Education Partnerships Program: Structural Readiness component: National Program Guidelines 2020-2021

Table of contents

1. Introduction

Established in 2008, the Education Partnerships Program (EPP) is a supplementary, targeted funding program designed to promote collaboration among First Nations, provinces and territories, Indigenous Services Canada (ISC), and other partners. It aims to advance First Nations student achievement in First Nations, provincial and territorial schools.

This program reaffirms the Government of Canada's commitment to working collaboratively with First Nations to improve First Nation students' experiences in provincial and territorial schools, as well as in First Nations schools, and to improve education outcomes for First Nations while respecting the principle of First Nations control of First Nations education.

These guidelines have been developed in partnership with the Assembly of First Nations, its Chiefs Committee on Education, and the National Indian Education Council.

Given continuing updates to the program, applications are limited to the 2020-2021 fiscal year. Multiyear applications will not be considered at this time.

Proposals can be submitted using the official ISC Data Collection Instrument (DCI) or a Microsoft compatible Word or Excel format. Proposals submitted using a compatible format can include the Partnership Advancement and Partnership Establishment component and the Structural Readiness component as different sections of 1 document, or as 2 separate documents.

Applicants with access to the ISC Services Portal can open the DCI by starting a session on the portal. If you do not have access to the portal, or want to submit in a compatible format, contact your regional office.

Refer to Assessment process and criteria for more information on assessment.

These program guidelines are meant to support eligible applicants in developing their proposals.

The EPP has 3 distinct components:

  1. Partnership Establishment and Partnership Advancement: the first component of the EPP supports establishing and advancing partnership arrangements. These partnership arrangements aim to share expertise and resources, help develop practical working relationships between First Nations and provincial or territorial officials and educators, and ensure supports are in place for all First Nations students. The arrangements also open the way to better coordination and transition between First Nations and provincial or territorial systems. They require mutual accountability by all parties to support the success of First Nation students. The arrangements result in concrete benefits for the students, teachers and administrators involved, and should lead to improved educational outcomes for First Nations students.

    If you are an eligible applicant interested in applying to the Partnership Establishment and Partnership Advancement component of the EPP, consult the Education Partnerships Program: Partnership Establishment and Partnership Advancement Component: National Program Guidelines 2020-2021. For more information, also refer to the EPP web page or your regional ISC office.

    The Partnership Establishment and Partnership Advancement component and the Structural Readiness component of the EPP use different eligibility criteria and guidelines.
  2. Structural Readiness: the second component of the EPP supports capacity and governance development. These activities build the capacity of First Nations organizations to strengthen their organization; cover start-up costs for First Nations school models; and support the conclusion of service delivery agreements with partners such as provincial or territorial schools and school boards, and other organizations, to ensure the education system is responsive to First Nation community needs and student outcomes.
  3. Regional Education Agreement: this third component aims to fundamentally improve 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. This new component will support the:
    • delivery of information sessions
    • establishment of regional technical tables
    • development and negotiation of regional education agreements

For more information on the Regional Education Agreement component, consult the EPP web page or your regional ISC office .

2. Objective

The goal of the EPP is to advance First Nations elementary and secondary student achievement in First Nation, provincial and territorial schools. The Structural Readiness component supports targeted 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 model.

3. Funding recipients

A "funding recipient" is 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


Eligibility to apply for Structural Readiness funding does not depend on having a partnership memorandum of understanding.

Band councils, organizations designated by band councils, 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 Structural Readiness funding.

Organizations designated by a band council, and First Nations regional management organizations must meet the following criteria :

  • have support from First Nations communities or schools
  • undertake, as a key function, elementary and secondary education support for groups of First Nations communities or schools
  • agree to produce publicly available annual reports on structural readiness projects and expenditures

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 Nations organizations to deliver First Nations education services, and to develop and implement transformative education systems and agreements, such as agreements that fully delegate responsibility for elementary and secondary education to a First Nations school model.

Broad parameters

Priority areas: All Structural Readiness proposals must address 1 or more 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 establishing a First Nations school model to which interested First Nations communities fully delegate responsibility for all aspects of elementary and secondary education, with a sufficient number of students to demonstrate economies of scale, including the administration of multiple First Nations schools, and delivering services to a standard of First Nation control of First Nation education
  • activities to support establishing agreements with a provincial or territorial school board, including agreements involving new approaches to school management by First Nations and First Nations organizations, tuition or service agreements, or agreements that fully delegate administration of on-reserve First Nations schools by a provincial or territorial school board
  • activities that directly respond to recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's Calls to Action on education

Applicants may only submit a 1-year proposal for 2020-2021 for Structural Readiness activities.

6. Expenditures

Eligible activities and expenditures

If you are submitting a proposal for Structural Readiness activities, you can include copies of your capacity development plan or the ISC Education Organization Planning Tool (EOPT) as an attachment.

Education Organization Planning Tool

The EOPT is available to Structural Readiness applicants as an option and is not mandatory. It provides a step-by-step guide for organizations to assess their regional First Nations organizations' capacity to deliver education support and services for band-operated schools. Funding is available to help regional First Nations organizations reflect on current priorities, map assets, assess needs, and build an organizational capacity development plan.

6.1 Eligible activities

6.1.1 Strengthening capacity for governance and leadership
  • providing professional development
  • developing and formalizing processes, policies and protocols
  • developing strategies to implement First Nations control of First Nations education, both in the classroom and through partnerships with other First Nations, First Nations organizations or the provincial or territorial school system
  • developing or formalizing board governance policies, processes and mechanisms
6.1.2 Strengthening capacity for external relations
  • establishing external partnerships and strategies
  • developing a network with governments, nongovernmental organizations and corporations
  • developing policies, processes and procedures for communicating with the public, professional organizations, private and nongovernmental sectors, and other governments
  • developing mechanisms for participating in policy and program development
6.1.3 Strengthening capacity for parental and community involvement
  • supporting engagement with First Nations communities on First Nations education transformation
  • 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
6.1.4 Strengthening capacity for planning, performance and risk management
  • developing new policies, systems and procedures
  • providing professional development for strategic planning, policy development and risk management
  • developing a long-term strategic plan that includes addressing 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

6.1.5 Strengthening capacity for financial management

  • developing a financial management plan
  • providing professional development for financial management
  • developing policies, procedures and processes for financial management (such as for collecting revenues, developing and distributing audited financial statements, and tendering and awarding contracts)
  • developing formal processes and procedures for allocating funding to First Nations
6.1.6 Strengthening capacity for human resource management
  • establishing or formalizing human resources policies and processes for recruiting, screening (including volunteers), hiring, retaining, terminating, providing professional development for, and compensating personnel required to deliver education services
  • training or providing professional development for staff
6.1.7 Strengthening capacity for information management and technology
  • developing or improving business practices related to information management and IT (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
  • providing professional development related to information management and technology
  • purchasing software, licensing fees and IT equipment related to implementing an organizational IT strategy, and repairing and maintaining school data systems

Proposals including costs for IT resources must be accompanied by a price quote and an IT strategy and implementation plan that provides enough 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

  • salaries and benefits for short-term staff, including a structural readiness coordinator
  • travel and accommodation costs (mileage and daily travel expenses cannot exceed those set out in the National Joint Council's Travel Directive)
  • meeting costs (meeting rooms, audio-visual, hospitality, child care)
  • communications with First Nations and education partners (such as ministries of education, teachers' associations, school board associations)
  • professional, consulting, and Elder fees (indicating daily rate and duration of contract)
  • legal advice (excluding litigation)
  • eligible administration costs, as outlined in section 6.3.1 below (not exceeding 15% 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 or territorial schools, and the purchase of services directly linked to joint partnership plans)
  • costs associated with extending provincial or territorial initiatives or programs to First Nations schools, or First Nations initiatives or programs to provincial or territorial schools
  • IT set-up services, including the purchase of hardware, software and license fees, and professional development and training related to information management and technology
  • purchase of learning and instructional materials
  • costs associated with establishing a First Nations school board that will assume responsibility over on-reserve elementary and secondary education, including operating schools and managing tuition agreements

6.3 Ineligible expenditures

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

  • provincial and territorial tuition
  • activities related to the negotiation and implementation of self-government agreements
  • infrastructure, including planning, construction, operation or maintenance of federal and First Nations school facilities
  • any activity expenditure that would result in duplicated funding (receiving funding from more than 1 source for the same expenditures on an activity), including fees and services covered through tuition agreements

In addition, funding cannot be used to acquire or maintain equipment or supplies in provincial or territorial schools, or provide professional development to provincial or territorial staff. Federal funding is intended to primarily support services to elementary and secondary First Nations students who ordinarily reside on-reserve, are between 4 and 21 years old and attend an on-reserve school, or a school for First Nations students in the territories. Provinces and territories are expected to be primarily responsible for financially supporting joint activities directed to students in provincial and territorial schools.

6.3.1 Maximum administration costs

Eligible administration costs for Structural Readiness include only the actual costs associated directly with administering EPP and must not exceed 15% of total costs. If you are using the DCI, it will automatically calculate the percentage based on the amount you enter for administration. If you are using a compatible format, ensure that administration costs are clearly identified, including a subtotal specific to these costs.

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

  • 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

Note: When a funding recipient transfers to a third party funds that were received under the EPP, the 15% allowed for administration costs must be divided between the parties, as agreed to by the parties. The total administration costs retained by all parties must not exceed 15% of total costs.

6.3.2 Duration of funding

Recipients and beneficiaries should not interpret funding for a 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

The EPP is not designed to duplicate funding for activities funded by other programs, nor to supplement funding from other program areas. Activities that provide training, resources or services that can be addressed under another specific ISC program are not eligible for EPP funding. However, activities related to developing 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

Applicants must provide sufficient detail in proposals to support the assessment process. This is especially true of information on:

Insufficient detail will require revision. If, as an applicant, you have questions, contact the appropriate program analyst, at

Proposals can be submitted using the official 2020-21 ISC DCI or a Microsoft compatible Word or Excel format. The DCI shows what information is required as part of a proposal. If you want to prepare your proposal using a compatible format, include all the elements described in the guidance template. If you do not have access to the portal, contact your regional office for the template.

All proposals are assessed on their merits, in accordance with the following assessment criteria. As such, ensure your proposal demonstrates:

Meeting these criteria does not guarantee funding from the EPP.

8. Proposal process

For information on the call for proposals, consult ISC's EPP page.

Proposals can be submitted using the DCI form or a compatible format. Submit your proposal to your ISC regional office.

See the DCI proposal form and its attached instructions for application details, or refer to the accessible format template available from your regional ISC office.

The number of proposals funded will depend on the funds available for the year.

9. Funding

Due to ongoing changes in the EPP, 2020-2021 funding will be approved for 1 year only, and provided in the form of a 1-year contribution.

9.1 Funding approaches

Transfer payments to funding recipients under the EPP Structural Readiness component will be made using fixed contribution. Set contribution may be used if the recipient so wishes. ISC regional officers can advise on eligibility to these 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 EPP directions for the management of transfer payments complement the directions provided in the recipient's signed funding agreement and are to be read in conjunction with the funding agreement.

  1. Set contribution funding
    Reallocation of funding: Reallocation of funds is not allowed with transfer payments made using set contribution.
  2. 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 the EPP. Recipients must obtain approval from the ISC officer responsible for the program in their region before reallocating funds.

Unexpended funds

Recipients may retain unexpended funding from a fiscal year, to expend in the 1-year period immediately following the fiscal year for which it was provided, on eligible activities and expenditures outlined in the Education Partnerships Program: Structural Readiness component: National Program Guidelines 2020-2021.

10. Accountability and reporting

10.1 Accountability

ISC is committed to providing assistance to recipients and partners in order to help them effectively carry out obligations set out in these guidelines and funding agreements. Regional offices and other ISC 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 these guidelines, 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 these guidelines.

10.2 Reporting requirements

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

Recipients are responsible for completing an annual report and submitting it to their ISC regional office by June 30 the year following receipt of the funds. If the funded work has not concluded, final reporting should also include information on next steps and timeline.

11. Contact information

For more information, consult the Education Partnerships Program web page.

To find your regional office's coordinates, refer to the ISC regional offices page.

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:

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