Advice for first-timers as NSW students head back to school

More than 750,000 of the state’s public school students will head back to the classroom tomorrow.

Deputy director-general of schools, Greg Prior, said the start of school could be daunting for those attending primary or high school for the first time.

“Advice for parents across a range of important back-to-school areas is available on the Department of Education and Communities website,’’ he said.

“The holidays are over and it’s time to be excited about the prospect of a wonderful new school year.’’ 

Paediatrician at the Children’s Hospital, Westmead, Joanne Ging, said anxieties were part and parcel of the transition to ‘‘big school’’.

She said parents and carers of kindergarten children were often anxious about how their child would cope at school and how they themselves would be perceived by other parents.

For new kindergarten pupils, first day jitters, anxiety about being away from their parents or siblings, and tiredness were common.

‘‘Even if they have been attending day care for long hours they tend to become more tired at school due to the increase in concentration and learning so many new things,’’ Dr Ging said.

To smooth the transition she recommended parents ‘‘visit the school several times prior to the first day, even practising the route to get there so that it becomes familiar’’.

‘‘Talk to them about school in a positive manner frequently and try getting them to imagine different scenarios like playing in the playground and eating their lunch and making new friends,’’ she said.

‘‘They should go to bed at a reasonable time each night.

‘‘Make sure there is plenty of rest and play time after school and on weekends.

‘‘Be on time or early [to school], particularly in the beginning to decrease anxiety.’’

Dr Ging said a good first experience of school helped children to see learning as a positive part of their lives and a fun thing to do.

‘‘It is vital to not make this a negative experience as schooling is for a long time,’’ she said.

‘‘Often very small things going wrong can seem the end of the world for a child in kindergarten so it is important to let them discus what happened, help them to put it into perspective and then discuss how they will manage this if it happens again.’’

Parents may also have to grapple with high expectations and a feeling of emptiness or not knowing what to do when their child is at school.

‘‘It is a busy time for parents as well so it is important they look after themselves.’’

The Department of Education and Communities’ back-to-school hotline will be available until February 14, 8.30am- 4.30pm weekdays, on 1300 738 338. 

The School A to Z website’s resources include videos with helpful tips from teachers about making the transition to high school, a back-to-school checklist, homework advice and schedule templates, term dates and sun safety and uniform information.

Details: schoolatoz.nsw.edu.au.

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