Starting school and preparing for the first ‘big day’

The school year starts in late January, after the summer holiday period. For specific term dates see the NSW Department of Education term dates and holidays calendar.

Children can start Kindergarten at the beginning of the school year if they turn 5 on or before 31 July that year. And legally, all children must be in compulsory schooling by the time they turn 6.

You may need to make a decision based on your little learner’s exact age and capabilities, and you can discuss the options with your preschool or childcare centre. The school should also be able to give you guidance and should be prepared to support new arrivals with varied levels of development and ability.

Make sure to attend any orientation days on offer, as this will allow you to see your little one in the school setting, and make the most of any transitional programs offered by the school.

Pioneering childcare centres, such as the Cherry Bridge Station centres in NSW, will also offer their own School Readiness Program, tailored to suit your child and also your choice of school.

Preparing Your Child

There are many ways to support your little one and help them to be prepared for their first day at ‘big school’. As we know all children are unique and will develop at different paces, so the following things to practise together are only intended as guidelines.

(From our article: Is Your Child School-Ready?’)

Language

  • Talking about like/dislikes, objects and events
  • Asking/answering questions
  • Expressing needs, like being thirsty or needing the toilet
  • Enjoying age-appropriate books and pictures
  • Singing along to nursery rhymes/songs

Maths

  • Recognising numbers and practising with counting
  • Practising with less/more
  • Identifying differences in shapes
  • Learning opposites – up/down, under/over, in front/behind

Life Skills

  • Using the toilet
  • Knowing name and address/house number
  • Tidying-up after playing
  • Playing, sharing and taking turns
  • Listening and concentrating e.g. story time
  • Ad-lib playing and make-believe

Physical

  • Using the toilet
  • Using safety scissors and practising crafts
  • Enjoying indoor and outdoor play
  • Practising getting dressed

Preparing Yourselves

Let’s not forget that parents/guardians and families need to be prepared too! Here are a few of our favourite tips for a smooth transition into the school day routine.

  • Do as much preparation as you can in the days leading up to the first school day. Try on the uniform/shoes/sports kit. Pack school bags and make sure your child has everything they will need on their first day.
  • Have an early night and allow plenty of time in the morning, so if you forget something, or have to stop for fuel, or the bus is late, or your little one has some last minute wobbles, or any of those normal things – you will not need to panic.
  • Plan the travel route and have an idea of where you are going to park when you get there, if you’re going by car. It’s so frustrating arriving somewhere on time and then realising you’ll have to park lightyears away.
  • Make set arrangements for home time, so your child knows where you will be and when. Again allow for parking and travelling times and be sure that the school has your mobile contact numbers.
  • Make lists, set alarms, use a diary… whatever it takes to make the first days a breeze while you settle into your new routine.
  • And don’t forget to have fun and celebrate these early learning years. Your little learner will always remember this first important milestone.