Tips for starting school

Back to school is an exciting time for students and families. Find tips on how you can help your child have a positive start to school.

Back to school is an exciting time for students and families. It can be a big step – particularly for those starting prep or moving to secondary school.

Here are some tips on how you can help your child have a positive start to school.

You can also read how to choose a school and enrol and healthy children learn better(opens in a new window).

Children starting primary school

The year before school

  • Ask your child what they think about starting school.
  • Encourage your child to ask questions about going to school.
  • Help your child stay healthy. Make sure they have regular health and dental checks and keep immunisations up to date.
  • Encourage your child to do things on their own. This could be dressing, going to the toilet, washing their hands, unwrapping their food and opening and closing their drink bottle and lunchbox.
  • Talk to friends and other families about what school is like.
  • Talk to your child’s early childhood educator about things you can do at home to help your child.
  • Talk to the school about how you can engage in your child’s learning and development at school.
  • Ask the school what time your child starts on the first day and where to take them.

During the summer holidays

  • Show your child where the school is and talk about how you will get there.
  • Arrange play times with other families whose children will be going to the same school. It helps if your child knows another child at their school at the start of prep.
  • Practise the things your child will need to do to get ready for school (e.g. putting things in their bag, remembering to take a hat).
  • Confirm your before or after school care arrangements and explain these to your child.
  • Be positive about starting school and enjoy your child’s excitement.
  • Visit your local library and read books with your child about starting school.

The first day of school

  • Make sure your child knows who will take them to school and pick them up on the first day.
  • Help your child to organise their clothes, hat, shoes and socks the night before.
  • Help your child to pack their school bag with a snack, drink, lunch and a hat.
  • Place a spare pair of underpants and a change of clothes in a plastic bag. Let your child know these clothes are in their bag in case of any accidents at school.
  • Put sunscreen on your child in the morning if it's needed.
  • Show your child where you will meet them at the end of the school day.
  • At the end of the day talk to your child about what happened at school.

The first year of school

  • Find out about what your child is learning at school. By doing this, you can support your child’s learning and find out how your child is adjusting to school.
  • If your child is having difficulty at school, talk to their teacher. Your child can also say what they think might help them.
  • Keep talking to your child about school. Ask them about their new experiences, what they like and what they find hard.
  • If your child goes to care before or after school, find a way of sharing your child’s school progress with the staff.
  • Share feedback about your child’s experience of starting school with the school and early childhood service.
  • Organise time for your child and their new friends to play together outside of school.

Early childhood services and schools will organise programs to help your child settle into school. Talk to your child’s early childhood educator or the school.

Buddy system

Many primary schools have a buddy system for Prep children. They will partner your child with older students. This is to help your child have a welcoming experience from the very beginning.

The buddy system helps older children learn to take on responsibility. The younger children know that they have a fellow student they can go to for help.

Buddy systems help your child make friends and create a sense of belonging with the school community.

10 tips to get ready for prep

  1. Practise the journey to and from school
  2. Arrange play dates with families who will have kids at the same school
  3. Encourage independence – skills like dressing, packing and carrying a bag, applying sunscreen and going to the toilet
  4. Label all belongings
  5. Talk about and practise any after school arrangements
  6. Check start and finish times and where to drop off and collect your child
  7. Be positive, get your child excited, and talk about any worries they have
  8. Visit a library and read with your child
  9. Start using the name of their new teacher to help build familiarity
  10. Establish predictable routines including dinner, bath time and bed time

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Children starting secondary school (year 7)

Moving from primary school to secondary school is a major step. It's a time of big changes in your child's life.

Talking about the changes with your child will help make the move positive.

What's different

Some of the main differences between primary and secondary school are:

  • more subjects and teachers
  • more homework
  • more challenging school work
  • the responsibility of getting to classes in different rooms on time
  • the need to manage themselves, their learning and their equipment
  • using lockers and carrying books between classes
  • adapting to different teaching styles
  • having no 'home' classroom – many schools have a designated area for year 7 students.

Making the move

Your child's year 6 coordinator will contact you about how to enrol in secondary school.

Many secondary schools work with primary schools to make the move easier. These transition programs can include:

  • secondary students giving talks at their old primary school
  • year 6 classes visiting secondary schools
  • buddy systems at secondary schools – these pair up older and younger students.
  • orientation days – these usually happen in early December.

Tips to prepare during the school holidays

  1. Be positive and enthusiastic. Your child is more likely to look forward to starting high school if you’re positive about it.
  2. Organise the school uniform. Your child should wear their new school shoes around the house to make sure they are comfortable
  3. Get books and stationery. The school will give you a book list.
  4. Learn about school routines. What time does school start and finish, what time is recess and lunchtime?
  5. Learn about travel to school. Make a plan around the public transport timetable. Have a backup plan in case they miss public transport. If you plan to drive your child to school, do a trial drop off and pick up, and check for parking.
  6. Talk to your child about their timetable. It will list subjects and classroom numbers. It’s good to make a few copies of the timetable to keep in different places.
  7. Create a comfortable place for your child to study. This should be a quiet place away from distractions.
  8. Remind your child that is normal to feel nervous about starting high school. These nerves may last past the first day. Encourage your child to talk about what they might be worried about.
  9. Encourage your child to keep in touch with their primary school friends.
  10. Have an emergency safety plan. Be clear about who your child should contact and what you expect them to do in an emergency.

Download the tips in languages other than English

These tip sheets contain 10 suggestions to help parents prepare.

For students in their final years of secondary school

The final years of secondary school are a busy time for students. Good study habits are more important than ever as students balance exam preparation, extra-curricular activities and social activities.

At this time, students are also making important choices about what they’d like to do after secondary school and their future career. See Year 11 and 12 students' study options.

Parents and families can support students by offering to talk about their concerns, helping them get organised, and encouraging a balance of study, rest and play.

Tips for parents and families

  1. Encourage your child to speak to the school careers adviser early – different pathways exist; VCE isn’t the only option.
  2. Arrange textbooks before school starts. Encourage your child to get familiar with the topics over the school holidays.
  3. Encourage good organisation by having a calendar with key dates at home.
  4. Talk with them about how school is going and any concerns they have – let them know you’re there to help while respecting their space.
  5. Encourage out of school activities, such as sport and music.
  6. Help your child develop good study habits – this includes making time for regular breaks.
  7. A balanced diet and ample rest are important.
  8. Ensure your child knows where they can go for support if they feel overwhelmed – for example, the school’s health and wellbeing team, Kids Helpline, LifeLine, Headspace and Beyond Blue.
  9. If your child is anxious about study or exams, try to stay calm for them and listen to their concerns.
  10. Encourage them to visit open days for universities and TAFEs. They don’t have to be in Year 12 to attend.

Download the tips in languages other than English

These tip sheets contain 10 suggestions to help parents prepare.