Kindergarten to primary school: making the transition

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Your child’s transition period covers planning in the year prior, orientation and the start of school, and the first weeks and months as your child settles in.

On this page:

For most children and families, starting school is a very big, exciting step. Don’t be afraid to ask for the support that will assist your child to prepare for school, to make the change, and to have a positive start to school. There are many people who can help: from the school, from your child’s kindergarten or childcare service, and from any early childhood intervention or disability support services involved with your child and family.

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Planning throughout the year prior

After you choose a school for your child, you need to meet with the school several times in the year prior to them starting, to plan their supports and apply for any supplementary funding support, and to plan for their transition.

If your child is receiving support in kindergarten through a Kindergarten Inclusion Support (KIS) Package, you can receive additional support to plan and undertake the transition to school. Visit the DET website  and search on ‘Sharing our Journey’ to find out more.

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A ‘transition plan’ for your child

This is a plan for how everyone involved with your child can support them to transition from kindergarten to school. As discussed on the early planning page, the transition plan should be developed at a meeting between you and the principal, and any other professionals you want involved, including kindergarten staff or early childhood intervention professionals working with your child. The meeting is best held in September or October of the year before your child starts school.

At the meeting, you could discuss:

  • what orientation program the school offers to all new students (usually held in November/December) and what support your child might need to take part
  • additional orientation activities or transition supports that will help your child (see below), and
  • Ideas for how you can help prepare your child for school.

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Ideas for additional orientation activities

Many schools are willing to offer your child additional orientation activities, whether in the year prior to them starting, or in the few days prior to the first day of school. For example, the school might arrange for your child to:

  • meet their classroom teacher and education support staff (aides) prior to starting
  • visit or spend time in a classroom before the school year ends
  • visit or spend time in the playground and getting to know the school layout, before the school year ends and/or in the holidays
  • be shown where their bag will go, where the toilets are, or where other facilities in the school are located (including after school care if relevant) and how they will get to them; schools are often willing do this the day prior to school starting, when the teachers have already returned from their leave.

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Other ways to support your child’s transition

There are many other ways that your child can be supported in the leadup to school, and in the first weeks and months of the term. Every child is different, and you know best what will help your child.

Here are some ideas:

  • Social stories: Some children find ‘social stories’ useful in learning what might happen – and what might be expected of them – in different situations. Social stories often take the form of simple home-made picture books that you and others (such as kindergarten staff) can go through repeatedly with your child.

You could create one or more social stories about school, perhaps using photos of the playground, lockers, classroom, teacher and education support staff. You could ask your child’s teacher about school and classroom routines to include in the stories.

  • Practicing the skills needed at school: Depending on your child’s abilities, they might be expected to manage a number of tasks independently from early in the prep year. This includes skills such as packing and unpacking their bag, remembering their sun-hat, going to the toilet, fastening their clothing, washing their hands, unwrapping their food and opening lunch boxes and drink bottles. Practice these with your child well before school starts. If your child sees a physio or other therapists, learning these skills might be useful therapeutic goals in the year before they begin at school.
  • Playdates with other new preps and their families: It can help if your child knows or has played with other new preps before their first day. Some schools organise new prep family picnics in the week prior to school starting, or if you have connections with other new preps’ families, see if you can organise a playdate.
  • Meetings between support staff from the kindergarten and school: If your child has had a teacher or support staff at kindergarten who have been particularly helpful, consider requesting a ‘handover’ meeting between them and the education support staff who will work with your child at school, whether late in the year prior to your child starting, or early in their prep year. Other parents have found it helpful to also attend the meeting.

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In the first days and weeks of school

The first day of school is an exciting – and often nerve-wracking – day for many children and their parents or carers. It’s a major milestone for your child, and a big change for everyone.

Many schools are also happy for parents and carers to stay in the classroom during the first days or weeks of school, to help their child settle in. For some children, having a parent or carer present may make getting used to school more drawn out or difficult, for example if you continue for many days or weeks. But every child is different. You could discuss this issue with the teacher before your child starts school, so your child knows what to expect.

You can request a meeting with the teacher in the first week or two, to ‘check in’ about your child is settling in. It’s a good idea to schedule the first Student Support Meeting early in the term, to continue development of your child’s Individual Learning and Support Plan, and make any early adjustments to your child’s supports that are needed.

Spending time at school – arriving early for drop-off or pick-up, going to assembly, volunteering at school and taking part in social events – will help you get to know other parents and carers, and the staff. This can make you feel more connected to school, and over time will help you to support your child to make friends with others, for example by setting up playdates after school or on the weekends.

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