Back to school: frequently asked questions
In previous years parents and caregivers have asked a range of questions about back to school issues. We have answered some of the most common questions below.
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- Does my daughter need to read and write before she starts school?
Children arrive at school with different skills. Teachers will sit with your daughter during Term 1 to assess her early literacy and numeracy skills so that they can develop an appropriate teaching program.
These assessment tasks are not tests, simply a tool to help the teacher plan what to teach, and how to teach it.
A guide for parents on the Best Start Kindergarten: literacy and numeracy assessment, including what students do during the assessment and the kinds of tasks involved, is available on our website.
NSW Foundation Style handwriting (PDF 14MB) is the style of handwriting taught in NSW public schools.
- My son is concerned about starting Kindergarten. How can I best prepare him?
This year, for the first time, there is a Transition to School Statement available for children who are starting Kindergarten in 2015. The Statement is to be voluntarily filled out by families, together with their early childhood service (e.g. long day care or preschool), before being forwarded on to your child's intended school. This information can help schools support your child at this important time.
Explain to your son that school is going to be fun and that he will meet many new friends, and take part in lots of exciting learning and play activities.
Make sure your child can easily open his lunchbox, unwrap sandwiches and open a drink bottle. Boys will also need to feel confident going to the toilet by themselves, and should know how to use a urinal.
Getting ready for school (PDF 7MB) contains more information to assist you in preparing your son for Kindergarten.
A Special Place (PDF 5MB) is a children's picture book written especially for you to read with your child about starting Kindergarten.
- How can I make sure my daughter quickly settles into Kindergarten?
If your daughter doesn't already have friends in her class, after-school play dates with classmates can help her to quickly establish friendships and to feel a sense of belonging.
Your daughter will also settle more quickly if you're involved with the school. Teachers often ask for parent volunteers to help with reading and mathematics classes each week. If you can find a couple of hours to be involved each term, in or out of school hours, your daughter will be thrilled. You'll also get to know the other children and the classroom teacher.
Classroom teachers know that starting school can be an anxious time for many kids (and parents too) so feel free to discuss your concerns with them.
- My children want to buy lunch from the school canteen. What kind of food do they provide?
Although canteens vary from school to school, they are all required to offer students healthy and nutritious food and drinks, in line with the Australian dietary guidelines for children and adolescents.
Canteens endeavour to keep costs down, and often rely on parent volunteers. Your school can provide details of the canteen menu, which may even include food from other cultures.
Further information on school canteens can be found on our website.
- How does before and after school care work?
Many parents/carers need to drop children off early or pick them up after school hours. The majority of schools have some local fee-charging service they can recommend as a provider of before and after school care. Many have an outside school hours care (OSHC) service located on or nearby the school grounds. Some family day care services also provide care for school aged children.
You can search for services in your area by visiting the Mychild website.
The National Quality Framework for early childhood education and care sets requirements for OSHC services. This Framework is a national system that is designed to ensure that long day care, family day care, preschools and OSHC are providing quality education and care. In NSW, OSHC services are regulated by the NSW DEC Early Childhood Education and Care Directorate.
All OSHC educators in NSW must undergo working with children checks before they are employed.
OSHC's will often provide afternoon tea for your child, and organise planned activities and free play time within a safe environment. At some schools, the OSHC educators wait at the classroom door each afternoon to walk all participating Kindergarten children to OSHC.
You may be eligible for the Centrelink child care benefit to help with OSHC fees.
The Network of Community Activities website has more information about OSHC.
- Does the school offer care over the school holidays?
Some parents/carers may need care for their children during school holidays.
Many outside school hours care (OSHC) services offer care during school holidays as well as before and after school care.
As with other types of OSHC, vacation care services operate under the National Quality Framework and are regulated by the NSW DEC Early Childhood Education and Care Directorate.
- Is it compulsory for my child to wear a uniform?
The majority of schools have a uniform, developed in consultation with the school community. The school, in consultation with its community, determines what is compulsory for their school. A school uniform makes it easy to spot visitors in the playground, and helps identify students on excursions and at sporting events.
Most schools also have a 'no hat, play in the shade' policy to help children remember to wear their school hat outside for sun protection. If you require assistance with the cost of uniforms, please talk to the principal.
For further information you can refer to the school uniform policy and the school uniforms in NSW government schools (PDF 821kB) support document.
- What if it's really hot when my child starts school?
During hot weather there are a variety of measures that schools and parents can take to support students. Parents can assist by ensuring they have packed a water bottle in their child's school bag and that their child is wearing a suitable hat.
It's also a good idea to apply sunscreen to your child before heading off to school.
More information about supporting students during hot weather and sun safety for students is available on our website.
- Why are there student-free days each term and when are they?
Teachers return to school a day prior to students at the commencement of Terms 1, 2 and 3, to participate in school planning and staff development. These days are called school development days (PDF 43kB).
There are also two more school development days in Term 4.
Schools may vary the date of a school development day after consulting with their school community so please check with your school.
If your child is starting Kindergarten or Year 7, please check with the school as these students may start on a different day to other children.
- My child has been placed in a combined or multi-age class. What does this mean?
A combined or multi-age class brings students from two or more age levels into one class.
The school curriculum is organised in stages and multi-age classes are often made up of students from two different age groups who are in the same stage.
- Stage 1 includes all students in Kindergarten, Year 1 and Year 2.
- Stage 2 includes students in Year 3 and Year 4.
- Stage 3 includes students in Years 5 and 6.
Multi-age classes group students according to educational, social and developmental needs rather than just age or year level.
Research indicates that multi-age grouping can provide both educational and social benefits.
- Do I have to pay school fees?
Primary and secondary schools can request financial contributions to enhance educational and sporting programs. School contributions are voluntary and are not compulsory.
Whether you pay the fees is a matter for you to decide. Parents who cannot pay for elective subjects because of hardship may be helped from funding held at the school. Speak to the principal to get more information or to discuss your situation.
- I am concerned that some of the children at the school may not be immunised. What happens if there is an outbreak of, say, measles at our school?
At primary school, parents are asked to provide an Immunisation History Statement for their child. A child without an Immunisation History Statement will not be prevented from enrolling in a primary school.
If there is an outbreak of measles—or another vaccine preventable disease—at the school, any children for whom proof of immunisation has not been provided, or is incomplete, may be asked by public health officials to remain at home during the outbreak.
More information about immunisation and vaccine preventable diseases can be found on our website.
- What is the best food to pack in a school lunch box?
A healthy diet can boost learning and help your child thrive during the school day. Learning makes kids hungry and these simple food tips may help your child think more clearly.
Check out the great lunch box recipes from sandwiches to snacks and treats.
Lunch is when kids have time to eat and to play, and the article lunch versus play outlines the reason for packing smart snacks.
Be mindful that food allergies can develop at any time and it is important in managing allergies to avoid exposure to known allergens. Be mindful that there are likely to be students at your child's school allergic to some foods and remind your child not to share food from their lunchbox.
Sometimes a school may request certain foods are not brought to a school so check with your principal if you are unsure. For more information see the information on our website.
- My child has a health condition which may require medication at school. What do I need to do?
Schools encourage parents to provide information about their children's health both on enrolment and on an ongoing basis. If your child has a health condition you should advise the school immediately.
If your child needs medication during school time you should complete a written request. Students must not carry medication unless there is a written agreement between the school and the student's parents.
More information on health conditions and administering prescribed medication at school is available on our website.
- What support is there for kids with a learning difficulty or a disability?
The NSW public schools provide additional support for students with a disability or a learning difficulty in a range of ways, according to the individual needs of each student.
This support may include changes that teachers make in the classroom to the teaching and learning programs; access to a wide range of personnel with specialist expertise who support students and their classroom teachers; and additional assistance in the classroom from support staff.
The school principal is well placed to talk with you about your child's additional learning needs. Parents and carers play a vital role by taking part in discussions and planning for their child's needs.
Further information about support for students can be found on the Department's website.
Getting ready for school - a guide for parents of a child with disability (PDF 423kB) contains information to assist you.
- Is there homework in Kindergarten and what do they learn?
In Kindergarten there is generally no formal homework. Homework in Kindergarten is all about helping your child to read, problem solve and most importantly, play. For little kids, playing is learning.
Homework for little kids talks about what you can do to help your child make the most of what they learn at school.