Monday 24th January 2022

Starting School Stories. #LifeThisWeek 6/52. 2018.12.

Starting School Stories. #LifeThisWeek 6/52. 2018.12.

For this week’s prompt I am having a trip down a long, winding memory lane of kids (and teachers!) starting school from this retired teacher, deputy principal, principal, mother and grandmother! There are more than a few stories let me tell you but I shall add the few.

For those readers who have just had a child start school, daycare or pre-school this is my annual letter for you…to send to the teacher.

Me as the School Starter.

Back in 1954 I started school after the September holidays. I was 4 years and 9 months. Yes, there were 3 terms for a long, long time in NSW schools. We lived in the same street as the school so I certainly knew where it was. Mum took me on Day 1 and I looked around me at the kids that were crying. “Why” I thought. Anyway, once we got into the classroom I was in love. Up the back was a white full-size rocking horse. I so wanted a ride. I do not remember if I got one, but I do remember liking school a lot and this was fun.

Off to Gwynneville PS. Our Tunic was Brown (I think!)

Our Daughter as a School Starter.

When your parents are both teachers and they are appointed to a very isolated school in NSW with Dad as the (teaching) principal and Mum as the teacher and it’s time to go to school this is what you do. There is no uniform, so you dress in your fave outfit, add a cool bag because you LOVE Abba…and off you trot across the space between home and school called The Playground. You know this place so well but right now there are around 20 different kids you haven’t yet met but eventually you join in their games, called your parents “Sir” like the other kids do and thrive on the independent learning in a small school.

Born in August and turning 5 that year, MIss K was able to start ‘school’ in February as we had a pre-school class too.

The school is on the right of this pic. The tractor is picking up kids from the local Aboriginal community to bring them to school in Term 1 1976 when we had major floods.

Our Son as a School Starter.

In complete contrast to his sister’s enrolment at her parents’ school, he was enrolled to start at the local (now we were in Sydney) large primary school. Having already been to the orientations and pre-school the previous year he was used to the ‘leaving his parents thing’. On the day he began, I was at my school where I was an Assistant Principal but wanted to be part of his start, so I returned to his (soon-to-be) school, met his Dad holding his hand, and down to the classroom we went. Without a backward glance, his nametag already on after Orientation the year before, he entered the classroom, the teacher said “goodbye” to us. That was it. Anti-climactic but at least I was there.

Student Starts School With Entourage.

As the Deputy Principal in a large Western Sydney school it was my role to meet each new starter (not everyone came to Orientation the year before) and their parent(s) to ensure all the relevant details about the child were current and to ask if there were any questions, and welcome the child and family to the school. I allowed around 10 minutes per child and it usually went well.

On one memorable occasion more than the parents entered my office with the child. I saw siblings and I guessed grandparents giving this one small person an overwhelming sense of “woah”. I could see this and asked the family to please stop the photography of me and the filming of the child being enrolled. They did.

But it set a precedent for me as I certainly understood the reason to mark the occasion but with the stressors placed upon a young child beginning school it was enough. No more photos or filming as enrolment took place. Far more important for the child and family to feel welcomed and at ease with this NEW event.


Underage Child Found To Have Started School.

At the above-mentioned school before I became the Deputy Principal there had been some lapses in viewing and noting the various documents that needed sighting before a child can start school. There is a requirement that a child cannot start school in NSW Public Schools IF they have not turned 5 after 31 July.

So in the year of my appointment to the school here’s how we (the Kindergarten teachers and I) found we had an underage child at school. One little girl seemed, according to her observant K teacher not able to do some of the gross motor activities which included how to walk upstairs (the school was two-storey) and she had little language and seemed “young”. I made a phone call some weeks into the term to the contact number and her mum answered. I asked outright what the child’s birthday was and the age worked out to be that she was 3. She would not be 4 until later in the year. I explained kindly but firmly that she would have to come and get her child now and that she could start the next year. The mother said sheepishly when she came to pick her up “I hoped you wouldn’t notice her and I didn’t want to find more childcare where I have to pay”. Sad but true.

We had much tightened arrangements for enrolment from then and that little girl did come back the following year and started school successfully.

Today’s School Starters.

For the past few years, the Australian government requires all students to undergo an initial assessment upon enrolling at the school where they will enter… Kindergarten, Prep, Year One (we still have different names for the first year of formal schooling in Australia. Sigh).

In NSW Public Schools it is called Best Start. It is a snapshot on one day of the enrolling student’s capabilities/readiness/knowledge/skills PRIOR to starting formal education. This is a good thing! The students’ baseline is a measurement that is used by the schools and the parents in terms of ‘where is my child at’ and lends itself to support if required or extension or that the child’s progress will grow accordingly in the first year of school.

When ‘Best Start’ happens is up to each school but more and more a child is given a Best Start Assessment in the week before he or she starts school. In fact I have seen this occur for three of my younger grandchildren. Best Start is done with a K teacher (usually) and parents may or may not observe but probably will wait elsewhere for the 40 minutes or so for the assessment. Then the child starts school on a date and at a specific time within the next week. This little one was pleased as punch to have her new school shoes when she came to see us. I sure hope she enjoys wearing them for 5 days a week from Monday 5 February.


Handwriting help.

An added bonus to this post. This is an example of the first handwriting children will see and copy in NSW schools. It is NSW Foundation Style. This is the early years’ printing. I used to do this handout when speaking to parents’ groups at pre-schools so they could ‘practise’ themselves. Children learn that capital letters are for names and so on. That is why all capitals is discouraged in early writing.

I wrote this 3 years ago and the message still stands!

What Do You Remember About Starting School?


Joining here with Alicia for Open Slather.

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Next Week is the optional prompt’: 7/52.  “Who’s a Worrier? 12/2/18.




  1. Your attitude is so much better than mine…probably a good thing given your career! 😉

  2. Great memories Denyse. I was the youngest in my class when I started school and we used to have afternoon rest time – I always fell asleep! My daughter followed her teacher constantly the first few days of her school life – even to the toilet! My son couldn’t wait to go to school and told me ‘I can go on the bus with Rachel, Mum,you don’t need to come with me!’. Lovely times to remember and such a big day for everyone – the new uniform, photos, hugs and kisses and of course tears – not always from the child either but Mum!

    • Oh how good of you to share. The grandchild who started today will be one of the oldest as she will be 6 in a few months. It is always a big experience no matter how well-prepared we think the kids (and we) are. My daughter tells me her little one was ” OK” but found her leaving a bit hard. Yet she has been wanting to start school for so long. Matching the reality to the plans is hard! Denyse x

  3. It is very hard to hand a baby over to the education system. I have just handed-over my sixth. Thanks for this post Denyse.

    • I know it must be and I think “firsts” and “lasts” make it even more emotional. But, thank you for trusting the education system to care for and educate your darling kids. Denyse x

  4. I have a terrible memory and can’t remember starting school at all!

  5. Starting school seemed like such an anti climax for my children. Due to my work they had all attended long day care in the year before so school days were actually shorter and easier for them. The whole school journey goes so quick. I had two finish school last year and are now off to uni.


    • I bet you cannot believe it. I know for us as teachers it was a bit less worrying when the kids started as we knew how the whole thing plays out. Nevertheless sometimes school will take advantage of knowing as a teacher you might not “mind” how your child is placed in a class, be it a share teacher one or a composite. Congrats on your children going to Uni! Denyse x

  6. Great memories and stories, Denyse. I was the youngest in my class and was always curious, active., and eager to go to school so I could play with my friends. I think the first day of school is an adjustment for everyone, especially after a summer break.

    • Oh thank you for that and your insight is spot on. Even teachers find the first weeks back hard…after barefeet and casual clothes. So imagine how little people feel in this ‘new uniform with shoes’ thing! Denyse x

  7. Thank you, thank you, thank you Denyse!

    I loved reading your different perspectives on starting school as a teacher, a parent then a grandparent.

    Oh and the letters template.. just what I need. I’m also proud to say that I now know what the official name of the writing style is. All of Master SSG’s handouts are printed in this style.

    SSG xxx

    • I am so glad it has been helpful. I thought of you when I decided to add that template of the NSW Foundation handwriting. Did you know every state in Australia has a slightly different style? Poor kids who change schools from interstate.

      I also added, since you posted, a little vid that I shared from NSW DofE about school starting and settling in advice. I thought this might also help.

      I hope the second week of school is going well. It is about now that parents & kids realise that it is a LONG time to go…13 years in fact!! Denyse xx

  8. I wish that I had a back to school story! I don’t remember my first day of school. I was probably less prone to crying because my second cousin was in my class so I had a ready-made friend 🙂

    And of course I never thought of it from the point of view of the teacher. Great post Denyse 🙂

    • I think you are spot on why you do not remember it as it was all good that you knew someone there and I guess too, you were not the first in your family to go to school.

      I like to think I can be helpful with the teacher/principal hat on too!

      Denyse x

  9. I remember starting my last school on a hot summer day and it was one of the worst days ever. So hot, so stressful in a large new school, a very different school to where I had been. I liked it pretty quickly, but the first day was pretty lousy.

    • Oh how I feel for you! When we have had heatwaves in the past couple of years at school starting time I know how hard it is for kids (and teachers!) to deal with wearing new clothes and shoes and not being able to jump in the pool or the air con. More schools are getting air con now and for good reason. No-one can do anything much once temps go over 37!

      I am glad you eventually liked the school but the first day…not so much. Thanks for sharing!
      Denyse x

  10. The smallest child in this house has started school, and while she loves it, and is participating, she’s struggling a bit with mum leaving and staying awake long enough to eat dinner each night!

    • Oh my goodness, the almost sleeping at dinner …how precious. After being ‘good’ all day and learning so much new stuff, she really is tired. Now you are child-free at home at least part of the day is yours I guess! Denyse x

  11. I don’t recall anything about starting school. I do, however, recall my daughter’s first day. I cried, she didn’t. She knew no one, but shrugged her shoulders and walked off with the teacher. She’s been like that ever since.

    • Oh what an independent Miss you have. But you are very fortunate in that too. I am guessing given your Dad’s job you may have started at a country school as our daughter did. Denyse x

  12. I remembered I did a first day of school post back in November Denyse so I just had to link it up with you today – it made me smile just re-reading it. School days are such fond memories aren’t they?

    • That is great Leanne. Sometimes we can have wonderful memories of school and then remember some parts that may have been annoying but hey, high school especially is such a place of learning…and I mean more about “social learning”. These days it is even more challenging thanks to social media. Loved your photos! Denyse x

  13. I remember walking to school in our small country town and being scared of crossing the train tracks on my own! I ran home crying and mum told me off lol. I remember having to do a test of having to draw a circle in front of someone…you would probably know something about that test. I also remember Digger readers and lots of asphalt!!

    • Gosh that was sad that you ran off home but I know more kids do it than anyone realises. I guess the drawing a circle was an assessment of some kind. These days in NSW a Kinder starting child like my granddaughter attended her school in the first week back for her 40 mins Best Start Assessment by a K teacher. It’s part of the National Requirements and parents and schools then get each kid’s baseline as they arrive as learners into the systems. Digger readers! Oh yes I can see them now. They weren’t very colourful but it was good to have your remember! Asphalt. Bane of our existence at school …don’t run on the asphalt. Sure! Not. Denyse x

  14. Having studied in India, we start school there around two-and-half to three years of age. We have a junior kindy and a senior kindy and then Year 1 to 12 but junior kindy is regular school where you learn your alphabet etc and sit at desks and follow instructions. I’ve found it interesting how we are so strict about the age here. Currently, I do assess some kids who want to start at 4 because they are cognitively advanced but I also understand they need to be emotionally mature before starting school.

    • How interesting. Thank you for the insight into the Indian education system. I have been the principal and deputy principal who has been asked to ‘accelerate’ a child. Of course, there needs to be testing as you would do but maturity is a big factor as you point out. I have seen few examples of the system working in favour of the child unfortunately in my role as a principal of a school with 2 OC classes.

      But some parents will not accept a professional opinion when they are determined to get their child into school out of the age norms.

      Denyse x