Starting School

It’s an important step when your child starts school, a time of change and growth. It’s also an important time for you as a parent. You establish a relationship between your family and the school community. You exchange information with your child’s teacher and you each gain new understandings. You put your trust in us as partners in your child’s development. This is a very special time.

Settling in takes time

Teachers know how important the family is in a child’s growth and development. They also know that children learn all the time - in and out of school.

Children have a natural desire to learn. A five year old has already gained a great deal of knowledge and many skills - look at the way your child has learned to talk. Children are eager to learn new things and practise new skills. They have high expectations of school and need to feel successful in order to maintain their enthusiasm for learning. No two children are the same.  They come from different backgrounds and have different abilities. This influences the way in which they will respond to the new learning experiences provided by the school.

When they begin school children are in unfamiliar surroundings and meeting new people. They need time to take responsibility, to become independent, to talk, to play, to discover, to practise, to learn. Teachers therefore have a special responsibility. It is their job to help children make the change from home to pre-school, to school, to be aware of what each child already knows and to provide learning experiences that build on the child’s existing knowledge in an exciting and challenging way.

Teachers need the opportunity: to listen, to observe, to plan, to challenge, to care, to encourage and to get to know your child. It is during Reception that teachers and children have the time to do these things. Teachers work with a set of curriculum guidelines and expectations but they find that at any given time children will display a range of ability and maturity.

In the Early Years teachers plan programs and use methods designed to match the needs of young children. Programs, based on teachers’ knowledge of the way children learn and develop, place importance on the basic skills of numeracy and literacy, communication skills, creativity, independence and skills of social living.

Children are encouraged to take an active part in their own learning. They have the opportunity to experience and express themselves through language, drama, music, dance and art, and to become more competent in motor skills.

Teachers pace the introduction of skills to allow children to proceed confidently. It is usual for parents and teachers to regularly discuss children’s progress. This assists the easy entry of children into school and the successful acquisition of appropriate skills, knowledge and attitudes as a firm basis for further learning.

Parents should only be concerned with the progress of their own child. It is important to remember that all children progress at different rates. Children should never be compared.

Find out more at a tour of our Benedict Campus

At St Mark’s, we share the experience of excitement and opportunity of the first day of school with our students and their families. We acknowledge that you are entering into a system that could be a mystery and that you are giving us the extraordinary trust of allowing us to educate your child. This creates for us a sense of privilege and responsibility and we look forward to creating many occasions for success.

While starting school is an exciting time, it can be a time of mixed emotions for both the parent and child. To ease the ‘first day jitters’, we have listed some suggestions to prepare both yourself and your child for this new stage in their lives:

  • talk openly to your child about starting school, share stories and role-play being at school
  • take your child shopping when you buy items for school, and consider letting them choose items where practical
  • cover books and write your child’s name on their school items
  • work on establishing a routine for waking and getting ready for school
  • encourage your child to learn to put on their uniform and undress independently, and to use the toilet appropriately
  • meet and play with other children who will be starting school with your child.

On the first day of school, please have everything ready:

  • covered and labelled books
  • labelled lunch box and drink bottle
  • labelled clothing and belongings
  • clearly identified school bag
  • clearly labelled hat

Encourage independence even on the very first day.  Allow your child to put away their own bag and find their own basket to put their belongings in. Look for an activity that your child could do. Encourage your child to socialise with the other children in the class.

When the bell rings to start the school day it is best to leave rather than linger. Parents staying longer in the classroom can result in a more traumatic departure. If your child does become upset when you go to leave, speak to your child’s class teacher. Do not prolong your departure. In most cases the child who does become upset, will calm down and settle into class activities within a few minutes of your exit. Please be assured you will be contacted if your child is unable to settle in class.

Morning Routine

Students need to unpack and complete their morning jobs quietly when they arrive at school and then go outside to play and interact with others.

  • bring in folder
  • change reader
  • place notes or money in designated area
  • place lunch orders in basket (unless ordered online)

Reception is a very important year in your child’s education. We want to give you and your child the best start. Not only for their next thirteen years at school, but for the learning journey that will last their whole life.

At St Mark’s we believe in educating in the tradition of Don Bosco and in educating the ‘whole’ person. As a school community, we have high expectations of the children in our care and we want them to achieve their personal best.


Our Reception students access a range of core curriculum subjects which are taught by the classroom teacher, including:

  • Religious Education
  • Literacy
  • Numeracy
  • Humanities and Social Sciences
  • Science
  • The Arts
  • Information and Communication Technology (ICT)

Our student’s learning is extended with specialised subject areas that are taught by specific teachers with particular skills in these areas:

  • Coordination
  • Music, Dance and Drama
  • Design and Technology
  • Italian - Languages Other Than English (LOTE)

Classroom Environment

Our classroom environment is designed to reflect current research into the way children learn best. The environments are flexible and adaptable, allowing educators to cater for the diverse learning styles of students in their care. At St Mark’s, our classrooms are reflective of the 21st century learning skills which we strive to foster in our students.

Beginning Reading at School

Children learn to read at varying rates and times. Children use sound knowledge, picture clues, letter recognition, prediction and repetition to develop the skills of reading. It is important that parents work with the school to help reading skills develop. Students will bring home sight letters and/or words as well as ‘take home’ readers. Take home readers should be ‘easy’ readers that provide students with the opportunity to practise the skills they are learning at school and build confidence.

Reading at home should be a positive experience which fosters a love of reading. It is also a great time for you to read to your child and model what good reading sounds like.

When thinking about reading, consider the following:

  • The book looks good and stimulates the child’s interest.
  • The book makes sense and the child can connect to it.
  • Illustrations give important information, please don’t cover them up. Children are taught strategies to assist them in their reading development. The pictures are an important clue.
  • Words can be predicted from the context and structure.
  • Most stories follow the rules of language (grammar) that children often pick up instinctively from good oral language (speech).

Beginning Writing at School

Writing, like speaking, and other language areas is a developmental process. It takes experience, time, opportunity, practise, specific skills and direct teaching to become a writer. It takes ideas, logically organised, clearly expressed and interestingly composed. The stages of writing involve listening, thinking, talking, writing and reading. When children are beginning to write the following are guidelines of the process involved. A child’s readiness point for writing will be affected by their prior experiences:

  • Most teachers begin the writing process by demonstration. The child is asked what they would like to write and the teacher scribes it for them.
  • Soon the teacher asks the child to write whatever sounds he/she hears in a word.
  • Children begin the writing process when they are able to listen for and record sounds they hear in words. Helping your child develop their understanding of letter names and sounds assists them in becoming a developing writer.
  • Children continue to develop their writing by gradually including words they have become familiar with, through their reading and experience.

Through ‘Discovery Time’ children in Reception engage in meaningful play. Research has shown that quality play fosters children’s social and emotional development, their cognitive development, their language development as well as their physical development (Bodrova & Leong 2005).

Children are busy when they are playing, and they are learning when they play. For example, when children are lifting, dropping, looking, pouring, bouncing, hiding, building, knocking down, climbing, running, and play acting they are learning.  Your child will be exposed to the following learning opportunities through play:

  • scientific concepts, such as what sinks and floats and how to balance blocks to build a tower
  • mathematical concepts, such as how to divide toys or treats evenly, or what is bigger, smaller, more or less
  • literacy skills, such as trying out new words, telling stories, or pretend play
  • social skills, such as communicating with peers and teachers, getting along with others, making friends, and being respectful
  • thinking skills, such as how to recognise and solve problems
  • movement skills, such as walking, running, hopping, balancing, throwing and catching.

Within the newly developed Magdalen and Fatima Centres your child will have the exciting opportunity to learn through playful endeavours. As parents and educators, we are all aware that for meaningful learning to take place, children need to be interested and engaged in the subject content. Research tells us that, during meaningful play, children’s senses are alive and their brain sparks with new connections (Burman 2014). Teaching and learning through playful endeavours gives educators the opportunity to ‘enter into the world of the child’ and teach children who are interested, involved and motivated to learn.

Reception students access a weekly Coordination Program which is led by a trained member of staff and is supported by parent volunteers. The activities take place in a non-stressful atmosphere highlighting fun and enjoyment.

The purpose of this program is to assist children with the development of their gross motor and fine motor skills and to identify students who are experiencing difficulty in these areas, which if left unattended to, can impact on their learning and ability to participate.

Students participate in specific activities which can help overcome individual problems. Early identification of a difficulty not only allows practical help to be given, but ensures appropriate early support for the child.

The aims of the program are:

  • To encourage the child to gain confidence when performing physical activities.
  • To develop gross motor skills and co-ordinated body movements.
  • To encourage each child to communicate effectively and work with others.
  • To improve listening and concentration skills.
  • Practise learning the alphabet code, discriminating sounds and recognising letters. Children need to learn the name of letters as well as the sound(s) they make.
  • Practising sight words regularly at home as it assists reading and writing development.
  • Regular nightly reading practise at home is vitally important.
  • Demonstrating and modelling a love of books and reading.
  • Encourage your child and support them in using strategies such as: predicting what might happen, checking and confirming that the word looks right, self-correcting (stop and fix it up if it doesn’t make sense) and looking for meaning.


455 The Terrace, Port Pirie South Australia 5540
T 08 8633 8800

Benedict 08 8633 8802
Bosco 08 8633 8801 or text 0428 475 539