Starting primary school in Australia is a big milestone for children and families. It can be an exciting or a challenging time.
Primary school is usually from Kindergarten (or ‘Kindy’) till year 6.
Whilst the correct age to start primary school varies by state, children usually begin at the age of 5 or 6.
To attend primary school, the child needs to be 5 years old before the cut-off to attend school.
New South Wales (NSW) – 31 July
Victoria (VIC) and Australian Capital Territory (ACT) – 30 April
Queensland (QLD), Western Australia (WA) and Northern Territory (NT) – 30 June
South Australia (SA) – 1 May
Tasmania (TAS) – 1 January
If your child is born before the cut-off date of a state, they have the option to be one of the older kids in the grade or one of the younger ones.
For example, if Jayden is born on the 24th of April, he can start school in NSW at the age of 4 years and 9 months. Jayden may also attend school the following year at the age of 5 years and 9 months where he will be one of the older students.
Selecting the right year of entry into primary school is a difficult decision for parents. There is no correct answer.
You may wish to consider the following when deciding whether your child is ready for big school:
Most of the decision should depend on your child and how they are going.
Think about your child’s cognitive skills.
When starting primary school in Australia your child should have a basic understanding of numbers and counting.
Have a conversation with your child and gauge whether they can understand stories and demonstrate thinking and reasoning skills. You may consider their ability to complete puzzles, sort and match objects or identify colours and shapes.
Another recommendation to look at is their ability to wait their turn and share toys and equipment.
Your child should be at the level to manage their emotions at school. This includes focusing on tasks, following instructions and being in the new primary school environment.
Your child should be able to understand the rules and interact with teachers correctly.
It is important your child is able to talk and listen to adults and other children when beginning school.
Make sure they are able to speak clearly to communicate their needs.
A good rule of thumb is to review whether your child can understand and retell simple stories.
Your child is going to be away from you for new and long periods of time.
If they are looking to start school, they should be able to manage their belongings, eat and drink and go to the bathroom without your supervision.
Your child’s preschool or early learning centre teachers will have an understanding on where your child sits for the above skills.
Speak with them about your child’s development and whether they may benefit from waiting another year.
Packed recess and lunch that is easy to eat and open
Pack water bottle
Stationery (ask the school to provide a list of required equipment)
Spare underwear, socks and clothing
Give your child confidence and allow them to dress themselves if they can
Tie your child’s hair out of their face securely
Make sure you have an area to park/wait so you are not late to pick them up
Let your child and their teacher know who will be picking them up
Communicate with care and kindness
Ask them how their day was
Ask them to recall school events throughout the day
Validate their feelings and experiences
Ask them about any friends they made
Ask their teacher about their behaviour and development
‘Preschool’ is a great way to prepare your child for ‘big school’.
A great way to ensure a smooth and easy transition into primary school is to send your child to early learning at their ‘big school’.
Alphington Grammar School, Victoria, has an Early Learning Centre (‘ELC’), for children aged 3-5 to develop and grow.
At Alphington Grammar School, our youngest students develop the building blocks of learning in our dedicated ELC. Inspired by the Reggio Emilia approach, our ELC teachers use spontaneous learning experiences and intentional teaching to scaffold and extend learning.
Throughout the week the children participate in school events and specialist programs including physical education, music, dance, library, Greek language immersive learning and bush adventuring. Active participation built on children’s curiosities ensures a solid foundation for a lifelong love of learning and a smooth transition into their Primary schooling journey.
Ms Danielle Munro, Early Learning Centre Leader
There are lots of activities for parents to try out with their child before starting primary school in Australia.
The NSW Government’s E-book recommends practicing the following 3 skills:
This is important so your child can socialise, make friends and participate at school.
Have conversations with them
Ask your child to recall events that happen throughout the day
Children mostly learn to read at school. However it is good for parents to show their child how books work:
Read to your child
Choose books they will find fun with ‘silly’ or rhyming sentences
Ask them to engage with the book (For example, “The cat is hiding behind the chair”. You may like to ask your child, “where is the cat hiding?”). This will help engage their comprehension skills.
Ask your child to draw or write about things they like
Help them draw or write something for a friend or family member
Being a parent is hard work. Remember to take time to practice self-care during this transition period for the family.