Topics I cover in this article are: finding a preschool, what age are preschoolers, the hours of most preschools, fees, waitlists, what you need to enrol and how to make the transition as easy as possible for your preschooler. Click on any of these topics to skip ahead.
Finding a preschool in Sydney
Finding a preschool in Sydney is not going to be easy. The competition is high and the wait lists are long. Some are years long. And yes, there is a wait list fee, usually between $20 – $50.
For someone just moving to Sydney, you’re going to want to start your search for a preschool now, before you arrive in Sydney.
But how the heck do you do that?
First things first, you need to decide on a location. Do you want a preschool that is close to where you’re going to live or close to where you are going to work?
Some preschools are located in the same building as a primary school. These preschools give priority to children that will be attending kindergarten the following year. They are part of a larger school system and can be private or public.
Public preschools that are located on the same grounds as the primary school, give priority to children that live in that school’s catchment zone, or school zones as we say in the States.
If you have narrowed down what suburbs in Sydney you’re thinking of living in and are interested in one of these preschools, then start your search in those suburbs.
Private schools don’t follow the same catchment zone system but will be more difficult to get into. If you’re interested in private schools then I would suggest you consider faith based schools such as Catholic schools. Now Catholic schools don’t follow catchment zones but the parish will insist that you live within their post codes.
I’m currently working on an article about private schools but haven’t completed it yet. :-( Until then I’ve listed all the references I’ve found in the Expat Resources for SMG.
Preschool Search Sites: Care For Kids and My Child
There are two sites I recommend using to for your search: Care For Kids and My Child. Use both sites as they list different preschool in the city.
Care For Kids provides links to each preschool website, when available, and is colour coded showing which preschools currently have space available.
Below is a search I did for preschools in the Lower North Shore suburbs of Sydney.
At the top of the search window you’ll notice that you can enter your child’s age and what days you’re thinking you’ll need something available. Of course, if you have just started researching preschools in Sydney, you might want to leave the search with the default settings then start contacting preschools from there.
Remember I said the search was colour coded? All the red preschools currently have space available. When I did the search above, there were only 8 preschools with space available in the Lower North Shore.
To contact these schools you can either click on the red preschool icon on the map and a window will pop up with contact details, or scroll down the left side bar that lists all the preschools including those that currently have no space available (all the blue preschools).
I did the same Lower North Shore search for preschools on My Child. Those search results are below.
As you can see each search resulted in different preschool listings. There are some that are listed on both sites but then there are others that are not. Why is that? I haven’t got a clue.
My Child doesn’t list preschools by availability in a nice colour coded fashion as Care For Kids but that’s not a big deal since it still has the contact info for the preschools and that’s what you’re really after.
Another thing to note about My Child is the preschool or kindergarten selection on the upper left just under Search. The reason that’s there is because in some states/territories in Australia kindergarten is preschool but not in New South Wales. In NSW, preschool is preschool and kindergarten is year 1 or first grade.
If you find any others or any other resources please let me know. You can always contact me here or leave a comment below. :-)
Hopefully you still have several months before you’re arrival in Sydney. If this is the case then go ahead and contact all the preschools and ask about space available around the time you’re arriving in Sydney. Then get your name on that precious wait list asap for the preschool you prefer.
If you’re cutting it closer to your arrival day, then you might want to stick to preschools that currently have space available. Of course it all depends on your timeframe.
A quick note about wait lists.
Be aware that they might not let you on the wait list until you are actually present in Australia. If you get that response then just move on to the next preschool, especially if you’re arriving in Sydney sooner rather than later. Remember, getting on a wait list is not free so don’t go too crazy (usually the fee is between $20 – $50).
Age of children going to preschool in NSW
In NSW, preschool is the year before children attend go to kindergarten at a primary school in Sydney.
Some preschools only accept children that are eligible to start kindergarten the following year. These are usually the schools that are located on the same grounds as the primary school.
There are a few preschools that accept three year olds but usually require that the children be toilet trained before they will accept them.
Your child is not required to go to preschool. In fact, the NSW legislation does not require your child to be in school until they have turned six on or before the cut off date of July 31st.
From 6 to 15 years of age the NSW legislation requires students to be enrolled in school and to attend school on each day that instruction is provided. It doesn’t matter if it’s a public, private, or registered homeschooling but that’s a whole different subject for another article.
I’m mentioning this in case you are unable to enrol your child in a preschool. In that case, switch to searching for a childcare centre in Sydney, also not easy to do but you might have better luck. Read more about child care in Sydney here.
Benefits to Preschool
There are benefits to having your child in preschool for that year before primary school especially if you are relocating to Sydney.
Preschool will give you children a chance to make friends before going into primary school. The sooner they can make friends the less they will feel like an outsider. They will also have an easier time acclimating to going to school in general. Enrolling your child in a preschool that is located on the same grounds as the primary school they will be going to makes that transition even easier.
The days are action packed at preschool with activities that your little ones might not be use to, for example, morning tea and afternoon tea. We don’t have either of those in the States but both are part of a full day at preschool. The kids don’t have tea of course but it’s more of a snack break. Both morning tea and afternoon tea are very much part of Australian culture.
For those of you from the States, morning tea is a very really thing. At my work it is impossible to schedule a meeting at 10:30 am because everyone will be at morning tea for about 30 minutes.
Don’t fight it just join them. Afternoon tea is usually more for things like birthday parties, company announcements or an early start to friday drinks.
Preschool isn’t just for socialising. Children start learning the very basics so that they will be more up to speed for kindergarten. For some children it will mean learning new things and for others it will be more putting to use what they already know. In this way preschool helps to ensure that children are close to the same level going into kindergarten.
Preschools in Sydney follow the Early Years Learning Framework where children learn through play. They learn through puzzles, play blocks, reading and listening to stories, and sometimes even computer games. The Early Years Learning Framework has a focus on successful transition to formal schooling. Insert link
Preschool Hours of Operation
Hours vary from preschool to preschool. Some have normal school hours, 9 – 3pm, others have long extended hours, 7 – 6pm.
There are a few others that are morning or afternoon sessions instead of full days. In general, preschools that are only half day sessions prefer that children attend either five mornings or five afternoons per week.
The preschools that have normal and extended hours usually ask that children attend more than one consecutive day a week. You can of course schedule your child to attend more than two days a week, depending on space available and of course your schedule. Most full day preschools are two, three or five days per week.
Majority of preschools in Sydney follow the same school dates as primary and secondary schools. They also have the same school and public holidays. You’ll need to plan ahead for those holidays and organise alternative childcare.
(You might have noticed that the CareForKids.com search engine also had an option for childcare and holiday care. You might want to bookmark that site for future use. There are also a couple of Sydney Expat Family Groups on Facebook that you might want to join for babysitting and childcare referrals. These groups are also great for doctor, dentist, tax accountant, etc. Referrals. I’ll list the ones I know about below. )
Staffing levels of Preschools
The minimum staffing levels of preschools is set by the National Regulation.
“One staff member for every 8 children ages 2 – 5 years.
One staff member for every 10 children ages 3 – 6 years.“
How much do preschools cost in Sydney?
Preschools in Sydney cost about the same as regular childcare, about $40-110 a day depending hours of operation. In NSW, you will be required to pay fully for preschool.
The preschool will ask you to sign a register at the beginning and end of each day or session as a way to keep track of who is attending and who is not. Please ensure you sign this register, which is generally found at the preschool entrance.
If you have a Permanent Residence Visa and at a lower family income bracket, you might be eligible for financial assistance. familyassist.gov.au Those with a temporary visa are not eligible for any assistance.
Enrolling in preschool
To enrol in a public preschool you will need the following documents: Birth Certificate, Passport if you have a temporary visa or a permanent residence visa, your current visa and previous visas if applicable, proof of residency this can be a copy of your lease or electric bill, and your child’s immunisation history statement.
For private schools you will need pretty much the same documentation plus a few extras. For example, for a Catholic private preschool they will ask for a Baptism certificate. Does your child have to be Catholic to go to a Catholic preschool? No, but priority will be given to children who are baptised and live within the parish zone.
Getting your child ready for preschool
After you have settled on a preschool and your application as been accepted, it’s time to get your child ready for attending preschool.
First, talk to the preschool teachers and ask for any info you need to know such as what foods are acceptable for snacks. For example, it is very common for preschools to have a no nuts policies. Preschools often have a few pamphlets to hand out to parents. This is also a good time to alert the preschool if your child has an allergies.
Second, help your preschooler get pumped for going to school!
Start talking about how much fun preschool is going to be and all the new friends they are going to make. Tell them stories about when you went to preschool, if you can remember any.
If it’s possible, visit the preschool before the first day to have a look and meet the teachers. Preschools often have orientation days for both parents and students. This is a good time for you to network with other parents. Find out if anyone lives close to you and set up a playdate. I know it’s awkward but other parents are a great resource and it will help your kiddo settle into preschool if they already have a friend.
Third, side step any growing pains your child might have.
Preschools often require the children have a packed lunch. Show your child how to unwrap packaged food that might part of their lunch or snacks for morning and afternoon tea. Same goes for opening up the lunch box or bottled water and other drinks. I know that sounds silly but you’d be surprised how often a lunch is not eaten because of not being able to open a lunch box.
Though uniforms are not mandatory, preschools have a “No Hat, No Play” policy meaning your child will not be allowed outside unless they are wearing a hat. Preschools are very strict about this policy, as are primary and secondary schools. Getting your preschooler use to wearing a hat outdoors is a good idea and will help to side step any future drama.
If your preschool does require a uniform (not completely out of the ordinary as it is the normal in Australia for primary and secondary schools regardless if it is a private or public school) you might want to get your child use to the idea of wearing a uniform.
Also be sure to clearly label everything your child brings to preschool with them.
You can also help boost your child’s confidence and feeling of independence by encourage them to practise personal hygiene on their own like going to the toilette by themselves, washing their hands afterwards or wiping their own little runny noses, etc. Several preschool suggest parents dress their children in clothing that is easy to manage with any adult supervision.
As a new resident of Sydney, practicing your new address and phone numbers for both parents phones with your children is a good idea too.
Ok, that’s all I got to say. What about you? Any questions? Any thoughts? Let me know.