in other program areas. Activities that provide training, resources or services that can be addressed under another specific ISC program are not eligible for funding. However, activities that relate to the development of new strategies, or incremental costs associated with piloting innovative approaches to program or service delivery of existing programs, may be eligible for funding on a time-limited basis.

7. Assessment process and criteria

Potential recipients must provide sufficient detail in proposals to support the assessment process by ISC. This is especially true of information on the activities planned, expected results and expense breakdowns. Insufficient detail will, at best, require revision and, at worst, may render the proposal ineligible for funding. If potential recipients have questions, they are encouraged to contact the appropriate program analyst. Further information may be obtained by contacting:

All proposals will be assessed nationally on their merits, in accordance with the following proposal assessment criteria:

8. Proposal process

The annual call for proposals is on the Education Partnerships Program page.

Only proposals presented in an ISC electronic proposal form will be considered for assessment. Proposals must be submitted to the relevant ISC regional office. Refer to the proposal form and the attached instructions for application details. Incomplete proposals will not be considered and will be returned to applicants.

Previously, the National Selection Committee made some general observations that would make proposals stronger and more comprehensive, including:

Process schedule
Call for proposals launched by ISC October 5, 2018
Deadline for submission of project proposal December 12, 2018
Proposal assessment December 2018 to March 2019
Announcement of successful proposals End of March 2019
Funding or amending agreements prepared April 2019

9. Funding

Funding will be approved for one year only, and will be provided in the form of a one-year contribution.

9.1 Funding approaches

Transfer payments to a funding recipient of the Structural Readiness component of EPP may be made using Set contribution funding or Fixed contribution funding. ISC regional officers can advise on the eligibility to these different funding approaches as well as on the requirements related to the management of the funds. The funding approach used to transfer funds to a recipient is identified in the recipient's signed funding agreement.

The following specific program directions for the management of transfer payments complement the directions provided in the recipient's signed funding agreement.

a) Set contribution funding
Reallocation of funding:
Reallocation of funds is not allowed with transfer payments made using Set contribution.

b) Fixed contribution funding
Reallocation of funding:
During the fiscal year, recipients may reallocate a reasonable percentage of funds among the eligible activities and expenditures of their ISC-approved proposal for the Structural Readiness component of EPP. Recipients must obtain the approval from their ISC regional office EPP manager before reallocating funds.

Unexpended funding:
Recipients may retain unexpended funding from a fiscal year to expend in the one year period immediately following that fiscal year on eligible activities and expenditures outlined in the Education Partnerships Program: Structural Readiness component National Program Guidelines 2019-2020.

10. Monitoring, accountability, oversight activities and reporting requirements

10.1 Monitoring and accountability

ISC is committed to providing assistance to recipients in order for them to effectively carry out obligations under the national program guidelines and funding agreements. Regional offices and other departmental contacts are available to answer questions and provide guidance related to ISC programs and funding.

Funding recipients must deliver the programs in accordance with the provisions of their funding agreement, and the program delivery requirements outlined in this document, while also ensuring that the necessary management controls are in place to manage funding and monitor activities. Funding recipients are required to exercise due diligence when approving expenditures, and must ensure that such expenditures are in accordance with the eligible expenditures set out in this document.

To ensure that program delivery requirements are being met, that funds are expended for the intended purposes and that ISC's accountability to Parliament is being met, activities including audits, evaluations, as well as desk and on-site compliance reviews, will be conducted with all funding recipients.

  • The department's collection and use of personal information and other records, for the purposes of program compliance reviews, will be limited to what is necessary to ensure program delivery requirements are met.
  • The department is responsible for all information and records in its possession. The confidentiality of the information will be managed by ISC in accordance with the Privacy Act and other related policies on privacy. Recipients are responsible for the protection of personal information per the privacy legislation, regulations and policies that govern them up to the point that it is transferred to ISC.

10.2 Oversight activities

All funding recipient reporting requirements are subject to monitoring and oversight activities to determine the accuracy of the information provided to ISC.

10.3 Reporting requirements

The recipient will be responsible for ensuring that the report is completed and submitted to the ISC relevant regional office by June 30, 2020.

The reporting requirements (program and financial reports) and their respective due dates are listed in the recipient's funding agreement, and details on these requirements are available in the Reporting Guide. Recipients are responsible for ensuring that reporting requirements are met, and reports are accurate and submitted on or before the established due dates. Recipients who have access to the ISC Services Portal can access the reporting forms (Data Collection Instruments) by opening a session on the portal. If you do not have access to the portal, contact your regional office.

11. Contact information

For further information:

You can also write to:

Education Branch
Regional Partnerships Directorate
Indigenous Services Canada
10 rue Wellington
Gatineau QC K1A 0H4

These national program guidelines are available electronically:

Date modified: