Today our first born son started big school. Whether I am writing it on social media or talking about it on the phone to family, friends or colleagues I am forever calling it big school to prevent any confusion. But I shouldn’t have to, especially to other Australians even if they are living in another state. Before we start looking at that National Curriculum, we need to get our nomenclature in order.
Here in New South Wales the first year of compulsory schooling is called Kindergarten which we generally referred to as Kindy which is what I tend to call it. I will even accept the other shortened version – Kinder – which I haven’t heard for a while, but have heard people use that name in the past. And joining my home state in calling the first year of big school Kindergarten is Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory. I am told that people in Western Australia also call it Kindergarten but I have other advice telling me it is called something quite different.
To find out the truth, I asked my favourite resident of Western Australia, Tanya from Baby Hints and Tips and Toddler Hints and Tips and she informed me that they call it Pre-primary over there. They are joined in this by South Australia and the Northern Territory also referring to their first compulsory year as Pre-primary as well. According to other sources all three states also refer to it as Reception or Transition; according to the fedeal government’s My School website, they list it as Kindergarten. You can see how it is so confusing.
In Victoria and Queensland the phrase for the first year of primary school is called Prep (short for ‘preparatory’) and this term is also used in parts of Tasmania. I don’t like it. I never have. When I am talking to my boss up at my head office in Brisbane he has mentioned his daughter attending Prep. My cousin north of the border does the same. It irks me. I am irked.
You can call me bias – go on, I’ll wait – but I prefer Kindergarten over the rest of them. Maybe it’s my love of German; I studied it as an elective language in high school and know that Kindergarten is literally Children’s Garden in English. Maybe it’s because being a New South Welshman – or the more term PC Welshperson – that I prefer the term because that’s what I grew up with, but it just makes sense to me.
Pre-primary is a weird term to me. I understand that Year 1 through to Year 6 are considered Primary School, but back when I attended this level of schooling it was Kindergarten for a year, Infant’s School for two years followed by four years of Primary School. Now that’s not the case so Pre-primary is technically a good name for it. But I don’t like it.
Prep (or Preparatory) doesn’t sit well will me either as it sounds like a better term for preschool. Preschool of course is a non-compulsory schooling for children too young for Kindergarten and it is a great way to prepare your children for big school. And Prep sound like something you do before doing something – “Prep the patient for surgery” – so I can’t accept that as the right nomenclature for the first year of big school.
According to the National (Australian) Curriculum’s website we are supposed to call it Foundation Year. Who knew? Does anyone except those who are bored enough to visit the National Curriculum’s website know this? I didn’t until I did the research. The funny thing is, the school our son is attending labelled his level Kindergarten and you would think that a government run school would have been informed by the government who runs it that the name has been changed. But, no. Not yet.
And then there’s the age of compulsory schooling. This needs to be addressed as part of my plan to reform the National Education System Nomenclature. Our son turned 5 years old last November so it only made sense that with a January 30 starting date he attend Kindergarten this year. According to the relevant State School Boards, children in New South Wales who turn 5 years old up until 31st July can attend but can be held back until the year in which they will turn 6 years old.
And for the other states and territories around the country that date varies; Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory – age 5 on 30 April, Queensland, Western Australia and Northern Territory – age 5 on 30 June, South Australia and Tasmania – age 5 on 1 January.
Something that really surprised me is that whilst most states have their primary school years as Kindergarten (or the equivalent term) to Year 6 before starting High School in Year 7, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia keep children at primary for one extra year with High School starting in Year 8 (although Tanya informed me that this is going to change under the National Curriculum next year for Western Australia at the very least). But we are seven years away from that, so that’s for a future article.
I think the singular term for the first compulsory year is needed now that we are so connected as a nation. Now that we have Facebook pages and other websites with forums where parents around the nation discuss their children’s schooling, it is imperative that we have the one language to be using.
What do you think? Should we call it something we can all agree on or shall we keep it the way it is?