Quick guide for parents
Learn more about NSW public schools by exploring the following topics.
Students will achieve their educational best and increase their career and life options through regular attendance at school.
- In NSW, all children from the age of 6 are legally required to attend school or be registered for home schooling. All students must complete Year 10, or its equivalent. Young people below the age of 17 must be:
- in school, or registered for home schooling
- in approved education or training, such as a traineeship, apprenticeship or TAFE
- in full-time paid employment (average 25 hours a week)
- in a combination of work, education and/or training.
- Students 17 years and over who are enrolled in school are required to attend school regularly to meet HSC course requirements.
- Parents must explain all absences to the school within 7 days.
For more information about compulsory school attendance, visit:
Before and after school care
Some primary schools offer before and after-school care for primary school-aged children. Vacation care may also be available. Fees are charged for these services.
For information about the availability of before and after-school care, you should contact the principal of the school.
Most public schools have canteens on-site. These may be run by the P&C, the school itself or leased privately.
Visit Healthy school canteens to learn more.
The NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) is responsible for the curriculum, Kindergarten to Year 12, in all NSW schools. Each school adapts the curriculum to suit their local context and the needs of their students.
To learn more about curriculum in NSW, visit:
School counselling staff, year advisers and careers advisers are available in each school to support students – some also have Aboriginal education officers to assist. Students can request a meeting with an adviser or school counselling staff.
School counselling staff are members of the school learning and support team. A teacher may recommend the service by referring the student to the team. Parents and carers may also refer their child directly to the school counselling service and students can self-refer.
Contact your local school for more information about when the school counselling service is at your child's school.
The school counselling service can:
- support students who are worrying about school work, friends, getting in trouble at school or just feeling down
- assist parents make decisions about their child’s education
- assess a student’s learning and behaviour
- help teachers and students identify and address disabilities that may affect learning
- liaise with other agencies regarding student wellbeing.
School counselling is a confidential service.
For more information about learning and support teams and school counsellors, visit:
All NSW public school students have a right to an inclusive learning environment free from bullying and intimidation and to feel safe and happy at school.
Visit Wellbeing and learning – Student discipline for further information.
Excursions are offered to enhance and support classroom studies. They often provide practical experiences to extend learning, for example, a visit to an art gallery, theatre or farm.
Discuss any concerns about your ability to pay for excursions with the school principal.
Go to the Excursions Policy for more information.
Family law matters
- The educational interests, safety and welfare of the child are given paramount consideration when decisions are made by the school about the impact of family law matters on a child's education.
- Consideration is also given to the effective and efficient operation of the school and a parent's obligations under the NSW Education Act 1990, that is, to ensure children of compulsory school age receive an education.
- Parents or carers are responsible for providing the school with any court orders that impact on the relationship between the family and the school.
- In the absence of court orders it will be assumed both parents are involved in any decisions made concerning major long-term issues impacting on the school.
- The school is not the appropriate place for family disputes to be resolved, nor is it appropriate for school staff to resolve such issues.
Download the department's guidelines for Dealing with family law related issues
Outbreaks of head lice are common, particularly in primary schools. NSW Health recommends students continue to attend school.
For further information go to:
Homework and study
All schools have a homework policy developed in consultation with the school community. Homework reinforces work done in class and bridges the gap between learning at school and learning at home. It also assists the development of research and time management skills.
Students in high school should also regularly review work covered in class, summarise key ideas and do additional reading and research on topics, as well as practise tasks such as essays and maths problems during scheduled study time at home.
Visit our 'Practical help for parents' pages for tips on helping your child with tests, exams, English and maths.
Kindergarten to Year 2
In general, formal homework isn't set in Kindergarten – although reading to children at home will assist their development.
In Years 1 and 2 some formal homework is usually set, such as simple maths tasks, copying letters and words or completing a work sheet.
Years 3 to 6
Homework in Years 3 to 6 is varied and students will be expected to work more independently. A lot of homework will be in English, mathematics and human society and its environment (HSIE). However, it can be set across all areas of the curriculum.
Years 7 to 12
In Years 7 to 12 homework should be set on a regular basis in most subjects. In Years 11 and 12 homework and study demands increase.
Study and assessment planning
Being organised is the key to successful high school studies. Using a term planner to remind your child of forthcoming assessment tasks and exams, as well as a homework and study timetable can be useful.
- Download or print a term planner (DOCX 44.39KB) to record assessment task and exam dates.
- Download or print a study timetable (DOCX 46.58KB) to help your child organise their time.
Want to learn more?
Go to the Homework Policy for more details.
Schools have a range of strategies to assist students and teachers cope with hot weather including altering timetables, postponing activities and enforcing policies such as ‘No hat, no play’.
For more information go to:
The department supports the immunisation of children to protect students against outbreaks of infectious diseases.
For further information go to:
Principals must notify their local public health unit of certain vaccine preventable diseases. For details go to Wellbeing and learning – infectious diseases.
Go to NSW Health for more information about infectious diseases
Interpreting and/or translation services are available for parents who do not speak or understand English well, the deaf or hearing impaired and those with a speech impairment. Ask your school for an interpreter for matters such as:
- school enrolment
- subject choice
- educational progress
- attendance or other issues
- school meetings
- P&C meetings
- parent–teacher interviews.
To learn more visit Interpreting and translations.
Information about NSW public schools is available in many languages. Visit Translated documents to search for available documents.
For further information, call 02 9244 5311.
Medication at school
Prior arrangements must be made with the school if a student needs to take prescribed medication during the school day. Visit Wellbeing and learning – administering prescribed medication for details.
Getting involved in your child's school can be a rewarding experience. Parents are always welcome to participate in school activities.
The P&C Federation supports local P&C associations made up of parent, carers and citizens. They meet regularly to have input into decision-making, developing policies and management plans, as well as fundraising.
- Use the School Finder to contact your school for details about your local P&C association.
- Contact the P&C Federation to assist your association.
- List of P&C Federation Electorates for NSW Public Schools
Aboriginal Education Consultative Group
The Aboriginal Education Consultative Group (AECG) supports Aboriginal communities with education and related issues. It is a community-based Aboriginal organisation made up of volunteers with state, regional and local branches. The AECG promotes the involvement and participation of Aboriginal communities in the development of Aboriginal education policy at federal and state level.
For more information you can:
Isolated Children's Parents' Association of NSW
The Isolated Children's Parents' Association of NSW (ICPA) is a voluntary non-profit organisation focused on education for geographically isolated children. It represents children educated in both public and private systems.
The ICPA seeks improvement in educational opportunities for all children living in remote and rural areas through involvement in:
- education allowances and scholarships
- small rural schools
- distance education
- the Access program
- boarding schools, agricultural high schools and school term hostels.
Each school determines its hours to suit local needs and meet required teaching and learning times.
Standard school hours are generally:
- primary schools – 9:30am to 3:30pm with a recess break of 15 minutes and lunch break of one hour
- high school – 9am to 3:30pm with recess and lunch breaks of 30 minutes.
Usually students are not permitted on school premises until half an hour before the start of school and must leave when the school day ends. Students must have a permission note signed by a parent and approved by the school if leaving the premises during the school day.
Your school can provide information about transport routes, travel passes, subsidies and other travel arrangements to and from school.
Transport for NSW provides subsidies to assist school students.
- The School Student Transport Scheme provides subsidised travel on public transport for eligible students travelling to and from school. Travel passes will be issued to students who meet the scheme's requirements for distance and other eligibility criteria. Students must present their school travel pass or school Opal card when boarding transport or fares will be charged.
- The School Drive Subsidy is available to eligible families in areas where there is no public transport available for travel to and from school. A subsidy may be paid to parents towards the costs of driving their children to school or to a transport pick-up point.
- The Department of Education provides transport assistance to eligible students with disability. Visit Assisted School Travel Program for details.
Students arriving at school should go straight into the school grounds. After school finishes, they should walk directly to the appropriate transport stop and board in a way that's respectful of other passengers. Students should learn about safe travel to and from school – it's useful to familiarise younger children with the route prior to starting school. First Stop Transport – Travel Training may assist older children to learn to travel safely and independently.
Children can start Kindergarten at the beginning of the school year if they turn 5 on or before 31 July that year. By law, all children must be in compulsory schooling by their 6th birthday. For more information on preparing your child and orientation programs visit Starting school.
Public schools promote the healthy development of students through:
- school programs and practices that protect and promote health and safety
- supporting individual students who need help with health issues
- providing first aid and temporary care of students who become unwell or who have an accident at school.
For more information, visit Wellbeing and learning – health and physical care.
The department is committed to ensuring a safe and happy environment for your child. Schools have a variety of strategies to promote this. Examples include:
- anti-discrimination and harassment programs
- anti-racism programs
- conflict resolution and mediation training
- peer support
- road safety education
- student leadership.
Schools should be free from bullying and harassment. Report any cases of bullying or harassment to the principal.
The department supports the wearing of school uniforms by students. Schools develop their own uniform guidelines in consultation with their community. Parents should contact the school for the guidelines before their child starts at the school.
Many schools operate a school uniform clothing pool with new and second-hand items to keep costs down. The school can also advise parents about where to buy uniforms.
For more information about school uniforms, visit:
Voluntary school contributions
Public schools can request contributions to enhance educational and sporting programs. School contributions help provide additional educational resources for the benefit of students – payment is voluntary.
Principals will ensure no student or family suffers any discrimination or embarrassment over voluntary school contributions.
Schools may charge students for the purchase of materials used in some subjects. Parents who are unable to pay for elective subjects because of financial hardship may be eligible for assistance from the school.
For further information, visit Voluntary School Contribution Policy.
NSW public schools provide safe learning and teaching environments to encourage healthy, happy, successful and productive students.
Visit Wellbeing and learning to learn more.
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