Living and Learning: The Hall-Dennis Report

The Hall-Dennis Report was one of the main inspirations for the parents who created Alpha Alternative Elementary School in 1972 and Alpha II in 2007 as community-operated schools where student-directed learning could be fostered. ALPHA and Alpha II had other influences as well as Hall-Dennis, but it can be seen as an authentic and lasting legacy of a document that still has much to offer public education.

In 1968, a 24-member committee–chaired by Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada Emmett Hall, and school principal Dr. Lloyd Dennis—produced Living and Learning: The Report of the Provincial Committee on Aims and Objectives of Education in the Schools of Ontario (known as the Hall-Dennis Report), providing the most visionary education recommendations in Ontario’s history.

Based on Article 26 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Hall-Dennis supported a pluralistic, non-judgmental approach in which the “welfare of the individual child must be paramount in making decisions, and no stereotyped attitude, or condition of class, economic status, or environment should prejudice…” (Hall, Dennis et al., 1968, The Truth Shall Make You Free, para. 27). For each child, every gift was to have an opportunity for development and every disability was to be accommodated “in an atmosphere of self respect and dignity, and without the stigma of failure” (para. 29).

To attain these goals, Hall-Dennis called for a rethinking of how to represent student progress. Recommendation 74 was: “Abandon the use of class standing, percentage marks, and letter grades in favor of parent and pupil counseling as a method of reporting individual progress”. The Report recommended that there be no examinations except “where the experience would be of value to students planning to attend universities where formal examinations may still be in use” (Hall, Dennis et al., 1968, Recommendations, No. 75). “[L]ock-step systems of organizing pupils, such as grades, streams, programs, etc” were to be eliminated (No. 3).

The Hall-Dennis Report took a fresh look at education. Its principles were based on human rights and democracy and its findings on broad research into educational needs, approaches, and possibilities. It offered opportunity to those willing to take up the work of moving Ontario’s education system toward more effective and humane education methods and a more just and democratic social structure. This opportunity was embraced by many individual parents, teachers and schools, and soon inspired the creation of new models of Ontario public schools.

On May 14, 2008, the TVO aired an episode of The Agenda with Steve Paikin, entitled “Hall-Dennis at 40″. The program featured four of the original members of the Hall-Dennis Committee, all of whom expressed their conviction that the Hall-Dennis Report still offered the best solutions for Ontario Education.

The full Dennis-Hall report is available at