Starting primary school

In South Australia, public primary schools have one intake date, this means:

  • If your child turns five years before 1 May they can start primary school the first day of term 1 of that year.
  • If your child turns five on or after 1 May they can start primary school the first day of term 1 of the following year.

The one intake date brings South Australia into line with other states and means every child has four terms of pre-schooling and reception before starting the rest of their schooling.

Your child must be at school by their sixth birthday - this is the compulsory school starting age.

Families should speak to their local early childhood service or school for enquiries about eligibility requirements for children who:

  • are identified as gifted and talented
  • are transferring from overseas or interstate
  • have a recognised disability and may benefit from a longer transitional program from preschool to school.

Moving from preschool to school

As soon as you have decided which school your child will be attending:

  • contact the school and make an appointment to enrol your child
  • let the staff at your preschool or kindergarten know - they will arrange a program to help your child get used to that school, and with your permission, the preschool will give the reception teacher and school principal information about your child's learning progress and needs to help with planning.

If your child does not attend a preschool contact the school directly to arrange for your child to be a part of their transition to school program.

Transitioning to primary school

Before starting school, children are usually invited to visit their new school so they can become familiar with it.

Some schools set up buddy systems with older children so that children in reception have a welcoming experience from the beginning. The transition to school program may include:

  • regular visits to the school over a period of weeks
  • walks around the school grounds to find out where things are, ie the toilets and playground
  • spending time in a classroom with a teacher and other students
  • going to school events such as assembly, library visits, or performances
  • opportunities to develop relationships with other children and teachers.

It may also include opportunities for parents to:

  • become familiar with the school and its policies
  • meet some staff members
  • ask questions
  • get information about out of school hours care (OSHC).

What a reception class looks like

Classes are usually smaller in the first few years of primary school. In most cases your child will have one teacher for their daily education.

Students may also have a specialist teacher in subjects such as:

  • library studies
  • computing
  • English as an additional language or dialect
  • music or choir
  • foreign language
  • sport or physical education
  • art and craft
  • special reading programs.

There are no standard examination requirements for progression through primary school.

Preparing for the first day of school

To prepare your child for their first day at school:

  • talk to your child about school and share some positive stories about your primary school days
  • take your child shopping when you buy their school uniform, school bag, pencils, etc
  • consider allowing them to choose their lunch box, water bottle or other personal items
  • write your child's name on their school clothing, bag, lunch box, water bottle and other items
  • establish a routine at home around sleeping, breakfast, reading books and play time
  • role play being at school
  • allow your child to practice wearing the school uniform
  • encourage your child to learn to dress and undress independently, and to use the toilet appropriately
  • place extra underwear in their bag in case of an accident
  • practice walking or travelling to school
  • arrange for your child to play with other children they know who will be starting school with them.

Helping your child feel more confident

Your child will feel more confident at school if they know:

  • their name, address and phone number
  • how to put play things and materials away after using them
  • how to look after their belongings
  • the appropriate use of toilet and related hygiene
  • who will be taking them home after school
  • how to socialise with other children, take turns and share their toys and books.

Helping your child feel more settled

Your child will feel more settled at school if they understand:

  • why they can't play with friends in other classes when they want to
  • why they need to ask to go to the toilet
  • why they can't go outside when they want to
  • what the bell is for
  • what recess time means.

The first few weeks of primary school

One of the most important things you can do to support your child during the first few weeks is to ensure that they go to bed early, reduce their screen time and eat well.

You can also support them by helping them understand that reception is an extension of preschool or kindergarten. Take time to ask them about their day, and find out if they are feeling happy and settled.

If your child is having problems with settling into school, it may be helpful to speak to their teacher.

Related information


Department for Education one intake date enquiries

On this site

Other websites

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Page last updated 18 August 2017

Provided by:
Department for Education
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