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Parents guide to the NSW primary syllabuses

As the 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 their education.

The information on these pages will help you understand and follow your child's progress through their early years at school.

The New South Wales syllabus incorporating the Australian curriculum

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

In NSW primary schools, the implementation schedule for the new syllabuses is:

Kindergarten – Year 6


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

What will my child learn at school?

The Board of Studies NSW 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 Board’s 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).

This guide gives some examples 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 more than one subject.


In English, students learn to read, write, speak, listen and represent language. They learn about English language and literature, how language varies according to context and how to communicate to a range of audiences for different purposes. They learn to read for information and for pleasure. They learn about poetry, novels, plays and visual texts. They begin to understand language structures, punctuation, spelling and grammar. They learn to think in ways that are imaginative, creative and critical.


Mathematics develops students’ thinking, understanding, competence and confidence with numbers, shapes and measurement. Students learn to add, subtract, divide and multiply whole numbers, fractions and decimals. They learn to measure time and calculate with money. They learn geometry, algebra and how to work with data and graphs. Students use mathematical knowledge to communicate, problem-solve and reason.

Science and Technology

Science and Technology develops students’ skills in thinking, investigating and problem-solving. It gives them knowledge and skills in scientific investigation and inquiry, design and applying technologies. Children pose questions, test ideas, and develop and evaluate arguments based on evidence.

Human Society and Its Environment (HSIE)

Human Society and Its Environment (HSIE) includes History K–10, geography, civics and citizenship. Students explore how people, events and forces from the past have shaped their world. They investigate their personal and community identity and gain an understanding of their nation and its place in the world. They learn to participate effectively in maintaining and improving the quality of their society and environment.

Creative Arts

Creative Arts gives students experiences in the visual arts, music, drama and dance. They have opportunities to explore their creativity in each of these areas.

Students learn to appreciate the meanings and values that each artform offers. They perform and express themselves through the visual arts, music, drama and dance.

Personal Development, Health and Physical Education (PDHPE)

Personal Development, Health and Physical Education (PDHPE) develops the knowledge, skills and attitudes students need to lead healthy, active and fulfilling lives. Students learn about the importance of good food and regular exercise.

Students learn how bodies grow and change over time. They learn skills to play individual and team sports, and the values of sportsmanship and teamwork.

How much time will be spent on each subject?

The Board’s 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 as indicated below. The 6–10% of time noted below represents between 1.5 and 2.5 hours per week.

English 25 to 30%, Mathematics 20%, Science and Technology 6 to 10%, PDHPE 6 to 10%, HSIE 6 to 10%, Creative Arts 6 to 10% and additional activities up to 20%

Subject Percentage of time spent on the subject
English between 25 and 30 percent
Mathematics 20 percent
Science and technology between 6 and 10 percent
Personal development, health and physical education between 6 and 10 percent
Human society and its environment between 6 and 10 percent
Creative arts between 6 and 10 percent
Additional activities up to 20 percent

The K–6 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 use of computers is included in every stage of every subject.

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

There are many different ways for teachers to organise lessons effectively. Talk to your child’s teacher about what they expect to cover in class and how you can help your child at home.

What is an integrated unit of work?

Your child’s teacher may talk about 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 of work, for example, designing, making, writing and illustrating, researching, presenting research, reading, using music and dance. This could involve parts of the syllabuses for English, Science and Technology, Human Society and Its Environment and the Creative Arts.

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.

Here’s an example of an integrated unit of work: 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.

Mathematics: students select appropriate technology to gather data, measure, graph using scale, 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, 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 design 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 Board of Studies has produced a number of guides to help parents understand and be active participants in their child’s schooling.

Parents can buy these resources from the Board of Studies Shop Online.

Helping 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 K–6 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 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 write: A guide for parents

From drawing to scribbling 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.



This yearly anthology features a selection of gold, silver, bronze and highly commended pieces of writing from the WriteOn competition, written by NSW primary students. The book is a wonderful resource for primary school teachers, parents and students.

Families can use this anthology:

  • to teach and enjoy quality writing
  • as a best-practice guide to help young people improve their writing skills.

The Assessment Resource Centre (ARC)

The Assessment Resource Centre (or ARC) helps teachers to assess and report student achievement across Kindergarten to Year 12. The ARC has been developed by the Board of Studies for teachers to use when grading students, but parents and students will also find it useful.

Work samples

The ARC website provides samples of student work that have been assessed against the common grade scale. This can help you to see what is expected at the end of each stage for each learning area.

These work samples are used by teachers across NSW so there can be a consistent assessment of student achievement. This means that the grading will be the same for student work produced in any school in NSW.

Some useful websites

NSW syllabuses for the Australian curriculum

The Assessment Resource Centre (ARC)

Aboriginal education

NSW Department of Education and Communities

NSW Catholic Education Commission

NSW Association Independent Schools

Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA)

Board of Studies Shop Online

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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 or KLAs: these are the subject areas that must be taught in all NSW schools. The six KLAs in primary school are English, Mathematics, Science and Technology, Personal Development, Health and Physical Education, Human Society in Its Environment and Creative Arts.

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 Board of Studies Stage statements help primary teachers summarise what must be taught in each syllabus.

Syllabus: a syllabus is a detailed description of each of the subjects that teachers should cover 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.

The target audience for this content is: Parents,