School visits are one of the many chances you have to help ready your little one for the next step on the NZ education ladder.

Starting primary school can be an anxious time for all involved. There are so many new terms, processes, routines to get heads around. There are also certain ‘markers’ by which you can measure how ready your child is for school, things like being able to recognise their own name written, be on the way to reciting the alphabet and knowing basic colours. For more info on being School Ready click here.

If your child is soon due to start primary school, then you’ll possibly have heard other parents talking about school visits, how they went and what went on. There is more likelihood that you’ve heard a little about school visits if your child is attending an ECE service, a Day Care centre or Kindy.

So what happens at a school visit? When are they? What should you do – stay with them in the class or go? Here’s some info that’ll help you prepare.

The aim of the school visit is to familiarise the child with their classroom, teacher, the others in their class, the toilets, lunch eating areas and basic routines carried out in the class.

What happens?

School visits are all about creating a familiarity for the child and an understanding of what happens in the classroom for the parent. Schools sometimes deal with school visits in different ways.

Some schools aim to make your child feel special on their school visit, perhaps give them a special place to sit or maybe a hat or badge to wear. Other schools will treat your child like any of the other students in the class, slotting them in as if they had been there before.

Which ever way your school approaches school visits what happens in the classroom while you are there should be what would happen on any given day. This being the case you are likely to see or have the following things happen

  • Roll call
  • Mat time and white board work
  • News time – an opportunity for students to share news with their classmates
  • Shared reading – teacher reading to students
  • Letter recognition work on the board
  • Individual desk work – possibly copying and creating a letter or letters in books.

If your visit has been scheduled when the class would normally have been allocated library or music room time for example your child will go along with them. It’s always nice to see some of these other curriculum areas covered and allows you a chance to witness what else your child may get up to at school.

Most teachers will pair your child up with a ‘buddy’ student while they are on a visit to the classroom. This ‘buddy’ will be responsible for showing your child where the toilet is should they need to go, sitting with them at morning tea time, walking with them to any other place the class travels to within the school.

How long are visits?

School visits typically run the full morning through to lunchtime. Again this depends on how your school prefers to structure them.

They are usually long enough for your child to have a chance to have either morning, afternoon tea or lunch at the school giving them chance to understand how eating at school works.

Should my little one go along in uniform?

If your school has a uniform, ask at the office when you register for a visit whether the uniform is necessary on the day. My suggestion would be that in order to have them slot in and become ‘one of the kids’ then let them don the uniform. Chances are you’ll not be able to get it off them in the lead up to school anyway.

Are school visits compulsory?

No. Some parents choose, for whatever reason, not to take their child on school visits. Some don’t have time, for some it’s just not practical. If at all possible take your child along. Anything that makes the transition from preschooler to school kid easier has to be a good thing.

It’s also a good opportunity for you to see what’s what and to get to know the teacher a little better.

What do I do while I’m there?

This is a hard question to answer. The best way to answer it is to say do whatever you feel comfortable doing.

This is your chance to let you little ones’ independence shine! They’ll be feeling all grown up, we hope, and may not be keen for you to sit beside them, help them open the book, tell them what to do. Keep in mind that within a couple of weeks of your visit/s they’ll be doing this for themselves every day without you there so see what they can deal with on their own now. You may be surprised!

For some children though this school thing will be daunting, unfamiliar and very scary so don’t be too distant. You know your child best so, as at the beginning of this answer – do whatever you feel comfortable doing.

What else?

The school your child will be attending is the best place to seek any more specific detail than this. They’ll tell you when, where and how many visits you can make.

Ring the office, ask … and GOOD LUCK!


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Kylie Valentine is a qualified secondary school teacher, trained journalist, and the mum of two fabulous children.

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