Starting school raises lots of important questions, and we hope we can help answer many of these below... ready, steady, prep!

What is Prep in the primary school setting?

In Queensland, Prep is a compulsory first year of formal schooling. Prep is part of primary school education (often referred to as Junior School) and has a defined Australian Curriculum.

It is a full-time program that runs from Monday - Friday usually between 8:30am - 3:00pm. 

What age is Prep in Queensland/Australia?

In Australia, children must be 5 years old by June 30 in the year they enrol in Prep (Queensland Government, 2021). In other Australian states, 'Prep' can mean many things. Prep in Queensland is the first year of primary school, prior to Year 1. The order of early childhood education is as below:

  • Childcare/Daycare (6 months)
  • Kindergarten (at least 4 y/o by June 30)
  • Prep (at least 5 y/o by June 30)
  • Year 1 - Year 6

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Is my child ready for Prep?

Transitioning to Prep is an important part of your child’s educational journey, to ensure they foster a love of learning and a positive schooling experience. When preparing your child for school, you may first think of academic metrics (such as knowing the alphabet, writing their name, and counting to 10). However, prep readiness refers to a much broader range of developmental skills. 

While academic skills are not necessarily a requirement for your child to begin prep, some skills will help equip them to engage fully in school life, and to thrive in their new environment.

Identifying and writing their name: this allows children to identify their property and belongings (like water bottles). They will also be able to label their artwork, giving them a sense of belonging and identity as they see their work around the classroom.

Fine-motor control: Holding and controlling scissors and pencils is an important skill for children to have experienced prior to beginning prep. These skills provide children with a sense of independence, allowing them to express their imagination through cutting and colouring or building Lego. 

Growing interest in beginner literacy and numeracy skills: The ability to sit through the entirety of an age-appropriate book or sit-down number activity, such as a puzzle, will prepare your child for classroom activities and engagement. 

In addition to some basic academic skills, prep readiness skills also include the following social and emotional development skills:

Self-care: Is your child able to independently complete tasks such as dressing themselves, putting on their shoes and going to the toilet? These are important developmental milestones for your child to develop before they begin school. 

Play and social skills: While this may seem unnecessary for the school environment, it is actually incredibly important for your child to be able to socialize with familiar and unfamiliar peers. This does not mean they need to have the most outgoing personality in the room, just that they are able to interact with others and participate in academic and play activities with their classmates. 

Language and communication skills: Naturally, when children play and interact, there will be times when adult engagement is necessary. Developing language and communication skills will allow your child to clearly articulate their needs and feelings with their peers and with familiar adults when needed. 

Emotional and physical regulation: Along with the ability to communicate their feelings and needs, the development of physical and emotional regulation will allow your child to respond appropriately in various situations they encounter. 

Attentiveness: Attentiveness allows us to screen out irrelevant stimulation and distraction and to concentrate and receive information. In Prep, your child will be required to sit for an age-appropriate amount of time and to engage in learning and activities to stimulate their thinking and imagination. The ability to sit and ignore distractions will allow your child to take in information as they learn. 

Remember, ‘Prep readiness’ is a broad term designed to ensure your child is as developmentally ready for school life as possible. If you find that your child may not be ready for prep, it is by no means an indication of parenting ability, rather a prompt that your child may just need another year before they start school, with some time to develop in particular areas. Each child is an individual made by God, and will progress at their own pace accordingly. There is no judgement on your child or on your parenting ability if your child does not meet all of the guidelines mentioned above. We hope instead that these guidelines can assist you in making a judgement about whether your child is as ready as possible for the first day of Prep and beyond.

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How to choose a Christian school?

State or government schools will normally enrol based on the catchment area. Independent or Catholic schools usually are not restricted by the geographical catchment area.

There are many ways to learn about prospective schools, whether through online research, word of mouth or reviews.  However, the best way to find out if the school is right for your child is by talking to other parents from the school you are considering, visiting the campus, observing students, interacting with teachers/staff and asking questions. 

Questions to consider when choosing a Christian school

When should I apply and enrol in Prep?

Usually, government schools will accept enrolment applications from May, or second term each year. Independent and Catholic schools will often times have waiting lists, which can be quite long. We recommend contacting the shortlist of schools you are considering to find out the application process and requirements. 

If you are considering an independent (or private) school, it is recommended to submit the application 18-24 months minimum prior to school commencement. By investigating options 2 years before school starts, you will ensure your child has the best chance of placement at the school that is suitable for them and your family.

What is the school application process in Queensland Australia?

Every school is different when it comes to the enrolment process - especially independent and private schools. Once you have found the right school, the application is usually the first step in requesting placement at your chosen school. Depending on enrolment numbers, you may be put on a waitlist or provided with an interview. 


Application

Research the supporting documents that the school requires as failing to provide these, the application will be considered incomplete. Supporting documents will often include Birth Certificate, Academic Reports, NAPLAN results, Medical Reports, Court Orders and in the case of Christian schools, you might be asked to provide a Pastor’s Reference. Usually, the application will incur an application fee.

Interview
The purpose of the interview is for the parents and student to meet the school leadership, discuss the application, discuss the school and student expectations, and have the opportunity to ask any clarifying questions. Often times there will be activities that the child will have an opportunity to complete to assess their literacy and numeracy development prior to commencing Prep.

Offer
In most cases, if your application and interview are successful, you will receive a Letter of Offer congratulating you on your place within the school, and providing instructions on how to proceed. A returned signed copy of the Contract is expected before your enrolment is considered complete. 

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Preparing for Prep

If your child is about to start Prep you might be wondering if they are ready – after all they are still only four or five years old. 

Thankfully, preparing in a few simple ways can help ease these concerns and set your child up for success from day one. 

 A beneficial way for transitioning into the daily school routine is to establish a daily home routine as well. 

This routine could look like the below:            
• 6:00am – Regular wake up (plenty of time before school would start)            
• 6:30am - Breakfast and family prayer            
• 8:00am – Arts / Indoor play            
• 10:00am – Morning tea            
• 12:00pm – Lunch            
• 4:00pm - Outdoor play            
• 6:00pm - Family dinner            
• 7:00pm - Early bedtime

Nutritious choices like apple or yoghurt for snacks, or a chicken wrap for lunch are highly recommended. After some physical activity and an early night, you have developed a sustainable routine that mimics life at school.

Another great way to ease your child into being a big kid at school is to encourage them to be a big kid at home. Enabling them to put on their shoes, eat and drink with independence, and use the toilet by themselves are some ways to foster a Prep-ready child. Their self-sufficiency will allow them to feel capable and confident when school time comes. Lastly, encouraging a positive attitude towards school can ease tensions on day one, as well as throughout the year. 

Knowing that school is a place filled with new friends and friendly faces can help your child to be calm and comfortable. Helpful tip: Taking them to school on Open Day allows your child to see the school beforehand and even meet potential teachers and students. 

Overall, encouraging your child that learning is enjoyable and exciting will help position them towards a successful year in prep. By encouraging routine, independence and a positive attitude your child should maintain as much excitement throughout the year as they do on their very first day.