We help many families emigrate to Australia and one of the most common questions we receive from parents and children alike is, What is a typical school day in Australia like?
Every parent wants their child to be as prepared as possible for their new Australian school adventure and every child is curious as to what might be different and exciting about school in Australia as well as calming any jitters they may have about the move.
So we have taken the time here to cover as much information as we can to help you and your children find out what school in Australia is like.
Of course, when looking at education in Australia every school is a little different however there are many similarities that most Australian schools share that we will cover here for you.
Australian school students start school between 8.30 and 9am depending on the school. Children wake up and have breakfast at home before school. Very few schools have breakfast able to be purchased on premises, nearly all students have breakfast at home. The most popular breakfasts include a combination of breakfast cereals, oatmeal/porridge, toast, crumpets, fruit, yogurt and juice.
Schools normally have set times, usually about 30-45 minutes before start of school, that children are allowed to arrive at school. This is because those are the times the school has a teacher on duty for supervision. Prior to that, no teachers are at school on supervision duty and thus the schools do not allow pupils to arrive prior to the designated time. You cannot simply drop your child off at 7.45am when school does not start until 9am. You can only drop your child off after the designated time issued by your child’s school.
Some schools have “early morning care” which is a child care service for parents who have to start work earlier than school drop off time. This is a separate service that parents must apply for and pay for, usually on a set regular basis. Each before school child care service is different but most start from 7am to provide care for working parents and shift workers. These services offer breakfast, before school games, sometimes some sports will be played and will ensure your child is at school at the correct time. These facilities are usually inside the school grounds which makes this process all the more convenient.
Schools in Australia have school uniforms. Your school will issue information about their uniform, what is required and where the uniform is to be obtained from. Uniforms are designed for comfort and usability to handle Australian local conditions. Some example images are included below.
Usually your school in Australia will have a uniform shop where most will have a local store that handles the uniforms for a number of local schools. Uniforms for public school students are managed to be as low cost as possible, as uniforms are compulsory and the idea is to ensure all families can afford the clothing for their children. Some schools also run a second hand uniform pop up shop each term, as children grow so fast, many school uniforms are in very good condition and hardly used due to children having a growth spurt. Each school will send out information to parents if and when they may hold these second hand uniform stalls.
School shoes are sometimes included in a school uniform requirement, other schools will state the style of shoes only, eg, black leather traditional school shoes or sneakers/tennis shoes.
No schools allow, sandals, flip flops, open toed, or high heeled shoes for safety and for practicality reasons.
As school uniforms are compulsory in Australia, all children have all their uniform items labelled. A class of 20 students all with the same school hat or same school cardigan will lead to an absolute ongoing issue of lost items if your child’s uniforms are not labeled. Most schools will require you label your items.
Labelling your Australian School uniform can be as simple as writing your child’s name on the clothing tag in permanent marker. Alternatively many iron labels are available – some you can write on yourself, others you can order with your child’s name or family name already printed on them.
You will also need to label your child’s lunch box, water bottle, sunscreen, school bag, pencil case and anything else they may use at school.
Most Australian schools do not allow mobile phones at school. There are many reasons for this, including to keep children focused on learning and interacting socially, prevent distraction in class, concern for loss and damage of expensive phones, for reasons of equality as not all children have access to phones and so forth. Some school do allow them as parents like to ensure their children are able to call if something goes wrong – in those situations school request old style phone to calling – rather than the smartphone variety.
Some schools have children taking laptops and tablets to school for school work purposes so there is often an internet capable device on the children, particularly older children.
The Australian school system is designed to mean students go to school near to their house whenever possible. In most areas, this will mean that many students are within a couple of kilometres of their school. If you have chosen a private school to attend then you might be further from your school, in a public school in most areas it will mean you are not too far away.
Many students at school in Australia simply walk to and from classes. Younger students might walk with their parents, neighbours or with older students, older students will walk by themselves or with friends from their street. Others will ride their bicycle. If you are riding you bike to school you will need to be wearing a bike helmet, which are compulsory in Australia whenever you are riding your bicycle.
Once at school in Australia there will be “bike racks” where you will place your bike until after school. You should bring with you a bike lock with a combination lock attached to secure your bike and helmet into the bike rack. Some schools will ask children pass a bike safety class they might run before they are allowed to ride their bike to school, this is not all schools and the class is usually only an hour or so to check the children understand the rules of the road and the rules of using their bike to come and go from school.
Other students are dropped off at school by their parents. There are many procedures for this and you will need to check with your particular school what their drop off and pick up procedures are. Many schools will require you to fill in a “security” form, that states who is allowed to collect your child from school, if a person who is not listed on that form arrives at school to collect your child they will not be allowed to do so. Other schools give out ID cards to parents to display in their car window for drop off or pick up. Some schools have systems where parking is limited requiring a drop off, others ask parents park and walk to the school gate with their children. Again there are many options.
In areas where the school zone is geographically large, there may be a school bus. Children who live more than a certain distance from the school will be given a free school bus pass to catch to school. Details of the bus route will be given to the students it relates to so they know where and when to catch the bus. After school the bus will leave from the school bus stop and a teacher will act as the bus monitor to ensure the children safely on the bus in the afternoon. You can meet your child at the bus stop nearest your house or older children can simply get off the bus themselves and walk home.
Some high schools draw from a larger area again and may require train travel as the most effective way to get to school. Again, if a child is requiring train travel they will be issued with a free train travel pass for travel to and from school. The trains will either be close enough from the school to walk or they will meet up with a school bus that will connect and take the children to school.
Outside nearly every school in Australia there are “zebra crossings” allowing students to cross the street safely to school. On a typical school day in Australia, school zones are congested at pick-up and drop off times, with parents coming and going. To ensure student safety, Australia has implemented Lollypop Parents for the past 30 years. If you have a child in school in Australia you will come across this.
Each school asks for parent or grandparent volunteers from the school community to take a place on a roster to be a lollipop person. These volunteers will staff the zebra crossing, they will keep the children on the footpath, then the lollipop person will walk to the middle of the crossing and stop the traffic, then will gesture for the children to cross. This ensures the children safe passage to school and stops the roaming of children onto the crossings constantly that prevents the sensible flow of traffic in the school vicinity.
You may well be asked to volunteer if you can to be a lollipop person for one morning a month if you are available. You will be asked to attend a short training on what is required, you will be given a high – visibility vest to wear and the Stop traffic sign – or the “lollipop”, named because the stop signs look like a big lollipop on a stick.
No parent is obliged to volunteer, it is simply something a parent can do to be involved in the school community and participate if they can. You won’t be looked down on in any way if you can not, it is well understood many parents work during that time or have small toddlers to care for in the mornings and afternoons. If you can’t it is fine. Never feel concerned about this.
Once at school in the morning – children are generally playing outside in the school playground area until the buzzer rings at the start of day. Most schools start with a 10 minute school assembly. There will be a designated area – usually outside, where all the classes line up in a specific area and there will be a quick covering of announcements for the day and roll call will take place – often by a teacher simply walking down the line and marking students as present. Primary schools in Australia usually have children sitting in the assembly area, high schools usually stand.
If there is rain then the school will have a rain plan, and it usually means students simply go and line up at a “home room” class or at their first class of the day, depending on the schools individual procedure.Start of Class at School in Australia
At a typical school day in Australia, the day is broken up into 3 sections –
morning before “recess” (short outdoor play break)
Recess until lunch
After lunch until end of school
Primary schools allow the teach to decide what topics are covered during which parts of the day, whereas high schools have the times blocked for specific classes that you will know in advance.
A bell or buzzer will ring out across the school to indicate the start of recess.
Recess or morning break is between 20 mins and 30 mins in length. Children will generally eat a healthy snack they brought from home and have some time to play within the school grounds. Often sports equipment will be out for use, such as soccer balls, netball, tennis balls etc.
Many schools in Australia will have a “canteen” or “tuck-shop” that sells healthy snacks for recess. However given recess is short, most children simply bring something from home to maximise their play time with their friends rather than wait in a canteen line to buy something.
Australia is a sunny country. On a typical school day in Australia, children will play outside in the sunshine. Due to this there are strict rules around sun protection for children. The “No Hat, No Play” rule is almost universal across the country. Each school will have a wide brimmed hat as part of their uniform requirement in the primary years and also in many high schools. If your child forgets their hat or refuses to wear it, they will not be permitted to play outside. They will be asked to sit in a sheltered area out of the sun. The message is simple – Always bring your hat, some parents choose to have a second hat in the bottom of their child’s school bag in case of those forgetful days.
After recess, students are back to class until lunch time.
Lunch time on a typical school day in Australia
Lunch time in many Australian schools is one hour.
In Australia, students bring their own lunches from home each day. There are no cafeterias or hot lunches, nor any school lunch programs at school in Australia. Students are expected to bring their own lunch from home. Lunches are expected to be healthy and some schools have bans on unhealthy food options.
The school will most likely have the tuck- shop or canteen open for lunches to be purchased. If your child is to “order” their lunch from school – the order will be placed in the morning before school starts, many schools have an online system that allows parents to order and pay for lunches online that will be available for their child to pick up at lunch time. Still, most options will be things such as sandwiches and rolls, not full hot meals as you might be used to where you are from.
On a typical school day in Australia, students sit outside in the playground to eat their lunch, either on bench seats of sitting on the grass picnic style with their friends. Students bring their lunch boxes and water bottles. Some schools will have an indoor eating area where students will bring their lunch boxes.
School lunches are important in Australia. The healthy nature of the lunches is paramount. Many schools will do occasional lunch box inspections to ensure children are bringing healthy food to school.
Things to include – sandwiches or rolls, fruit, vegetables, dips, salads, muesli bars, yogurt, kebabs, left-overs, falafels, pasta, boiled eggs, pita breads, water etc.
Things to avoid – biscuits, cookies, cakes, crisps, candy, chocolates, soda.
A comprehensive guide to School in Australia Lunch guidelines can be found on the Nutrition Australia website.
There are many websites dedicated to great school lunch ideas. And many tuck shops and school canteens have wonderful options. Eg Chicken and salad rolls, pasta salad, apple spirals, fruit salad, fruit smoothies, vegetables and dip. The emphasis is on healthy eating for all Australian children. Each parent being responsible for their children’s lunches allows for a great diversity of food for children in accordance to their own family eating preferences and cultures.
Lunch time is an active time. Children are playing outside. Pick up games of various sports occur, walking, playing, talking, running as well as the library being open for children who would like to read or simply sit quietly. Some school sports teams train in part of the lunch breaks too.
In case of bad weather the library is usually open and there will be some undercover areas for children to play. In the case of extreme weather the children may be asked to stay in their classroom to eat their lunch, this is rare.
Afternoon classes at school in Australia
Many of the artistic type classes are held in the afternoons, classes such as Art, Music, Dance, Sport, Agriculture, Cooking, and such. Once classes are finished, the final buzzer will ring and children will pack up, collect their bags and head to the school gate.
Younger children may need to be collected in person by an authorized adult, older children may be able to leave as per their normal process, such as walking, school bus, riding or walking to meet their parents at the pick up area.
Students are expected to be collected within 15-20 minutes of school end time. If you are late, many schools can not look after your children. If the school has an after school care program, the children may be taken there and you will be charged for it. Sometimes student may have an after school club of activity such as a sports team or the school band. Those students will make their way to that class with the pick up time set with the parents in those specific circumstances.
The Australian school week is Monday to Friday. Schools do not operate on weekends
The school in Australia year is divided into 4 “terms”. The school year starts in January after the long summer / Christmas holiday of December and January which lasts for 6 weeks. There is a mid year break in June/July which is between 3 and 4 weeks long, and two smaller breaks – one at Easter for 2 weeks and another in September for 2 weeks.
The term dates vary slightly from state to state, and the dates will be published the year before by your school, so you can plan ahead. The common school holiday calendars for public schools in each state can be found on the Australian Government website.
We hope this has helped with some of the curiosity and questions you may have about a typical school day in Australia. As previously stated we help many families obtain their visas and move to Australia and have done for many years, we know it is an involved and exciting process for all the family.
If you have questions that you would like answered about what a typical day in school is like in Australia which we have not covered or other areas of life in Australia you would like us to cover, please contact us by taking a free visa assessment .
We would love to make your move as smooth as possible and can answer any questions you may have to make that a reality.
All the very best to you and your children with their move to Australia and their start into their new School in Australia. Please ask any questions or leave any comments here below, we love hearing from our website visitors and answering any questions you may have.
Typical School Day in Australia; Compiled by Alexander McManus, Australia Made Simple