Heading into the school year

by Andy Bryenton

The holidays are coming to an end, and while it may seem like a respite for many parents, there’s plenty of planning and organisation to do to make sure that students are ready to tackle the year’s curriculum armed with everything they will need for success. Alongside the usual stationery and uniforms — staples of the back to school schedule since the earliest days of education — there’s a checklist of other considerations to address to ensure a smooth transition to the classroom for 2019.

Technology — just as crucial to the modern student as pens and paper is an array of devices designed to help young learners get to grips with an increasingly digital world. In fact, there’s been some controversy about schools insisting on specific requirements and brands and models of tablet or laptop needed to participate in online education, both in the classroom and at home. It’s worth noting that in many cases it’s the operating system which is important, not the hardware itself.

Devices which run Windows, or the popular Android tablet and smartphone OS are prevalent, and these core programs come packaged with an array of machines.

Check with your school to make sure that the device you’re buying meets requirements and won’t become obsolete during the school year, necessitating an expensive upgrade. For younger users starting out in the online and digital world, this is the perfect time to discuss online safety and smart ways to interact with the wider world without the threat of identity theft, cyberbullying, hidden costs in apps such as ‘freemium’ games and the fundamentals of password security. Schools should teach these online safety rules, but it all starts at home. Take charge of parental controls to ensure that kids can only access content suitable to their age group.

Travelling safely — this is the time of year to organise carpools for the school run, saving time and petrol. It’s also a time when many kids will go from holiday mode and back to making their way to and from nearby schools. Take the time to talk road safety, especially those who will be travelling by bicycle, perhaps for the first time. Plan a route and if possible, walk or ride it through together to identify hazard areas such as intersections and crossings.

Extra-curricular activities — school also heralds the beginning of after-school sports and classes in the arts. It might be the right time to choose a selection of activities, which will allow you to be involved as a parent. All clubs, teams and organisations welcome parents who want to become coaches, referees or assistants, and this is a great way to spend more time with your kids, encouraging their athletic or creative abilities.

First steps to learning

Technology the new classroom tool

However, if you are unsure as to your child’s level of commitment, see if you can have them attend once or twice to observe or meet the other kids, before spending a large sum on uniforms, equipment, instruments and other gear. Emphasise that all of these extra-curricular activities can be rewarding and fun for life, but that becoming a master of any — like their sporting heroes or favourite musicians — takes dedication, practice and time.

Healthier and smarter — the start of school means the start school lunches and snacks. It is a good opportunity to involve kids in making healthy choices and ensures empty lunch boxes at the end of the day. Getting youngsters to help make their lunches teaches kitchen skills which will be vital in their later life — university flatting comes to mind — and enables them to pick and choose options to fill in that five plus a day of fruit, veggies and healthy snacks.

It is also the season when the sun is at its hottest, so take the time to stay sun smart. It’s easy to forget sunscreen and a hat when you’re not at the beach, but it’s easy to burn on the playground or when walking or riding to and from school.

Choosing options — for those older students who are embarking on the second phase of high school, it’s well worth sitting down to discuss which optional classes will best suit their choice working toward a university or technical degree. Even those who have chosen their options at the end of last year benefit from making a plan for the future — how this year’s study leads on to different pathways and eventually, a career. Remember, too, that tertiary study is far from the only option. Modern apprenticeship programs reward ‘hands-on’ learners, and the trades are currently seeking many more workers as building, renovation and the automotive markets grow.

As you approach the school year, encourage any young folks in your family to make the most of it.