Getting organised if your child is due to commence school in 2019

By Luisa Bustos, 13 April 2018 , Comments

Starting school is a significant milestone for children and their parents. In NSW, by law, all children must be in compulsory schooling by their 6th birthday. This means that if you have a child turning five later this year, it’s time to start thinking about their next stage of learning. Being organised and preparing yourself, your family and your child, can help to ensure a positive start to school for your child.

We spoke to Northcott Early Linker, Amanda Wheeler, for advice on what you need to do to make sure your child has a smooth transition to school in 2019.

Applying/enrolling in a school

Deciding on an appropriate school option that you and your child are comfortable with, and that will be supportive of your child’s needs, is the first step. This can seem daunting at first, but thankfully, most schools are set up to assist with this and make the process as easy as possible.

The first thing you need to do is contact your local school, or other independent schools where you are interested in enrolling your child. You’ll need to make an appointment with the school principal or counsellor at any schools you are interested in. At this meeting, you’ll discuss your child, their disability, what supports they may need and your expectations. The school will explain the various options and how the process works in detail with you.

When you have decided the school option you want for your child, you will need to complete the enrolment process. This needs to be done for all students, but it’s a little bit more involved if your child has a disability and requires additional support. 

The good news is that school staff will assist you in completing the paperwork and application form, and forward your form to the relevant Regional Educational Services Panel.

If you don’t want or need additional support, you should make an appointment at the school anyway.

It’s important you contact your local school as early as possible. In addition to completing your application form, the school will need to know about the needs of your child so they can properly plan for the funding and staffing they may need.

Updating assessment reports

To assist with the application form, you will need updated assessment reports from your child’s relevant therapists and service providers. This could include speech therapy, physiotherapy, occupational therapy and IQ testing. Your current service provider should be able to assist you with these. These assessment reports allow the school to have the most updated information about your child’s progress and needs, so they can determine the most appropriate supports that your child requires.

Assessment of your application

Once the school has all the required paperwork for your child’s enrolment, they will forward your application to the regional panel. This panel will assess whether or not your child should attend a mainstream class, support class, or special school, and allocate a placement. In some cases, the panel may require additional information or follow-ups. Your school will assist you with this.

After the panel has assessed your application, you and the school will receive notification about the school option your child has been allocated.

Visiting your school option

Once your child has been offered a place in a school, you will have the opportunity to visit the support class. This gives you the chance to meet teachers and other school staff, see the facilities and get to know the school a little better.

Preparing your child

At the start of the year, it’s a good idea to meet your child’s therapists and child care centre/pre school staff to discuss any gaps in your child’s development, or the goals you have for your child as they prepare to start school. A joint meeting will ensure therapists and early childhood educators (as well as you) can all work together to develop your child’s skills and school readiness.

To ensure any preparation throughout the year isn’t lost over the long summer holidays, consider enrolling your child in a school transition program in the January school holidays. These are often run by your local early intervention specialist services or therapists.

In Term 4 the year before your child is due to begin, an individualised orientation and transition program with your school option, and in conjunction with your childcare centre and early intervention professionals, should be arranged. This can include activities such as visits to the school, social stories and visual schedules.

Other resources:

The NSW Education Department has a great PDF on “Getting Ready for School”, while the Raising Children website also provides clear advice on starting school.

Related content

See our tips for what do in the few weeks before day one of school.

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