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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
support 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 assist you when talking to 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 and Geography that incorporate agreed Australian curriculum content.

In K–6, the syllabuses are designed to be taught within BOSTES 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


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
Geography – optional to start teaching
2017 Geography – start teaching

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) (History and Geography)
  • Creative Arts
  • Personal Development, Health and Physical Education (PDHPE).

In this guide you will find some examples of the kinds of things your child may 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. Read more information on integrated units.

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 digital technologies is included in every stage of every subject.

Pie chart showing time spent on each subject

Having a range of percentages allows schools to be flexible in implementing the syllabus and to program more time for English in the earlier years.

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.

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 several learning areas such as English, Science and Technology, Human Society and Its Environment, and Creative Arts.

Teachers may integrate some outcomes and content from different learning areas around a common issue, idea or theme – for example, ‘How can we look after the places we live in?’, ‘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 places, people and cultures differ across the world?’

This is an example which may be taught in Year 5 or Year 6.

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

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

Science and Technology: investigate environmental, cultural and safety factors to design and make a model of a Japanese garden.

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

Creative Arts: investigate the significance of colour in Japanese culture, design a mask or puppet, listen to traditional Japanese music and learn about traditional Japanese dance.

PDHPE: develop team skills, problem-solve in designing and making, learn traditional games of Japanese children and compare them to Australian games and activities, host a ‘Japanese meal’.

Languages: design a bilingual postcard of a Japanese garden to be sent home to a friend.

Resources for parents

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 BOSTES 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.

This guide 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.

Buy the reading guide from the BOSTES Shop.


Helping your child learn to write

Helping 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.

This guide 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.

Buy the writing guide from the BOSTES Shop


Helping your child learn to do mathematics

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 Mathematics Syllabus to common household tasks.

This guide 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.

Buy the mathematics guide from the BOSTES Shop

Helping your child learn about grammar: A guide for parents

This guide 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.

Buy the grammar guide from the BOSTES Shop.

The Best of WriteOn 2015

This anthology features Gold, Silver and Bronze pieces of imaginative, informative and persuasive writing by
NSW primary school students. The Best of WriteOn 2015 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

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 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 (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,