Education and Training Directorate

Starting School

Starting School - Guide for Parents

This guide for parents contains useful and important information for preparing your son or daughter as they embark on their formal schooling and for life at school in general.

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A printable version of Starting School - A guide for parents PDF File (1.2mb) is also available

Starting School

Parents, carers and families know what an exciting, important and busy time it is when children start school for the first time.

It is common for children, and their parents, to be a little anxious about starting school. Parents and carers can do a lot to help children with the preparations for their first day of school.

ACT public schools work with parents to ensure the first days and weeks of school are as engaging and supportive as they can be for children of all ages and abilities.

Our schools plan a range of learning experiences that respond to their needs, existing skills, individual learning styles and rates of progress.

In the ACT it is compulsory for children aged from 6 to 17 years old to be enrolled at a school. Parents are responsible for ensuring their child attends school.

Parents enrolling their child in school need to provide proof of their child's date of birth as well as their immunisation status and any medical conditions such as allergies.

Starting School - A guide for parents provides a range of useful information, advice and tips to assist families with children starting kindergarten in ACT public schools.

Starting secondary school
For most adolescents starting secondary school is a positive time, although some students may experience some anxiety about attending a different, larger school with more students and more specialist facilities. Secondary school also involves new and different organisational arrangements to those they are used to from primary school.

Adolescents need support from their parents and carers as they make the transition to secondary school or, in the case of Preschool to Year 10 schools, programs designed specifically for adolescents. Parents can assist their child to be positive about the exciting new challenges and opportunities secondary school will bring.

ACT public schools provide a range of programs to assist adolescents with the transition to secondary school.

Schools have orientation days or programs to welcome children and parents. Please contact your local public school if you would like more information about these activities and the range of student support programs available from ACT public schools.

Starting School - a guide for parents

Starting school can be a stressful time for young children. Schools can sometimes be confronting places with lots of children of different ages and new routines to learn. Your son or daughter needs lots of support from you before they start school and especially in the first few weeks.

This guide for parents and carers has useful and important information for preparing your son or daughter as they embark on, and throughout, their formal schooling. This page also contains a list of helpful websites and contact numbers should you require further information.

Labelling of belongings

Label all your child's belongings and check for special requirements such as a library bag and art shirt or smock. Encourage your child to dress themselves so they can manage things like taking jumpers or coats on and off at school. Help them with going to the toilet by themselves and ensure they are able to make their needs known to the teacher. Accidents can happen so a change of underwear can help your school manage the accident with the least amount of fuss.

Parentlink is an ACT Government service which provides a range of information to assist parents and carers with nurturing and supporting children. A range of Parent Guides are available from schools and the Parentlink website providing easy-to-read information on issues from birth through to teens.

Getting ready for school

It is common for children, and their parents, to be a little anxious about starting school.

To reduce any uncertainty it is helpful before starting school to familiarise your child with the school and their teacher before they start and encourage them by focusing on the benefits of interesting new experiences and friendships. Consider developing a school day routine and practise getting ready for school. This routine will involve a set bedtime to ensure your child has enough sleep and a morning routine of getting dressed in the school uniform and packing their school bag. School websites also provide information about specific programs and advice for parents. A complete listing of schools, with contact details and website addresses, is available.

The first day at school

So your child's first day is as enjoyable as possible ensure your family is prepared and allow time for your child to eat a balanced breakfast. Arrive at school well before the first class or activity so they have time to become settled. To help them to become secure, be positive and reassuring.

Demonstrate your trust in the teacher and your enthusiasm about school and learning.
Once your child is settled into school, a short and reassuring goodbye encourages independence.
You should tell your son or daughter when you leave. Be guided by your child's teacher who will use a number of strategies so that the first day is as stress-free as possible for students and parents!

Getting to school safely

It is important that your child is at school before the starting time each day. A parent or carer also needs to collect children promptly at the end of the school day so that they do not become anxious. Before and after school care may be available at your school and you can discuss this with the school.

Road safety and walking

Schools can be busy traffic environments as parents take children to school and pick them up at the end of the school day. Drivers need to ensure they abide by the traffic rules and car parking arrangements. Be aware of school buses and park on the same side of the road as the bus. Parking on the opposite side can be dangerous as children will be tempted to rush out from behind a bus to cross the road. Ensure that properly adjusted seatbelts are worn and be especially careful when reversing your vehicle. As children become old enough to walk to school, parents need to consider the route to school and likely road crossings. Road safety needs to be taught to children and reinforced by parents setting a good example. Educate your child about not accepting gifts or lifts from someone they do not know. Some schools organise a 'walking bus' where children walking to and from school can join a group of other school children and a responsible adult. The 'bus' picks up children along a designated route. Your school will have more information if you are interested.

A healthy breakfast and lunch

It is vital that your child begins their day with a nutritious breakfast. Participation in school activites will burn up their energy and a hungry child will lose concentration and become tired. Useful information for parents on how to provide a healthy breakfast is available from The Raising Children Network website. Specific dietary advice is also available from the Dietitians Association of Australia.

Children at ages five and six – Dr John Irvine

'These kids still have their lovely imagination but their ego has settled and they're now keen to make others feel good. If you capitalise on their thirst to be told they're good then you can develop the most adorable kids. Their behaviour can be reinforced even by abstract symbols of parental approval, such as stars or stamps and their behaviour can be shaped by consistently reinforcing behaviour you want and consistently punishing behaviour you don't. Because they believe in their world, things that shatter that faith hurt hard. If a dog is nasty to them or somebody hurts them then they can wear the scars for a long time.' An excerpt from Who'd be a parent? The manual that should have come with the kids! Dr John Irvine

School canteens

Healthy eating is encouraged in ACT public schools. School canteens promote and provide healthy food and beverages and limit the sale of foods and drinks high in fat, sugar and salt, such as cakes, chips or lollies. Schools welcome parents volunteering their time to assist with school canteens.

Food allergies

It is vital you let your school know if your child is allergic to certain food groups such as nuts. Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction to certain foods and many schools have adopted an 'allergy
friendly' approach. These schools will not have nut products available from the canteen. As children sometimes like to share their lunches, their schools may also request parents to provide lunches
free of nuts or nut products such as 'Nutella' and peanut butter.

Tips for school lunches

  • Organise food and drink according to the timetabled breaks and explain to your child that snack items are for the morning break and lunch items for the longer break.
  • Let your child help prepare healthy lunches and snacks.
  • Pack food that is ready and easy to eat and not too messy. Pre-cut items such as oranges, celery and carrot are ideal.
  • Use a lunch box that keeps food cool and ensure all items are clearly labelled.
  • Ensure your child is able to open containers such as cans or plastic tubs.
  • Try different types of breads, rolls or
    muffins for variety.
  • Limit sweets, chips and treats.
  • Water could be flavoured with a slice of lemon or orange.

Enrolling in school

In the ACT it is compulsory for children to be enrolled in school from age six. All young people are required to participate in full-time education until they complete a year 10 program of study and then participate full-time in education, training or employment until completing year 12 or equivalent, or reaching age 17, whichever occurs first.
Please contact the school in your area or the schools network—North Gungahlin and Belconnen on 6205 3313 and South-Weston and Tuggeranong on 6205 5428.

Attending school

It is important for your child to attend school each day for their intellectual development. In particular, it assists their reading, writing and numeracy skills development, as well as their social, emotional and physical development. Playing with peers is important for a child's social and emotional development as they learn to get along with others and learn what is acceptable behaviour. In the early years of schooling children need opportunities to practise these skills, test new ideas and negotiate with other children. As parents know, there will be disagreements between children and friendships will be made and some will break up. The teacher will assist your child to deal with conflict and will appreciate being told of any circumstances you are aware of that may be affecting your child.
Your child will be excused from school if they are sick or have a temporary medical condition that prevents them from attending. Your child may also be excused from attending school by the principal if they have an infectious or contagious illness or an infestation of head lice. You must tell the school if your child will be away and if your child is absent provide a reasonable explanation for the absence,
preferably in writing.

Voluntary contributions

Public education is free. Schools may offer or facilitate some specific optional items, activities and services for which parents may be required to pay if they want their child to access them. Such activities and items could include: non-essential school camps and excursions, class photos, the canteen, private tutoring and uniforms. Student support funds are maintained in all public schools to support the needs of students who might not otherwise be in a position to take advantage of the opportunities provided by their schools.

Uniforms and colour code

The school uniform or colour code is determined by the school board. The school's dress code policy and guidelines are available from the school's handbook or website.

Sun protection and preparing for hot days

Much of the damage to a child's skin occurs in childhood and adolescence from exposure to the sun. ACT public schools encourage children to play in shady areas and ask parents to ensure children wear appropriate clothing including a hat. Most schools will enforce a 'no hat, no play policy' and the regular use of broad spectrum water resistant SPF 30+ sunscreen on exposed skin when students are exposed to the sun.

Canberra can experience quite hot days in summer and schools will take steps on these days to ensure children do not get too hot and have access to water. Parents may also like to pack extra water bottles.

Student behaviour and school discipline procedures

Schools have a range of approaches to reinforce the good behaviour measures taught by parents. For students in the early years the focus will be on learning to work cooperatively with others and to follow instructions from the teacher. This will include learning to walk into class in an orderly way and to put their hand up to speak in class. Teachers will outline the rules of the classroom to students and the consequences of not following teacher directions, being disruptive in class or behaviour that is likely to be harmful to others. If there has been a disruption to the class and student learning, the teacher will quickly take action and ensure students understand why certain actions are unacceptable.

Policies and guidelines

The Education and Training Directorate provides policy advice to ACT public schools. This is available from the Directorate website or from your school. Each school also has a range of policy guidelines providing advice on how the school is conducted. These are often found on the school's website or are available from the front office.

Head lice

Head lice are a very common problem. Head lice are only found on the human head and are not found in furnishings or classroom carpets. If an outbreak of head lice does occur at school it can be annoying but not harmful to your child's health. However to avoid an outbreak across a class of students, schools will request parents to remove and treat children with evidence of head lice. A useful head lice fact sheet on how to treat head lice is available from the ACT Health website.

ACT public schools

Each school has a school board as part of its governance structure to establish and monitor school strategic directions and policies. Typically school boards have three parent representatives nominated by the school's Parents and Citizens Association. Parents are encouraged to consider becoming a part of the association and schools welcome parents volunteering their time and skills to support the school. Schools regularly communicate with parents about school programs and activities through the school newsletter. This website provides further information on ACT public schools, public education services and programs and contact details.

Children do best at school when their parents and teachers work together and support each other.

ACT public schools

The ACT Government has committed significant levels of funding to public schools in recent years to develop and extend a number of programs to ensure your child will have the best possible foundations for learning. This has included a renewal of school curriculum across all ACT schools so what is taught is relevant and important for children to know, understand and gain those skills which will equip them for lifelong learning in the 21st Century.

In recognition of the importance of the earliest years of a child's learning, the ACT Government has opened four early childhood schools – Isabella Plains, Southern Cross (Scullin), Narrabundah and Lyons – and will open another in Franklin in 2013. These schools provide integrated services for children aged 0-8 years and their families.
All preschools are amalgamated with their local primary school allowing teachers to share their expertise on early learning to better meet the needs of all young children.
Your child will participate in a range of programs to develop their intellectual, emotional, social and physical skills to help them realise their potential. A typical school day will involve a variety of activities such as physical exercise, reading and writing tasks, learning about numbers, shapes and patterns, science and how things work, art and music activities, visiting the library and using information technologies. Developing your child's literacy and numeracy skills will be a key focus across all learning areas as these skills are the essential platform for their future success. The teacher will provide a range of lesson experiences to challenge and stimulate your child's learning while supporting them to meet their individual needs in becoming confident learners.

Evaluating your child's progress

Effective teaching and learning requires a collaborative partnership between parents and teachers. Teachers will advise you of the progress your child is making and how you can assist them to follow up their class work at home. Your child's teacher will assess how your child is progressing individually and also in relation to other children. Your school will provide written reports at least twice a year advising you of your child's progress. These reports will also indicate areas for further development. Regular parent/teacher meetings occur throughout the school year so that you can discuss with the teacher your son's or daughter's achievement and progress. Parents may also choose to make an appointment with the class teacher during the school term.

It is important that you show how excited you are about your child's learning by asking your child about their day. You could ask them what books they read, what words they know, or what songs and rhymes they have learnt.

Performance Indicators in Primary Schools (PIPS)

In kindergarten, the Performance Indicators in Primary Schools (PIPS) program, conducted at the beginning and end of the year, will assess your child's literacy and numeracy skills.

This test is also used by a number of countries and by individual schools across Australia. The program helps teachers to plan appropriate programs for students who are not achieving the expected standards. The first assessment will take place within the first month of school and there is no preparation necessary. Your child's school report to you will be based largely on the PIPS assessment.

Additional assistance programs

Some children require additional support. The ACT Government provides support services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, those for whom English is their second language, and students with a disability. Further advice on English as a second language support is available from your school. For information about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education support programs or the Koori Preschool Program contact the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education section on 6205 9189 or go to Indigenous Education on the Directorate's website.

ACT public schools provide a range of support programs for students with a disability. If your child has special needs please make an appointment to talk with the principal as early as possible. The school can then help make arrangements for your child. Information is available from Student Services in the Education and Training Directorate on 6205 7029.

Students with a disability may require additional programs from specialists in other areas. Therapy ACT is a free government service that provides a multidisciplinary therapy and support service for people with disabilities and delays in their development aged from birth to 65 years of age. Therapy and support services are available for physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech pathology, social work and psychology. Information is available from Student Services or the Disability Education section of the Directorate's website.

Term dates and events

Schools are closed for all public holidays including Canberra Day on 11 March 2013 and
10 March 2014. 

Please note:
Day 1 Term 1 - Staff only
Day 2 Term 1 - New students
Day 3 Term 1 - Classes commence 

New students start school on the Monday of Term 1, with all continuing
students returning on Tuesday.

Term dates for ACT schools for 2013 and 2014 are as follows:


Term 1 – Friday 1 February to Friday 12 April
Term 2 – Monday 29 April to Friday 5 July
Term 3 – Monday 22 July to Friday 27 September
Term 4 – Monday 14 October to Friday 20 December


Term 1 – Friday 31 January to Friday 11 April
Term 2 – Monday 28 April to Friday 4 July
Term 3 – Monday 21 July to Friday 26 September
Term 4 – Monday 13 October to Wednesday 17 December

Contact details and web sites

ACT Council of Parents & Citizens Associations Inc.
6241 5759 or email

ACT Education and Training Directorate
13 22 81 (6207 0494 TTY)

Canberra Connect
13 22 81 (6207 0494 TTY)

Emergency – Police, Fire, Ambulance

Calvary Hospital
6201 6111

Carers ACT: Northside | Southside
6296 9900 | 6232 4270

Canberra Hospital
6244 2222

Canberra Preschool Society
6286 2527 or email

Child Abuse Prevention Service
1800 688 009

Citizens Advice Bureau ACT
6248 7988

Crime Stoppers
1800 333 000 (8am-9pm)

Domestic Violence Crisis Service
6280 0900 (6247 1657 TTY)

Health First
6207 7777 (6207 7770 TTY)

Kids Helpline
1800 551 800

Helpful Web Sites
ACT Council of Parents & Citizens Associations Inc.

ACT Government

Citizens Advice Bureau ACT

Canberra Connect

Canberra Preschool Society


Safe Schools

Sun Smart

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