As a teacher and a parent, I thought I was well prepared for the whole ‘starting school’ biz.
But the minute they wheeled out the rack of teeny tiny little uniforms for my baby, my mind went to moosh.
Term Four is when the little ones are generally invited in for their Primary School Orientation Day and I have a five-year-old shaking the gates with excitement to get there.
Whilst you think you might be all over it, have a quick scan here and keep this little checklist of things you really must know before the big day rolls around.
1. What are the official school hours?
I know this seems like a no brainer, but it is not just about when the school bell rings for the start and end of the day. You need to know what time legally you can drop them off and just how late you can leave your child for collection. Different schools have different rules about school ground teacher supervision, and this might also be a good time to check out the Outside School Care Programs that many schools provide. Also, often the newbies start with a four-day week or an afternoon off. Make sure you are clear about this, so you can make the necessary arrangements before Term One.
2. How strict are the uniform requirements?
Really, the crux of this one is you need to know what you can grab at an affordable price from your local department store. Often you can buy sports tracksuit pants or polo shirts for example, at a fraction of the price. Amy Milford, who blogs over at Darwin Family Life, kindly reminded me it’s absolutely worth your while to,”find out what parts of the school uniform are compulsory to have the school logo on it”. Then shop the rest at Kmart or Big W.
Find out if runners are acceptable footwear or if your child needs school shoes. And do your bank balance a favour and check out the dates and times the school Uniform Shop will be open. Find out if there’s a second hand uniform stall coming up. Also, try to find out what day(s) your child needs to wear their Sports Uniform. It is crucial that you leave Orientation Day knowing exactly what your little one needs to be wearing on Day One.
3. Who’s who in the school zoo?
Know your office staff. These people will make your transition a smooth ride if you go out of your way to know their faces, names and their relevant roles. Quite simply, they are the oil in the whole school machine. They will wipe the tears from your child, gently place on the Band-Aids and are likely to be your first point of contact for the next six or seven years. It also helps to know who the Principal is and the name of your child’s teacher.
4. How is contact made between the school and you?
Skoolbag, Compass, Flexibuzz, email; there are just so many options for communication between school and home. The days of finding the scrunched up paper newsletter at the bottom of the school bag are pretty much a thing of the past. It is all about apps; immediate and paperless. Use your school orientation day to find out what your school uses. Then clear space on your phone because those messages come thick and fast.
5. What are the parking ‘rules’
Have mercy! You must have this insider information from the start! If this Orientation Day coincides with school pick up, you are about to experience Hell in a Hyundai. Nicola Hudson from School Ponytails suggests you “get to school early. Day one = carpark mayhem. Know where to park, where not to park and be very aware of little people jumping out from behind cars!” You do not need this added stress on this highly charged emotional day (and count your lucky bonus Garmin steps if you are within walking distance).
6. Are there any strict rules about food?
Don’t get me started on the lunchbox craziness. That little box of joy will soon be your nemesis; but that’s on the list for next year. For now, you will need to know a few of the essential biggies. Does your school have a nut free policy? Are there any other allergy restrictions? Most schools now run a version of the “Crunch’N Sip” program. This is when kids snack on some fruit at their desks and drink their water, usually mid-morning. How does your school implement this? Is there a canteen option? My son also attended a school that had a Nude lunchbox policy. This means no packaging at all allowed in their lunchbox. How strict is your school about this? This might help shape your decision regarding the style of lunchbox you need to purchase.
7. Can school bits and bobs be Christmas gifts?
Ok, so you won’t ask this at school orientation, but it’s still a genius tip. That first term slug for fees, uniform and book lists is a real back to school slap-in-the-face. Nicola at School Ponytails makes the fabulous suggestion to start thinking about all ‘the stuff’ NOW. “New school bags, pencil cases, lunch boxes, name labels and uniform hair bows make GREAT Christmas pressies.” So be prepared. Stuff those stockings with cute stationery finds and new water bottles. And when Nana poses the fly away, “any suggestions for Christmas presents this year?”, be ready with your list.
There is quite a bit of information to take in as the new school year unfolds, especially if this is your first school aged child.
It will all happen. Just breathe.
However, possibly the most crucial thing to remember on your child’s school Orientation Day?
This day is actually about you, too. Whilst we sometimes might feel too shy, overwhelmed or simply too busy, do try to smile and take this opportunity to make connections.
For all you know, that mum sitting across from you might one day be at the very top of your “SCHOOL GROUP” WhatsApp list.
Forewarned is forearmed, they say, so take a peek at this post about what it means to become a school mum.