Back to school countdown

Make a great start to the new year. Check out our top daily tips as we count down to #FirstDay2019.

Back to school countdown tips

These dates have passed, but our tips are timeless.

22 days to go – start thinking about it

Starting school and the return to class at the beginning of the year is one of the most important moments in your child’s life. We want to help you make this an exciting time – not a stressful one.

Start by finding out what you can do to help your child make a successful transition:

21 days to go – talk about school with your child

Starting Kindergarten? Play together and chat about school to make your child feel secure. Talk about your own experiences at school, highlighting the positive memories. Remember to be positive and show you have confidence in your child’s ability to manage the new environment.

Read A Special Place, a book designed to familiarise your child with the idea of school.

If your child is making the move to High School, start by talking positively to your teen about the move. Ask them what’s exciting about high school. Does anything worry them?

Watch the video about starting high school, and talk about some of the biggest changes.

20 days to go – put the dates in your calendar.

Visit your school’s website and confirm all the key dates and times:

  • What is your child's first day for 2019?
  • What time does my child have to be at school?
  • When does the school day end?
  • When does before-school after-school care open and close?
  • Any other dates I need to know?

Official NSW school term dates are available, but it's important to check your individual school's schedule.

19 days to go – buy new school shoes and break them in.

No one wants blisters on their first day! Buy your new school shoes early and start wearing them in nice and early.

It's a good idea to check your school's website for any rules about school shoes, as they are part of the uniform.

Remember, kindergartners need to be able to put on their own shoes (velcro might be better than shoelaces).

High schools require leather shoes in science labs, kitchens and workshop areas.

See the department's uniform policy.

18 days to go – get to know your school.

Your school won't open for a while yet, but their website is a great place to check information that you'll need:

  • put their number in your phone contacts
  • sign up for newsletters (or the app)
  • 'like' their Facebook page and/or follow them on Twitter (there might be a parents' group you can join, too)
  • see if you can find out the name of the school principal - and any other staff your child will meet
  • have a look at any special programs and co-curricular activities the school offers and talk about them with your child
  • check out the school's map, or even walk past the school a few times
  • use the school finder to get your school details.

Now's also a good time to take a look through any orientation materials you collected during Term 4.

17 days to go – order labels.

Writing your child’s name on all their school things is important and avoids losses. If you want to order some personalised labels you’ll need to allow some time for them to be delivered.

When the time comes, label everything but make sure your child’s name is not visible on the outside of anything they’ll be wearing to and from school.

16 days to go – arrange some playdates for your child.

Whether they're new to Kindergarten or have been at school for years, children develop social skills around other children. Take time over the school holidays to practise making friends:

  • meet other new families at a local park and allow your child to build friendships
  • teach your child simple group games (such as hide and seek)
  • talk about making friends, focusing on positive experiences.

15 days to go – get your head around health and immunisations.

The holidays are a good time to visit your community health nurse or doctor for a general health check.

Don't forget that if it's your first time enrolling in a NSW public school, you must provide an Immunisation History Statement. Without proof of up-to-date immunisations, you may be required to keep your child at home during outbreaks of vaccine-preventable disease.

Symptoms that mean you should keep your child home:

  • a fever of 38ºC or above
  • vomiting or diarrhoea
  • severe cold or flu symptoms
  • rashes of an unknown origin.

With other conditions such as head lice, it's ok for your child to come to school, but tell their teacher.

And remember: if your child is too sick for school, let the school know – email or write a note.

14 days to go – sort out school uniforms.

Visit your school’s website and find out about the school uniform and where you can buy it (or the material to make it).

Many schools also provide a second-hand clothing pool for uniforms that have been donated by families who have outgrown them or left the school. Other schools have P&C or school Facebook groups that can provide advice on uniforms and even second-hand options.

If your child is already at school, don't forget to check their uniform for any holes or stains – and let down the hem if needed.

Tips and tricks

If you're new to the school, let your child try on their uniform, and check for any labels or tags that will cause irritation. Many new high school students will need to practise tying their tie. Kindergarten students should start practising dressing themselves and tying (and untying) their new school shoes.

13 days to go – care. Respect. Support –  yourself and others.

Find out the many ways you can support your school’s positive culture through caring, supporting and respectful behaviour.

Watch our upstander videos (you may need a tissue!)

Visit our NSW Anti-bullying website for information for parents and carers or have a look at our students section.

12 days to go – plan safe travel to school.

Work out the safest route to and from school and practise safely travelling together - whether it's walking, riding your bikes, driving and parking, or catching public transport.

Children need a hand in traffic:

  • hold their hands when crossing roads, in car parks and near roads
  • teach your child to cross the road at a safe place
  • park and walk – park away from the busy school gate and walk with your child to school.

Public transport

Organise everything your child will need for a smooth trip:

  • Use Trip Planner or download a transport app to find available public transport services.
  • Practise reading a timetable for the bus, train or ferry.
  • Check your eligibility to apply for a school travel pass or Opal card. If needed, phone 1800 227 774 or 02 9891 8900.

11 days to go – think beyond vegemite sandwiches –  the lunch box revolution.

Seven years of primary school means over 1200 lunches. Nobody needs that many sandwiches.

Invite your child into the kitchen, and be adventurous. Healthy food is important, but it doesn't have to be boring or pre-packaged. There are plenty of resources available:

Kindergarten parent? Eating at school is different to at preschool or at home, so try having some 'lunch box days', practise using a lunch box, drink bottle and any food wrappings.

10 days to go – what does your school need to know?

Make a list of anything you need to let the school know about you and your child. It's important to check, even if you've previously told them:

  • medical needs – including any medication, allergies or medical conditions
  • special needs – such as language difficulties, cultural needs, disability, special gifts and talents
  • emergency contact numbers
  • any special family circumstances.

Remember: providing original copies of paperwork from doctors or other relevant experts can help keep the school informed.

9 days to go – get all your books, resources and materials.

Avoid spending the last day of the holidays doing laps of the shopping centre car park.

Check your school's website for any supplies your child will need. Make a list of books and school supplies, so you can avoid making extra trips to the shops.

8 days to go – find out about your Healthy School

Healthy School Canteens are changing the way kids eat for the better.

Visit your school's website and read about their canteen. Think about how your child will use the canteen. Does your school offer online ordering?

If your child is in Kindergarten, talk with their teacher about when it's OK for them to start using the canteen.

7 days to go – prepare for success.

For kindergartners, practise a school day:

  • Practise skills like using buttons, zippers, Velcro, taking hats and shoes on and off.
  • Practise packing their own bag, open and closing the bag.
  • Practise going to the toilet alone including dealing with tights and belts (ensuring boys can use a urinal can be important). Include good hand-washing techniques.
  • Talk about some of the rules at school – like putting up their hand to speak or ask a question.
  • Talk about the bell, whistle or siren and what it means.

If your child is starting Year 7:

  • help them set up their desk for homework
  • download a study plan
  • prepare files for different subjects
  • read our homework tips.

6 days to go – get into the new routine.

Set your school routines, and practise in the final week of the holidays.

  • Start waking your child at 7am.
  • Get ready in the morning – wake up, get dressed … maybe even getting to school.
  • For primary school students, in the afternoon practise:
    • talking time
    • meal time
    • reading time
    • bath time
    • getting ready for bed.

5 days to go – finish your preparations.

Make sure any last minute jobs are done before the long weekend. Don't forget:

  • haircuts
  • a house key for your child (tie it to their schoolbag with a piece of string so it won't get lost).

4 days to go – think technology.

Schools use technology as part of their classroom, and make it easy for you to continue at home.

All students have free access to software and cloud storage including:

To access, visit the learning tab on the student portal.

Read our information on cybersafety to help protect your child online.

Some schools also have bring your own device (BYOD) programs. Consider if your child will need to take a device with them to school, as well as how they will transport it. If you're not sure about whether your school participates in a BYOD program, visit their website.

3 days to go – check the weather.

Head online and check the weather for the first day. If it's going to be hot, remind your child to drink plenty of water.

Remember: all schools stay open during hot weather, but they do have strategies in place to keep students cool. Visit your school website, and read about the 900 schools receiving air conditioning as part of the Cooler Classrooms Fund.

2 days to go – fill the fridge.

Avoid the supermarket rush tomorrow, make sure your shopping trolley is stocked with everything you need for school lunches.

Remember that any preparation now will reduce stress on the first day:

  • Get all your lunch and snack ingredients for the week.
  • Spend a day cooking and preparing lunches.
  • Put drink bottles in the freezer.

1 day to go – the day before.

For parents of children going into Kindergarten:

  • Help your child pack their school bag.
  • Pack a spare pair of underpants, socks and a change of clothes. Let your child know these are there in case they have any toilet accidents at school.
  • Lay out your child’s clothes, shoes and socks.
  • Make your child’s morning tea and lunch and put it in the fridge.

For parents of older children:

  • Help set your teen’s alarm. Encourage them to get themselves ready on time.
  • Provide your teen with money and your contact numbers in case of emergencies.

First day of school – take a photo and share it with NSW using the hashtag First-Day-2019.

Whether your child is starting Kindergarten or Year 12, be confident. Remember to take photos, and share them using #FirstDay2019.

For Kindy parents, remember to:

  • let your child dress themselves as much as possible.
  • tie back or plait long hair
  • apply sunscreen and take a hat
  • try not to have rushed start to the morning, so you arrive at school happy and excited
  • be on time - both at the start and end of the day.

Day 2 – ask about the day.

Take some time to talk with your child about their first couple of days at school

  • What went well?
  • Have you made any friends?
  • What are their names?
  • What did you learn?
  • Are there any anxieties?

Regularly check in with these questions. It's important to make sure your child feels like they can talk with you.

Day 3 – plan short, easy wind-downs.

After a tiring day at school, organise simple activities to help your child relax.

It’s wise not to plan too much after school in the first weeks of the year. Start with short visits to the park after school, rather than a long visit with friends. As your child settles into their school routine, they can begin to get more involved with school activities or hang out with friends.

Day 4 – Get involved.

The best education happens when parents and schools work together. The more involved you are as a parent or carer in your school, the better. Parental and community involvement are strongly linked to improved student learning, attendance and behaviour.

  • Get involved in your school as much as you can
    • join the P&C or other parent groups
    • help out in the classroom or at events
    • spend time in the school canteen.
  • Look out for 'meet the teacher' or other information nights.
  • Keep an eye out for emails, newsletters and notes - make sure you’re on the list.

You expect collaborative and respectful communication from schools, and similar standards of behaviour are expected in return. The new School Community Charter outlines how we work together to create a positive learning environment.

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