11. Diplomas and Certificates

11.1 Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD)

The Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD) requires that a student must earn 30 credits: 18 compulsory and 12 optional. A credit is defined as a 110-hour course in which the expectations are laid down by the Ontario Ministry of Education curriculum guideline. Students must also complete 40 hours of Community Involvement Activities and must meet the provincial literacy requirement.

If the student is currently registered in and attending an Ontario public school or private school and is simply taking one or two courses from Virtual High School, then the student will in all cases, complete the provincial literacy requirement and Community Involvement Activities at their home school where their OSR resides. Only students who are the sole responsibility of Virtual High School will complete the Community Involvement Activities and the provincial literacy requirement at Virtual High School.

11.1.1 What is needed to graduate if you started grade 9 after 1/9/99?

  1. Eighteen (18) Compulsory Credits (courses you must take)
    • 4 credits in English (1 credit per grade)*
    • 3 credits in mathematics (at least 1 credit in Grade 11 or 12)
    • 2 credits in science
    • 1 credit in the arts**
    • 1 credit in Canadian geography Grade 9
    • 1 credit in Canadian history Grade 10
    • 1 credit in French as a second language***
    • 1 credit in health and physical education
    • 0.5 credit in career studies
    • 0.5 credit in civics and citizenship
    • Three (3) additional credits, consisting of one credit from each of the following three groups:
    • Group 1: one additional credit in English (including the Ontario Secondary School Literacy Course), French as a second language, classical and international languages, Native languages, First Nations, M├ętis, and Inuit studies, Canadian and world studies, social sciences and the humanities, guidance and career education, cooperative education, American Sign Language as a second language
    • Group 2: one additional credit in French as a second language, the arts, business studies, health and physical education, cooperative education, America Sign Language as a second language
    • Group 3: one additional credit in French as a second language, science (Grade 11 or 12), computer studies, technological education, cooperative education, American Sign Language as a second language

    Note: The following conditions apply to selections from the above three groups:

    • A maximum of 2 credits in French as a second language may count as additional compulsory credits, 1 credit from Group 1, and 1 credit from either Group 2 or Group 3.
    • A maximum of 2 credits in cooperative education may count as additional compulsory credits, selected from any of Groups 1, 2, or 3.
    * The Ontario Secondary School Literacy Course (OSSLC) may be used to meet either the Grade 11 or the Grade 12 English compulsory credit requirement. The Grade 11 Contemporary Aboriginal Voices course may be used to meet the Grade 11 English compulsory credit requirement. For English language learners the requirement may be met through earning a maximum of 3 credits in English as a second language (ESL) or English literacy development (ELD); the fourth credit must be a Grade 12 compulsory English course.
    ** The Grade 9 Expressing Aboriginal Cultures course may be used to meet the compulsory credit requirement in the arts.
    *** Students who have taken Native languages in place of French as a second language in elementary school may use a Level 1 or 2 Native language course to meet the compulsory credit requirement for French as a second language.
  2. Twelve (12) Optional Credits (courses you get to choose)
  3. In addition to the 18 compulsory credits described above, students must also complete 12 optional credits which may include up to 4 credits earned through approved dual credit programs*.

    *Virtual High School does not offer dual credit programs at this time.

  4. Forty (40) hours of Community Involvement Activities
  5. Students who began secondary school during or after the 1999-2000 school year must complete a minimum of 40 hours community involvement activities as part of the diploma requirements. The purpose of this requirement is to encourage students to develop an awareness and understanding of civic responsibility, the role they can play, and the contribution they can make in supporting and strengthening communities. The Virtual High School Principal will determine the number of hours of community service the mature student is required to complete, based on the grade level in which the student enrolls.

    Note: See subsection 11.1.5 below for more information.

  6. The Provincial Literacy Requirement
  7. Students who entered Grade 9 in the 1999 - 2000 school year or in subsequent years must successfully complete the provincial literacy requirement. For most students, this means passing the Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test (OSSLT). This test, administered by EQAO, determines whether the student has acquired the reading and writing skills considered essential for literacy. It is based on the Ontario curriculum expectations for language and communication, particularly reading and writing, up to and including Grade 9.

    Note: See subsection 11.1.4 below for more information.

11.1.2 Substitution of Compulsory Credit Requirements

In order to allow flexibility in designing a student's program and to ensure that all students can qualify for the OSSD or the OSSC, substitutions may be made for up to 3 compulsory credit courses using courses from the remaining courses offered by the school that meet the requirements for compulsory credits. Students who qualify under this substitute credit arrangement are those whose educational interests, in the opinion of their parents or guardians, or Virtual High School Principal, are best served by such substitution. In all cases, however, the sum of compulsory and optional credits will not be less than thirty for students aiming to earn the Ontario Secondary School Diploma.

The following are limitations on substitutions for compulsory credits:

  • English as a second language and English literacy development courses may not be used to substitute for a compulsory credit. (They may be used, however, to meet the compulsory credit requirements for three English credits in accordance with OS section 6.1.1.)
  • No more than one learning strategies course, from the guidance and career education curriculum policy document, may be used through substitution to meet a compulsory credit requirement.
  • Credits earned for cooperative education courses may not be used through substitution to meet compulsory credit requirements.
  • A locally developed compulsory credit (LDCC) course may not be used as a substitute for a compulsory credit; it may be used only to meet the compulsory credit requirement that it has been designed to meet (see OS section 7.3.1).

Each substitution will be noted on the with an "X" in the "Note" column on the Ontario Student Transcript.

11.1.3 Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition (PLAR)

Prior learning includes the knowledge and skills that students have acquired, in both formal and informal ways, outside Ontario secondary school classrooms. Through a formal evaluation and accreditation process known as Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition (PLAR), students enrolled in Ontario secondary schools, including the Independent Learning Centre and inspected private schools that choose to implement PLAR, may have their skills and knowledge evaluated against the overall expectations outlined in provincial curriculum policy documents in order to earn credits towards the secondary school diploma. PLAR procedures are carried out under the direction of the school principal, who grants the credits.

The PLAR process developed by a school board in compliance with Ministry policy involves two components: challenge and equivalency. The challenge process is the process whereby students' prior learning is assessed for the purpose of granting credit for a course developed from a provincial curriculum policy document. The equivalency process involves the assessment of credentials from other jurisdictions.

PLAR for Regular Day School Students:

Because young people benefit in many ways from the learning experiences offered in secondary school, PLAR has a specific, limited function in the Ontario secondary school program. For regular day school students, a maximum of 4 credits may be granted through the challenge process for Grades 10, 11, and 12 courses; or for Levels 1, 2, and 3 in classical languages courses; for Levels 2, 3, and 4 in international languages courses; and for Levels 3, 4, and 5 in Native languages courses. No more than 2 of these credits may be granted in one discipline.

For students who are transferring from home schooling, a non-inspected private school, or a school outside Ontario, principals will grant equivalency credits for placement purposes based on their evaluation of the student's previous learning (see OS section 4.3.2 and Appendix 2).

PLAR procedures must also be available to exceptional students. Assessment strategies must be adapted for this group in keeping with their special needs; for example, extra time might be allowed for the completion of work, or a quiet environment might be provided for activities. While PLAR may be of benefit to some gifted students, it is not intended to be used as a replacement for or alternative to enriched or other special programs for gifted students.

PPM No. 129 outlines in detail the PLAR policy and requirements that apply to regular day school students.

PLAR for Mature Students:

A mature student is a student who is at least eighteen years of age on or before December 31 of the school year in which they register in an Ontario secondary school program; who was not enrolled as a regular day school student for a period of at least one school year immediately preceding their registration in a secondary school program (for mature students, a school year is a period of no less than ten consecutive months immediately preceding the student's return to school); and who is enrolled in a secondary program for the purpose of obtaining an OSSD.

Because of the broader life experience of mature students, the requirements concerning the application of PLAR procedures are different for them than for regular day school students. Principals will determine the number of credits, including compulsory credits, that a mature student needs in order to meet the credit requirements for the Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD). At the discretion of the principal, up to 16 grade 9 and 10 equivalency credits may be granted to a mature student following an individual assessment.

Mature students may earn 10 of the 14-remaining grade 11 and 12 credits needed to meet diploma requirements in three ways:

  • they may demonstrate achievement of the required secondary school curriculum expectations and receive credit through the challenge process;
  • they may present education and/or training credentials for assessment through the equivalency process; or
  • they may take the course.

It should be noted that Levels 2 and 3 in classical languages are equivalent to Grades 11 and 12, respectively; that Levels 3 and 4 in international languages are equivalent to Grades 11 and 12, respectively; and that Levels 4 and 5 in Native languages are equivalent to Grades 11 and 12, respectively.

Mature students must earn a minimum of 4 grade 11 and 12 credits by taking the course at a secondary school (or through any of the options outlined in OS section 10). Mature students who have previously accumulated 26 or more credits towards the diploma must successfully complete the required number of courses to bring their total number of credits up to 30 before they will be eligible to receive the OSSD. Mature students working towards the OSSD under OS must also satisfy the diploma requirements with regard to the provincial literacy requirement. Principals will determine the number of hours of community involvement activities that a mature student will have to complete.

PPM No. 132 outlines in detail the PLAR policy and requirements that apply to mature students.

Regular day school students who transfer to an Ontario secondary school from a school outside Ontario or from a non-inspected private school may be granted equivalent credits through the PLAR equivalency process for regular day school students based on the principal's evaluation of their previous learning. The total number of equivalent credits and the corresponding number of compulsory credits are recorded on the OST. The equivalent credits should be entered as a total, and the required items of information should appear as follows: "Equivalent Credits" should be entered in the "Course Title" column; "PLE" in the "Course Code" column; "EQV" in the "Percentage Grade" column; the total number of credits in the "Credit" column; and the total number of compulsory credits in the "Compulsory" column.

The Ontario Student Transcript (OST): Manual, 2010, p.13-14

11.1.4 Provincial Literacy Requirement

If you entered Grade 9 in September 1999 or later and are working toward an Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD), you must meet the provincial literacy requirement in order to earn your high school diploma. For most students, this means writing the Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test (OSSLT). Virtual High School students seeking an Ontario Secondary School Diploma will take the Secondary School Literacy Test in Grade 10. When a student has met the provincial literacy requirement, this will be recorded on their Ontario Student Transcript.

Please note: The literacy requirement has been waived for students graduating in the 2021-22 school year. This requirement will be restored for students graduating in the 2022-23 school year.


The Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test (OSSLT) is the usual method for assessing the literacy skills of students in Ontario for the purpose of determining whether they meet the provincial literacy requirement for graduation. The test thus identifies students who have demonstrated the required skills in literacy as well as those who have not demonstrated the required skills and will need to do further work. The test identifies the specific areas in which these latter students need remediation. The test is scheduled by and administered through the Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) once each year, usually in the spring. Students will usually take the OSSLT in the school year following the school year in which they enter Grade 9. Students who do not successfully complete the OSSLT will have opportunities to retake the test in subsequent years, on dates scheduled by the EQAO.

Virtual High School can organize the OSSLT administration for students whose Ontario Student Record (OSR) is held at Virtual High School. The test can be written at the Virtual High School office in Bayfield, Ontario, where students will be invigilated by a Virtual High School staff member. Alternatively, students may write the test at an alternative location if they make special arrangements as specified by the Ministry of Education. The test must be supervised by a suitable official who satisfies the requirements outlined by EQAO.


Students who have had the opportunity to write the OSSLT twice and were unsuccessful at least once may be eligible to meet the provincial literacy requirement by successfully completing the Ontario Secondary School Literacy Course (OSSLC).

Accommodations, Special Provisions, Deferrals, and Exemptions

In accordance with OS section 6.1.3 and Appendix 3, students may be eligible for accommodations, special provisions, deferrals, or exemptions from the provincial literacy requirement.

  • Accommodations: Students with special education needs and those who have an Individual Education Plan (IEP) may be eligible to have accommodations implemented to ensure that they will have a fair and equal opportunity to successfully complete the OSSLT or the OSSLC.
  • Special Provisions: Special provisions (adjustments to the setting and/or timing for writing the test) may be made for English language learners if the principal of Virtual High School deems such provisions to be in the best educational interest of the student.
  • Deferrals: Deferrals are intended for students who are working toward the OSSD and who have not yet acquired a level of proficiency in English that would allow them to successfully complete the test. A request for a deferral may be made by either a parent (or the student, if the student is over eighteen) or the school, as long as both parties have been consulted. Such requests should be made in writing to the Virtual High School principal. The principal may grant the deferral.
  • Exemptions: To be eligible for an exemption, a student must have an IEP. The IEP must include documentation to support an exemption from the literacy graduation requirement and a clear indication that the student is not working towards an OSSD. Both parental consent and the approval of the Virtual High School principal are required for an exemption.

11.1.5 Community Involvement Activities

All students must complete a minimum of 40 hours of unpaid community involvement activities before graduating from high school. This requirement is in addition to the 30 credits and literacy requirement needed for a high school diploma. Students who are the sole responsibility of Virtual High School will be able to choose their own community involvement activities, within guidelines that will be provided by Virtual High School. Students will be responsible for fulfilling this requirement on their own time, and for keeping a record of their activities on a tracking booklet supplied by the school. The student is required to submit the tracking booklet yearly, the data from which is placed on the OST to be kept in the student's OSR. Students will provide documentation of completion of volunteer hours to the principal of the school where the student's OSR is held.

Please note: The Ontario Ministry of Education has reduced the graduation requirement to a minimum of 20 hours of community involvement activities for students who are graduating in the 2021-2022 school year. The community involvement graduation requirement of 40 hours will be restored in 2022-23. Students working toward their OSSD should make sure they meet these graduation requirements in time for their graduating year.

Students can start accumulating their community involvement hours in the summer before entering grade 9.

To strengthen communities and encourage civic responsibility, students must complete the 40 hours of community activities outside of scheduled class time. Students are to select community activities appropriate to their age, maturity, and ability. The student is not to partake in any activity in which the student's safety will be compromised. Any activity NOT on the approved list must receive written approval of the Principal of Virtual High School before beginning the activity.

Community Involvement Activities not approved:

  • Any paid activity (i.e. babysitting);
  • Cooperative education;
  • Any activities or programs organized by the school (i.e. cadets);
  • Playing on sport teams;
  • Any involving the operation of a motor vehicle or power tools or scaffolding;
  • Any involving in the administration of medications or medical procedures to another person;
  • Any occurring in an unsafe or unsupervised environment;
  • Any displacing a paid worker;
  • Any in a logging or mining environment if the student is under 16 years old;
  • Any in a factory, if the student is under 15 years of age;
  • Any taking place in a workplace other than a factory, if the student is under fourteen years of age and is not accompanied by an adult;
  • Any involving handling of substances classed as "designated substances" under the Occupational Health and Safety Act;
  • Any requiring the knowledge of a tradesperson whose trade is regulated by the provincial government;
  • Any involving banking or the handling of securities, or the handling of jewellery, works of art, antiques, or other valuables;
  • Any consisting of duties normally performed in the home (i.e. daily chores) or personal recreational activities;
  • Any involving activities for a court-ordered program (i.e. community-service program for young offenders, probationary program).

Community Involvement Activities approved:

  • Fundraising for non-profit organizations
  • Coaching or assisting sports at the community level
  • Church activities such as helping teach Sunday school, bazaars, etc.
  • Assisting seniors with chores (e.g. delivering groceries, yard maintenance, etc.)
  • Involvement in community committees, food banks, fairs, etc.
  • Participation in environment projects such as recycling projects, etc.
  • A letter-writing campaign to seniors living in a nursing or retirement home
  • Virtual tutoring to help students practice reading, communication, and/or other skills
  • Volunteering related to animal care (e.g. an animal shelter or on a farm)
  • involvement in health organizations (e.g. volunteering for Canadian Blood Services (assist at blood donor clinic or time required to donate blood), volunteering in hospices);
  • participation in environmental projects (e.g. Picking up litter, garden planting, recycling projects).

Roles and Responsibilities of the Stakeholders

The principal is required to provide information about the community involvement requirement to parents, students, and community sponsors. The principal is also required to provide students with the information and forms they will need to complete the community involvement requirement, including the school's list of approved activities from which to choose. After a student completes the 40 hours of community involvement and submits all documentation of their completion to the school, the principal will decide whether the student has met the community involvement requirement and, if so, will record it as completed on the student's official transcript.

In consultation with their parents, students will select an activity or activities from the list of approved activities or choose an activity that is not on the list, provided that it is not an activity specified on the Ministry of Education's and the school's lists of ineligible activities. If the activity is not on the list of approved activities, the student must obtain written approval from the principal before beginning the activity.

Before beginning any activity, students will provide the principal or other school contact with a completed "Notification of Planned Community Involvement Activities" form indicating the activity or activities that they plan to do. This form must be signed by the student, and by their parent if the student is under eighteen years of age. More than one such form may be submitted when additional activities are planned that were not included on a previously submitted form.

A "Completion of Community Involvement Activities" form must be completed by the student, the student's parent (if the student is under eighteen years of age), and the community sponsor (that is, the person or organization that provided the community involvement opportunity for the student). The student must submit the form to the principal or other school contact upon completion of the 40 hours or at appropriate intervals determined by the principal.

Parents (or guardians) should assist their child in the selection of their community involvement activities. Parents are also encouraged to communicate with the community sponsor and the school principal if they have any questions or concerns. A parent must sign the "Notification of Planned Community Involvement Activities" form and the "Completion of Community Involvement Activities" form if the student is under the age of eighteen years. Parents are also responsible for obtaining the appropriate insurance covering the student for any unseen circumstances while involved in these community activities.

One of the purposes of the community involvement requirement is to develop strong ties between the students and their community, fostering valuable and long-term relationships. Persons and organizations within the community may be asked by the student to sponsor a community involvement activity. Any training, equipment, or special preparation that is required for the activity should be provided by the person or organization. It is crucial that students are able to fulfill their community involvement requirement in a safe environment. The person overseeing the student's activity must verify the date(s) and the number of hours completed on the "Completion of Community Involvement Activities" form. Community sponsors will be responsible for ensuring that their liability insurance will protect them for their involvement in the program. The community sponsor should be aware that the students do not have either accident insurance or Workplace Safety Insurance through Virtual High School. The community sponsors should ensure that the students are provided with adequate safety instructions, are trained properly for their work, and supervised to ensure a safe volunteer experience.

11.2 Ontario Secondary School Certificate

The Ontario Secondary School Certificate (OSSC) will be granted, on request, to students who are leaving secondary school upon reaching the age of eighteen without having met the requirements for the Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD). To be granted an OSSC, a student must have earned a minimum of 14 credits, distributed as follows.

11.2.1 Compulsory Credits (total of 7)

  • 2 credits in English
  • 1 credit in Canadian geography OR Canadian history
  • 1 credit in mathematics
  • 1 credit in science
  • 1 credit in health and physical education
  • 1 credit in the arts, computer studies or technological education

11.2.2 Optional Credits (total of 7)

  • 7 credits selected by the student from available courses

Note: The Principal, to better serve a student's educational interest, and in consultation with the parent, may replace up to three courses with courses meeting the requirement for compulsory credits. Either the Principal or the parent my initiate the process. The total of compulsory and optional credits will still not be less than 14 for granting an OSSC. The substitution will be noted on the OST.

11.3 Certificate of Accomplishment

Students who are leaving secondary school upon reaching the age of eighteen without having met the requirements for the Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD) or the Ontario Secondary School Certificate (OSSC) may be granted a Certificate of Accomplishment. The Certificate of Accomplishment may be a useful means of recognizing achievement for students who plan to take certain kinds of further training, or who plan to find employment directly after leaving school. The Certificate of Accomplishment is to be accompanied by the student's Ontario Student Transcript. For students who have an Individual Education Plan (IEP), a copy of the IEP may be included.

Students who return to school to complete additional credit and non-credit courses (including courses with modified or alternative expectations in special education programs) will have their transcript updated accordingly but will not be issued a new Certificate of Accomplishment. The OSSD or OSSC will be granted when the returning student has fulfilled the appropriate requirements.