There’s no doubt that the first day of school is a much anticipated occasion for both a child and their parents. But there are strategies to reduce your child’s fears and tears and instead replace them with cheers for this special day.
As milestones go, starting school is a major event in a child’s life and it’s important that it is a positive experience. Studies have shown that children who have a positive transition to school are more successful in their education. (Docket & Perry, 1999). For parents, it’s a significant occasion as well as we want our children to be happy and thrive in an academic environment.
A successful transition to school is one that it carefully planned and takes into consideration the individual needs of your child. This involves first assessing if your child is ready for school and then preparing them for the transition to school.
What age should a child start school?
One of the first issues parents face is deciding when to send their child to school. In NSW state schools, children can start Kindergarten at the beginning of the school year if they turn five on or before 31 July in that year. By law, all children in NSW must be enrolled in school by their sixth birthday.
What Else Should I Consider in Deciding When My Child Starts School?
The decision about when to send kids to school has less to do with their actual age and more to do with their emotional and social maturity.
Examples of emotional and social maturity include:
- Being comfortable in a social setting without parents and playing well and sharing with others.
- Being able to sit and listen to instruction.
- Being able to go to the toilet by themselves.
- Being able to communicate with adults and other children.
If you unsure whether your child is ready, get some advice. For assistance in the decision, have a chat with your child’s preschool, carer or prospective school. They will be able to assess your child’s emotional and social maturity.
Is My Child Ready for Big School?
Some parents worry that their child isn’t “ready” for school as they might not be able to write their name, read to a certain level or count to a certain number. According to Kim Moroney, a former Kindergarten teacher and Assistant Principal at Saint Joseph’s Primary School in Merewether, this isn’t necessary. She states that parents don’t need to prepare their children as these are outcomes that children will achieve in their Kinder year. The NSW Board of Education specifically stresses that there are no specific skills that children need to have before starting Kindergarten. In fact, most of the time in Kindergarten is spent developing children’s literacy and numeracy skills.
As part of the Kindergarten experience, children are introduced to the NSW curriculum. No matter what school children attend, they all follow the NSW Curriculum, which consists of six learning areas studied throughout primary school. These include English, Mathematics, Science and Technology, Creative Arts, Human Society and Its Environment and Personal Development, Health and Physical Education.
Kim point out that children are continually assessed by teachers in these key learning areas and assisted in their individual achievement. She mentions that if your kids aren’t achieving a certain outcome, kindergarten teachers will work with children to assist them in learning. Likewise, if they are achieving outcomes ahead of others, teachers can provide them with enrichment exercises to challenge them. This is especially relevant if your child has been placed in a composite class, which includes children of different years.
For more information on the outcomes for kindergarten, visit the NSW Board of Studies website.
How to Prepare for the Transition to School
There are strategies that parents can employ to help children with their transition to school in the period before school starts.
- Talk about school in an everyday manner such as pointing out the school as you drive by or discussing friends or family who attend school. Don’t build up the event so that kids can get apprehensive about starting school.
- Read books to your child about starting school. Here’s a list we’ve put together.
- Attend Kindergarten transition sessions at your future school. This is a great way for kids to become familiar with the school and make friends with future schoolmates.
- Make sure your child is familiar with their belongings such as school bag, uniform, lunch box and drink bottle. It’s a good idea for school bags to be marked distinctly so your child can find their bag at the end of the day. Also, practice opening their lunch box and eating lunch.
- Let your child practice dressing in their school uniform and putting on their school shoes. It’s a good idea to break in school shoes before school starts so kids are more comfortable.
- Make sure your child can go to the toilet by themself and wash and dry hands. For boys, ensure that they can use a urinal.
- Practice walking or travelling to school and crossing roads.
- Implement a regular sleep and waking routine for your child. Kids need to be in bed at a reasonable time so that they wake up refreshed ready for school.
For further information in helping your child with the transition to school, visit the NSW Department of Education School A to Z website. The website features a comprehensive guide to starting school including printables that can go on the fridge.
Preparing For the First Day of School
After all the build up comes the excitement of the first day of schoool. Here are a few tips to make it smooth as possible.
- Have everything prepared the day before like school bags, uniforms, shoes, lunch etc.
- Get up early so there’s no need to rush and place additional pressure on your child.
- If your child has a friend starting school as well, make plans to meet at school for additional support.
- Take lots of photos of this special occasion.
- Be sure to say a proper goodbye to your child and resist the temptation to sneak off.
- Although it’s a very emotional time for parents, don’t cry in front of the child. Be cheerful and positive as not to upset your child.
- Be there early to pick them from their first day of school.
- Ask them questions about their day and be positive about them returning to school the following day.
Children’s lives are filled with many milestones and starting school should be a special occasion. Hopefully, these suggestions will assist in a smooth transition to “Big School”.
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