What Do You Need To Know?

The use of the words parents and families throughout this module refers to all types of home arrangements and parental figures, including carers and legal guardians, who care for and rear children. Any images of people in this module do not indicate these people were in any way part of the project or are in agreement with any information contained in this module. Except where otherwise indicated, and save for any material in this document owned by a third party or protected by a trade mark, a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Australia Licence (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/au/deed.en) applies to this document.
This project was funded by the Australian Government Department of Education through the Grants and Awards Programme 2015-16 to 2018-19.
First published July 2019
Cover image: Courtesy of St John’s School, Silkwood Queensland


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What do you need to know?


Many parents are concerned about their child’s readiness to start school. Will they fit in? Do they know all the right things? Will they get along with the other children? Will they get tired?

Children are more likely to build good relationships and do better at school when families and schools work together.

This module assists parents to help their children achieve their best by doing simple things both at home and with their child’s school. When families show their children that education is important, build their confidence and connect and engage with their school, this all helps to shape their child’s learning and wellbeing. This is important through primary school and then through secondary school.

Research identifies the transition to school as a time of potential challenge and stress for children and families (Hirst, Jervis, Visagie, Sojo & Cavanagh, 2011, p.6). It involves negotiating and adjusting to a number of changes, including the difference between a child’s context before school (whether it’s home, preschool or long daycare) and the primary school they attend.

Children will experience changes in the physical environment, learning expectations, rules and routines, social status and identity, and relationships. Whilst it can be a time of great excitement, it is not uncommon for children to experience some distress and adjustment difficulties during this period
(Hirst, Jervis, Visagie, Sojo & Cavanagh, 2011).

FPP-what do you need to know

What you can do as a parent

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Make sure that you know as much as you can about the school your child will attend. Be certain of starting and finishing times, term dates, etc. Also understand school break times so that you can practice a similar routine at home in the few weeks before school begins.

Get your child up at the time they need to get up for school, get them dressed, give them breakfast and throughout the day give them their snacks and meals in containers similar to what they will take to school. Make sure they can open and close the containers.

Talk to your child about the name of their teacher and other people at the school. Make sure they know the name of their school. Also they should know their home address and if possible your home or mobile phone number.

Help build your child’s social skills. Early education is an important foundation for academic skills but there is evidence that social skills are more predictive of the adult a child will become. A study by Jones, Greenburg & Crowley published in 2015, concluded that the social skills observed in kindergarten childrenshowed significant correlation with their wellbeing and success as adults. The social skills observed in the study included: resolving conflicts with peers, understanding their emotions and being co-operative and helpful.
(Jones, Greenberg & Crowley, 2015).

What you can do with your child

Remember you don’t have to be an expert on every subject. Just doing the simple things at home with your child is what really matters. Supporting and encouraging learning is enough.

Before your child starts school:
• Spend time with your child.
• Believe in your child’s potential.
• Talk with your child – about anything and everything – they may not understand it all but oral language is crucial to their learning.
• Read with your child – even if they request the same book over and over.
• Set routines – help them develop a positive attitude toward learning and good habits.
• Help them learn persistence – sometimes it takes time to be able to do things.
• Support good relationships – help your child to be able to socialise and get along with others.
• Learn about the world together – take them places.
• Let them help you with chores and do things together so they can learn – they might make a mess but it is worth it.
• Talk positively about school and how great learning is.
• Set expectations for your child’s behaviour.
• Help them to learn to occupy/amuse themselves – quiet time is important.
• Make sure they can go to the toilet by themselves.
• Make sure they can tie their shoe laces by themselves.
• Ensure they can do up buttons by themselves.

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What you can do with your child cont'd

Some activities that may help:
Everyday activities help children learn. These are simple activities that can teach them many things about counting, colours, food and measurement, as well as learning to help.

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When doing the laundry:
• Count the pegs.
• Name the colours of the pegs.
• Sort the pegs into colours.
• Find the matching socks.
• Name the articles of clothing. Sort the clothes into dark and light colours.

When preparing food:
• Ask your child to help get the ingredients out of the pantry/ cupboard.
• Talk about measuring – a cup of flour, a teaspoon of honey, etc.
• Talk about full, half full, empty, heavy and light or the different shapes (thick, thin, long and short).
• Talk about how many people are eating the meal, and how much you will need to make.
• Let them sort the food into fruit, vegetables, meat and dairy and naming them as you go. Talk about the different shapes, colours and sizes of the items.
• Talk about the time and how long it will take to cook or prepare a meal.
• Ask them to help set the table – how many of everything do you need?
• After the meal, your child can continue learning as you wash and put away the dishes, sorting them into plates, bowls and cups or by colour and shape.

When outdoors, encourage them to:
• Play games of chasey, hide-and-seek or kick or throw and catch a ball.
• Safely climb over obstacles.
• Help you to plant something.
• Move in different ways such as run and hop and jump with colourful scarves or streamers.
• Collect five different shaped leaves.
• Collect five different coloured leaves.
• Name all of the different sounds they hear.
• Build a cubbyhouse out of boxes and furniture.


When they begin school:

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• Meet their teacher.
• Respect each other’s roles – parent and teacher.
• Have good two-way communication with your child’s teacher.
• Show your child you are interested in their learning – get involved in the school community.
• Make sure you read all school communications such as school newsletter, social media, notes from the teacher.
• Make sure you return permission forms and notes on time.
• If you are concerned about anything then ensure you make time to talk with your child’s teacher – don’t let it become a bigger problem than it is.
• Make sure your child is well fed and well slept each day and ready for school.
• Go to parent-teacher meetings – have a learning conversation.
• Get in the habit of talking to your child each day about school – more than ‘What did you do today’ or ‘What did you learn today’.
• Maintain a flexible attitude – everyone is trying to do their best for your child.
• Don’t jump to conclusions – there are two sides to every story – ask questions in a non- confrontational way.
• Make sure you know what days your child needs things such as library book, swimming gear, PE uniform.


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“Parents and families are children’s first teachers and they continue to help their children to learn and thrive throughout the school years. When their family’s love and support is combined with the expert knowledge of teachers, it can have a significant and lasting impact:

• Children can be more likely to enjoy learning and be motivated to do well.
• Children can have better relationships with other children, improved behaviour and greater confidence.
• Children can do better at school and are more likely to graduate and go on to college, TAFE or university.
• Children can be less likely to miss days at school.”

Extract from the Parent Fact Sheet, ACT Government, Education Directorate - available at:

Researchers highlight that the family and effective parenting are central to children’s mental health. Parenting practices and the quality of the parentchild relationship have implications for children’s development in the early years as well as their academic achievement, social competence and behaviour at school. Understanding the range of changes a child is likely to encounter as they transition from early childhood education and care into school, can enhance parental confidence and in turn, also enhance children’s confidence.
(Hirst, Jervis, Visagie, Sojo & Cavanagh, 2011).


Parents whose children have already transitioned to school are full of valuable advice and there are numerous resources available in libraries or online. The Raising Children Network offers information, hints and tips on all issues to do with preschoolers including behaviour, play and learning, family life, sleep, nutrition and fitness, outdoor play and many other topics. Refer to: https://raisingchildren.net.au/preschoolers

Creating routines is important. They can range from regular mealtimes to putting toys away. If children have a routine at home then getting the routine right for school will be easier. There are many websites with suitable suggested activities including: https://handsonaswegrow.com/

Learning the basics of literacy and numeracy at an early age sets up children to enjoy learning throughout their lives. Reading, playing games, counting and talking from an early age teaches children basic concepts and prepares them for life. A good resource is available at:

Learning Potential is a free app and website for parents, families, and carers packed with useful tips and inspiringways parents can be more involved in their child’s learning. It is designed to help parents be part of their child’s learning and make the most of the time they spend together, from the high chair to high school. Visit the Learning Potential website, or download the app for free from the App Store or Google Play. (Department of Education & Training).

Other resources include:
The Early years Count.

Raising Children Network.

Helping children with curiosity is one of the
best things we can do.

Learning for 3-4 year olds.

© Lanak | Stock Free Images

What do we do all day – activities, books for children – read, learn, play, live.

Children starting school in rural and remote Queensland – parent resource. Queensland Government (2018). 

A guide to engaging with families of children with a disability.
Parental Engagement: Engaging with families of children with a disability



The following quotes are taken from interviews conducted as part of the Re-Energising Parent Engagement in Australian Primary and Secondary Schools Project.

"They’ll send a note home and sometimes they say, we’re doing it at school, but we want to tell you so that you can talk about it at home. So that when he gets to school he has already thought about it, or they’ve got to bring bits from home.”
(Parent, regional primary school, Victoria).

“Being open to accepting that parents – just because parents don’t have an education degree, or they may not have any tertiary qualifications at all – but they still know their child. And I think parents need to be given the confidence to pass on that knowledge, to actually be encouraged to say well yes, you do know your child more than we do, and have the teachers ask the parents what can you tell us about your child?”
(Parent, regional primary school, Tasmania).

“I could be there for the kids to hopefully instil good values and empathy and things like that, because I think that’s really important, not just education.”
(Parent metropolitan primary school, Queensland).



“Watching a child begin school and struggle is heartbreaking. It happens when kids are not exposed to the things that most of us would expect as simple and fundamental. The heartbreak is completely avoidable. They are all such little steps but they make such an enormous difference to the way a child copes.”
(Wesley College’s Head of Junior School, 2018).

The following quotes are taken from interviews conducted as part of the Re-Energising Parent Engagement in Australian Primary and Secondary Schools Project.
“You have to have lots of doorways in your school where parents can feel free to come in, that we listen to the voices that are out there, and it’s all focused on improving the learning for the child.”
(Primary principal, metropolitan school,Queensland).

“Education of the parents. I just think they just don’t get some of the key things … like all the messages about read to your baby; talk to your child; and also that thing they say ‘be the adult in the relationship’.”
(Primary principal, metropolitan school, Western Australia).



“It is widely accepted in both national and international literature that children’s experience of educational transitions has an impact on their learning and development, wellbeing and their engagement with the school. Additionally the role and relationships of educators across the prior to school and school sector is critical to ensuring the successful transitioning of children.”
(Semann and Slattery, 2015).

“School readiness is the process of early learning when children gain the skills and attitudes to learn and thrive in school. Early learning is rooted in strong parentchild relationships and family wellbeing. Strong relationships are rooted in trustand comfort, which you can build by being genuine, sincere, curious about them and their goals, and supporting them as they work toward those goals.”
“School readiness means supporting and protecting the developing brain in such a way that the brain creates a strong physical foundation for learning” (Petersen,
2012). From the beginning, parents and other caregivers nurture the capacities children will need to be ready for school.”
(The National Center on Parent, Family, and Community Engagement (NCPFCE)).

“The family is the primary force in preparing children for school and life, and children benefit when all of the adults who care for them work together.”
(Bronfenbrenner, 2005)



The Gonski II Report, Through growth to achievement - report of the review to achieve educational excellence in Australian schools, states:
“Recommendation 2
Develop and disseminate evidencebased tools and resources to assist early childhood education providers, primary, and secondary schools to implement best practice approaches to supporting parents and carers to engage in their children’s learning throughout their education (p.xiii).
Finding 3
There is strong and developing evidence of the benefit of parent engagement on children’s learning. This will be further enhanced through the work currently underway to develop an evidence-informed definition of parent engagement, which will allow for a core set of agreed measures aligned to the definition to be established and used to drive improvements in policies and practice (p.xv).”
(Department of Education and Training, Australian Government, 2018).

“Parents want to know when things go wrong at their children’s schools and the sooner the better. If something is heading off the rails, parents want to know and to be able to seek assistance about the kind of strategies to use at home to help. On the flip side, teachers also want to know what’s happening at home. It helps teachers to know if things are going on at home that might impact on a child’s behaviour or their schoolwork or motivation …”
(Picolli, A. Parents partnering with schools and teachers. Teacher: Evidence + Insight + Action 12 February, 2019).


Please click here to peruse a list of useful books on parent engagement



Bronfenbrenner, U. (Ed.). (2005). In Understanding family engagement outcomes: Research to practice series (2013) - Family engagement and school readiness. The National Center on Parent, Family, and Community Engagement. Harvard Family Research Project & Boston Children’s Hospital.

Department of Education and Training, Australian Government. (March 2018). Through growth to achievement - Report of the review to achieve educational excellence in Australian schools. Commonwealth of Australia.

Hirst, M., Jervis, N., Visagie, K., Sojo, V. & Cavanagh, S. (2011). Transition to primary school: A review of the literature. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia.

Jones, D. E., Greenberg, M., & Crowley, M. (2015). Early social-emotional functioning and public health: The relationship between kindergarten social competence and future wellness. American Journal of Public Health, 16, e1–e8.

Piccoli, A. (2019). 12 Ways your child can get the best out of school. ABC Books.

Semann and Slattery. (2015). Transition: a positive start to school initiative – Consultation. Macquarie University. Victorian State Government. Education and Training



Ethics approval for research was obtained through the University of Southern Queensland Human Research Ethics Committee.

Special thanks to the following for contributing to the project.

Project partner - The Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth (ARACY) for assistance with survey development and data analyses.
National principal associations for various assistance with dissemination of project information.
National parent associations for various assistance with dissemination of project information.
Australian primary & secondary school principals who completed surveys.
Australian primary & secondary school principals who participated in interviews.
Australian school children’s parents who participated in interviews.
Project partner - Professor Sue Saltmarsh (USQ) for ethics approval submissions, interview protocols, training of interviewers, qualitative and quantitative data analyses, research publications and presentations.
Dr David Saltmarsh for data analyses and research publications.
Presenters of preliminary findings: Professor Sue Saltmarsh (USQ), Tony O’Byrne (Catholic School Parents Australia (CSPA)), Carmel Nash OAM (CSPA) and John O’Brien (CSPA).
Interviewers: Tony O’Byrne (CSPA), Bernadette Kreutzer (Catholic School Parents Queensland (CSPQ)),
Siobhan Allen (CSPA), Linda McNeil (CSPA), Rachel Saliba (CSPA) and Greg Boon (CSPA).
Dr Tim Sealey for assistance with survey generation and survey data analyses.
Interview data analyses and generation of qualitative data report: Barbara Barker (ARACY), Neil Stafford and Dr Caroline Ladewig (ARACY).
Parent Engagement Module writers: Carmel Nash OAM (CSPA), Siobhan Allen (CSPA), Rachel Saliba (CSPA) and David Fagan (Backroom Media Pty Ltd).
Charmaine Stevens (CSPQ) for graphic design and art direction.
Schoolzine for web design and Adventure Clipz for video footage.
John O’Brien (CSPA) for project coordination.