Leaside

A family of four finds a school that fit their needs

St. Anselm in Leaside has advantages that go beyond academics


  • Who: Bronwyn and Brett Gray, parents to 13-year-old Maran, and 8-year-old Niamh
  • What they do: Bronwyn works part-time at Brett’s IT consulting company.
  • Where they live: A townhouse near Laird and Eglinton

Bronwyn first met Brett three decades ago, when she arrived in Canada from England to work as a nanny. Brett was a lifelong Leasider with deep roots in midtown Toronto. A few years later, in 1997, when the pair were looking for a home they could share, staying in the Leaside area was a priority.

At first, schools weren’t a major consideration. That changed when their first daughter, Maran, reached kindergarten age. The family’s townhouse was in the catchment of Thorncliffe Park Public School, a primary school with more than 1,400 students. But a neighbour told them about their local public Catholic school, St. Anselm. With just over 300 students and excellent standardized test scores, it seemed like a safer option. And although Bronwyn isn’t Catholic, Brett is—meaning Maran could qualify for admission.

The idea of religious education made sense to them. Bronwyn had attended Church of England schools during her time in the U.K. They decided to make the leap.

A decade later, they’re glad they did. The school has turned out to be a fit for both their daughters—and for the parents. “I didn’t put my kids in school thinking that I’d become great friends with anybody,” Bronwyn says. “But I’ve made some really great friends with other parents.”

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When Maran was in Grade 1, Bronwyn began serving on the school’s parent council. She has helped organize fundraisers for things like new library furniture and school supplies. At the start of Lent, Bronwyn, along with dozens of other parents, volunteers to cook a pancake breakfast for the entire school. Parents even organize a music night where each class performs a song while adults bid on silent auctions.

The school has advantages that go beyond mere academics. Leaside is one of the least diverse neighbourhoods in the entire city of Toronto, with just 18 per cent of the area’s residents identifying themselves as visible minorities as of the last census. But the makeup of St. Anselm isn’t quite so homogenous. “Because the school is a Catholic school it has a large catchment,” Bronwyn says. “We have a large Filipino community in the school. We’ve got a Spanish-speaking contingent.” Regardless of their backgrounds, all the school’s students have Catholicism in common.

The uncrowded, supportive learning environment has allowed Maran to thrive. She has competed on the school’s W5H trivia team, which participates in general knowledge competitions with other Catholic schools. She mentors younger students as part of a school program that allows older students to volunteer with lower classes. She has developed a love for math, and a great deal of confidence in her own intelligence. After St. Anselm, the family’s plan is for the two girls to attend the local secular secondary school, Leaside High, which has an excellent reputation. “We’re here until university is done with,” Bronwyn says.