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Parents guide to the NSW primary syllabuses

Parents guide to the NSW primary syllabuses

Parents guide to the NSW primary syllabuses

As a parent of a primary school student, you will want to know what your child is learning so you can
help them at home. You and your child’s teachers will be the most important influences on your son’s or daughter’s education.

This guide is provided to help you follow your child’s early learning and to help you talk with teachers about day-to-day classroom activities and your child’s progress.

What will my child learn at school?

New South Wales joined with the Australian Government and all other states and territories to develop an Australian curriculum. The Board of Studies, Teaching and Educational Standards NSW (BOSTES) developed new K–10 syllabuses for English, Mathematics, Science (incorporating Science and Technology K–6) and History that incorporate agreed Australian curriculum content.

In K–6, the syllabuses are designed to be taught within the Board’s recommended percentages of time for each key learning area in a typical school week.

The implementation schedule for the new syllabuses is:

Kindergarten – Year 6

2013 Familiarisation and planning

English – start teaching

Mathematics – optional to start teaching

Science and Technology – optional to start teaching


Mathematics – start teaching

Science and Technology – start teaching

History – optional to start teaching

2016 History – start teaching

The BOSTES sets the learning requirements for each stage of primary school. The four stages are:

  Kindergarten early stage 1 Years1 and 2 Stage 1 Years 3 and 4 Stage 2 Years 5 and 6 Stage 3

The BOSTES syllabuses state what must be taught in these six key learning areas:

  • English
  • Mathematics
  • Science and Technology
  • Human Society and Its Environment (HSIE) (incorporating History K–6 from 2015)
  • Creative Arts
  • Personal Development, Health and Physical Education (PDHPE).

In this guide you will find some examples of the kinds of things your child can learn in each year of primary school. There are many ways for teachers to organise lessons effectively, and individual lessons may cover topics from more than one subject.

If my child has special education needs, how will these be met?

The BOSTES syllabuses have been developed to be inclusive of the learning needs of all students.

Teachers may need to make adjustments to their teaching, learning and assessment activities in order for some students with special education needs to be able to participate fully in the curriculum. Decisions about adjustments are made through a collaborative planning process that involves the student, parent/carer, teacher and other professionals.

More information about the collaborative planning process and adjustments for students with special education needs can be found on the BOSTES website.

How much time will be spent on each subject?

The BOSTES syllabus requirements can be taught in 80% of a typical 9 am to 3 pm five-day school week. The remaining 20% of the school week is left free for additional activities at the school’s discretion. For example, many schools use this time for languages, additional school sport, concert rehearsals, religious education and special projects.

English and Mathematics make up about 50% of the school week – this is equivalent to at least 12 hours each week. The other subjects are spread across the remaining time (see pie chart below). The 6–10% of time noted below represents between 1.5 and 2.5 hours per week.

The use of computers is included in every stage of every subject.

Pie chart showing time spent on each subject

Having a range of percentages allows schools to program more time for English in the earlier years.

What is an 'integrated unit'?

Your child’s teacher may refer to an 'integrated unit' as part of their class program.

‘Integration’ means that material from more than one syllabus is being taught in a single unit – for example, designing, making, writing and illustrating, researching, presenting research, reading, using music and dance. This could involve parts of the English syllabus , the Science and Technology syllabus, The Human Society and Its Environment syllabus and the Creative Arts syllabus.

Teachers sometimes combine syllabus areas around a common issue, idea or theme – for example, ‘How have changes in transport technology shaped our daily life?’, ‘Why and how did Australia become a nation?’, ‘What was life like for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples before the arrival of the Europeans?’ Teachers have found that this approach can deepen students’ understanding and enjoyment of what they are learning.

Integration is not undertaken in a classroom at all times during the day. Teachers also plan explicit skills-based lessons to ensure that students develop core skills in English and Mathematics.

Example: ‘How do cultures change through interactions with other cultures and their environment?’

This topic is often taught in Year 5 or Year 6. Bali is used in the example below.

This is how this unit would be included across the KLAs.

English: students learn how to write reports and summarise information gathered during research about Bali; read widely about the culture and traditional tales of Indonesia.

Mathematics: students select appropriate technology to gather data, measure and graph using scale and 2D and 3D shapes.

Science and Technology: students investigate environmental, cultural and safety factors to design and make a Balinese village.

HSIE: students research Balinese culture including traditional dress and costumes, art, beliefs, environment, food, geography and history.

Creative Arts: students design a passport for travel, design a mask or puppet, listen to traditional Balinese music and a Gamelan orchestra or learn about traditional dance.

PDHPE: students develop team skills, problem-solve in designing and making, learn traditional games of Balinese children and compare them to Australian games and activities, or host a Balinese banquet.

Model of a Balinese village

Resources for parents

The BOSTES has produced a number of very popular and useful guides to help parents understand and be active participants in their child’s schooling.

These are available from the Board of Studies Shop Online.


Helping your child learn to read: A guide for parents

Reading is one of the most important skills that we use every day. Parents can help their children learn to read by showing them how we use reading to make sense of the modern world.

Helping your child learn to read: A guide for parents is designed to assist parents in teaching their children, from birth through the primary school years, about reading in the home. It includes a section on helping children who are having trouble learning to read, and offers a range of useful hints and tips to build your child’s skills and confidence.


Helping your child learn to writeHelping your child learn to write: A guide for parents

From scribbling to drawing to experimenting with the shapes of letters, children progress at their own speed towards writing fully formed words.

Helping your child learn to write: A guide for parents outlines how simple things that you can do at home – such as providing a range of craft materials to help develop the muscles in small hands, or reading to your child every day – can help your child learn to write.

The guide also helps parents to understand the types of writing that are taught at primary school. It includes a comprehensive list of commonly used grammar terms.

Helping your child learn to do mathematicsHelping your child learn to do mathematics: A guide for parents

This guide shows how you can help your child learn mathematics simply by involving them in everyday activities. It clearly relates each aspect of the Mathematics Syllabus to common household tasks.

Helping your child learn to do mathematics: A guide for parents is designed to assist parents in teaching their child, from birth through the primary school years, about mathematical ideas in the home. It also helps parents understand what their child is learning about mathematics at primary school.

Helping your child learn about grammar: A guide for parents

This guide (available in Term 4, 2014) outlines the technical terms of grammar and how they are used in the classroom and in everyday life. It shows how to apply correct grammar in writing and outlines simple ways to help your child use the correct grammar in their speaking and writing.

The Best of WriteOn 2013

This anthology features Gold, Silver and Bronze pieces of imaginative, informative and persuasive writing by
NSW primary school students. The Best of WriteOn 2013 is a wonderful resource for teachers, parents and students.

Families can use this anthology:

  • to teach and enjoy quality writing
  • to compare the standard of young people’s writings
  • as a best-practice guide to help young people improve their writing skills.

Free online resources for parents

Safetytown website – A road safety education program

This innovative website reinforces the road safety messages that children are learning at school. It provides practical strategies to help families learn how to be safer pedestrians and road users. The seven key road safety messages cover pedestrian safety, car passenger safety, bus passenger safety and safety on wheels (bicycles, foot scooters, skateboards and rollerblades).

Transition to school – A guide for parents

This online resource has been developed for parents of preschool children who are preparing their child for Kindergarten. It answers the common questions parents ask and provides good links to useful resources. k6.boardofstudies.nsw.edu.au/wps/portal/go/parents/transition-to-school

Some useful websites

BOSTES home page

K–6 syllabuses

New NSW syllabuses for English, Mathematics, Science and Technology, and History

Parents guide to the new syllabuses

Board of Studies Shop Online

Assessment Resource Centre (ARC)

Aboriginal Education

NSW Department of Education and Communities

Catholic Education Commission NSW

Association of Independent Schools of NSW

NSW Parents’ Council


Some questions answered

What should my child learn each year?

Your child’s teacher is the best person to talk to about each year’s program for your child’s class.

In English and Mathematics your child will learn specific topics each year. In these two subjects there are certain ‘building blocks’ that must be learned before your child moves to the next level of understanding. The other subjects are more flexible and topics can be taught at any point within the two-year stage.

Read the Stage statements or the full syllabus for each subject for more information.

How will my child’s achievements be graded?

The Board of Studies provides a common grade scale and graded samples of student work as a guide for teachers to prepare student reports.

The A to E (or equivalent) grading scale allows teachers to report student achievement according to clear and consistent standards. Teachers make professional judgements about which grade best matches the standard their students have achieved.

In summary: A is the grade for extensive knowledge and understanding, B is for thorough, C is for sound, D is for basic and E is for elementary.

Where can I find more information?

Your child’s teacher can help with more information. You can also read the Board of Studies syllabus documents, the Board’s Stage statements, and additional resources which teachers use.

Some words and phrases explained

Key learning areas (KLAs)

These are the mandatory subject areas taught in all NSW schools. There are six KLAs in primary school and eight KLAs in secondary school.

In secondary school, Science and Technology becomes a separate learning area. Languages is also introduced as a mandatory learning area.

You can find out more about KLAs on the BOSTES website.

Program Builder

Teachers are using a new tool called Program Builder to develop teaching and learning programs for their students. You may hear teachers talking about this tool. It is available to all NSW teachers.

Stage statements

The BOSTES Stage statements help primary teachers summarise the teaching and learning required for each syllabus. You can read the statements for each primary learning area on the BOSTES website. The BOSTES stage statements for primary schools replace the BOSTES foundation statements as each of the new syllabuses is introduced (see page 2 for details of the implementation schedule).


A syllabus describes what should be covered in each learning area at each stage of schooling. ‘Syllabus’ and ‘curriculum’ are often used to describe the same thing, although ‘curriculum’ can also be a more general term to describe everything taught in schools.

Online syllabuses

The four new NSW syllabuses are available in an interactive format at:

The other NSW primary syllabuses are located at:


The target audience for this content is: Parents,