Get ready for school booklet


Welcome to our Get Ready for School Online Booklet!

No matter how young your child is, it's never too early to think about what will happen when they start primary or infant school. This booklet can help answer your questions, explain the application process and give you information and tips on how you can help your child prepare for school.

The booklet has been divided into five sections:

  • Applying for school - how to find and apply for a school place.
  • Preparing to start school - ideas and suggestions to help get you and your child get ready for their first day.
  • Childcare - how to find and pay for childcare.
  • At school - what your child will learn at school.
  • Time for you - information on employment, further education and volunteering.

There are also links throughout the booklet where you can find more information about the subjects covered as well as contact details for other services and organisations that can provide more information.

Applying for school

You can apply for a primary or infant school place from after the October half-term holiday (in the year before your child is due to start school) until 15 January (in the year your child is due to start school).

Date of birthApply between

1st September 2019- 31st August 2020

30th October 2023- 15 January 2024

1st September 2020- 31st August 2021

4th November-15 January 2025

In Surrey your child can start school at the beginning of the school year following their fourth birthday. By law they must be in full time education by the start of the school term following their fifth birthday.

Selecting schools to apply for

You can search for schools in your local area and see their reports/performance on the GOV.UK Find and check the performance of schools and colleges in England web page. You'll find details about the number of available places and the criteria used for allocating places in each school on the Surrey County Council admissions pages.

Schools hold open days so you can have a tour around the school and meet some of the staff, including the head teacher. Open days are a great opportunity to get a feel for the school and ask any questions you may have, for example:

  • How long is the waiting list?
  • What time does school start and finish? What is their settling in process?
  • How will the school communicate with you?
  • Is there a Parent and Teacher Association (PTA)?
  • What support do they offer children with a special educational need or disability?
  • How do they support the behaviour and the social and emotional development of the children?
  • How do they use IT to support learning?
  • What's their packed lunch policy?
  • Is there a breakfast club or after school club?
  • Do they offer extra curricular activities?

How to apply

If you live in Surrey you must use the Surrey application process, even if your preferred schools are outside Surrey. Visit the Surrey County Council admissions pages and follow the step by step guide to apply online – this is the quickest and easiest way to apply. If you are unable to apply online and need a paper copy of the application form, please call 0300 200 1004 (Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm). If you live outside Surrey but want to apply to Surrey schools, you must apply via your home local authority.

After you've applied

Primary school offers will be sent on 16 April 2024 by email, or by post if you do not have an email address. If you applied online, you will receive an email in the evening of the offer day with the outcome, and you can also view your school offer online. You will have two weeks to accept or decline the school offer. We strongly recommend you accept the place you're offered, even if it's not for the school you wanted, as it will make sure your child has a school place in September. You can still go on waiting lists for other schools or appeal.

If you decline the offer and you have no alternative place, you will be responsible for finding your child another school. The place you decline may be offered to another child so may not be available later if you change your mind. Go to Surrey County Council admissions pages to find out more.

Once you've accepted an offer of a place, you'll start to get information from the school. They'll usually send you the term dates and all of the information you need to know well in advance, and this will also be available on their website.

Educating your child at home

Educating your child at home, rather than at school, is called elective home education. If you're interested in elective home education, you can find out more including the legislation, Surrey County Council's policies and the support available on the Surrey County Council Educating your child at home web pages.

Children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND)

In Surrey, around 20% of children starting school have a special educational need or disability. Most of these children will go to a mainstream school. Mainstream schools support children with special educational needs and disabilities. The support they offer will vary according to your child's needs but may include one to one or small group support from a teaching assistant. You can find further details about what this school support may entail on the support in mainstream education and ordinarily available provision pages on the Local Offer website.

If your child does not have an Education, Health and Care plan (EHC Plan), even if they are being assessed for special educational needs or an EHC Plan, you should submit a preference for a school place via the Surrey County Council mainstream admissions page.

If your child DOES have an EHC Plan, there is a different process and you DO NOT need to submit your preferences through the mainstream admissions page even if your child will be attending a mainstream school. Instead, your SEND Case Officer will work with you to obtain your preference and identify a suitable placement, see the Choosing a school place for a child with an EHCP web page for more information.

Preparing to start School

It can have a big impact on your family when your child starts school. You and your child will have to manage new routines and cope with all the emotions that come with a big change. Family Lives have online guides with advice about what to expect and how to manage this change, for example making friends and school routines.

There are many ways you can help prepare your child for school, most importantly by building their confidence and independence skills. The teacher will give your child lots of support at school but it's helpful if they can do some things for themselves.

You can help your child by:

  • teaching them to use the toilet on their own, there are advice and tips on how to do so on the ERIC website.
  • choosing clothes and shoes for their school uniform that are easy for them to get on and off, such as shoes with Velcro, trousers or skirts with stretchy waistbands and t-shirts rather than shirts with buttons
  • choosing a lunchbox they can open on their own and giving them time to practice opening all the pots and packets you'll put inside.

Although the school won't expect your child to be able to read, write or count, there are things you can do to support these areas of development at home and get them ready for learning more at school. For ideas, visit the Early Learning and Development web page.


You'll find out about uniforms when you visit the school and it'll be in the school prospectus. Remember to label everything with your child's name. Lots of schools have second hand uniforms for sale. Visit the Paying for school uniforms web page for details of some of the support available.

School lunches

You may want to think about whether you'd like your child to take a packed lunch or have a school meal when they start school. All children in Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 will get a free hot, nutritious meal at lunchtime. Take a look at the school meals provided by Surrey Commercial Services, including a sample menu on the Twelve15 website. If your child will be taking a packed lunch, the school may provide guidance for healthy lunches.

You can also find sample menus and ideas on how to keep lunchboxes fun, tasty and healthy at Change4life.

Getting to school

Some children aged four to 16 years old can get free home to school travel support if they live in Surrey. You can find out if you're eligible on the Surrey County Council School Transport web pages. You could ask your school if they have a walking bus. This is a group of parents, organised through the school, who volunteer to walk children to school. There are usually different pick up points and adults and children wear bright reflective jackets for safety.

Helping the school get to know your child

Most schools will ask you to fill out a form about your child before they start school, including what they like and don't like. You may also want to talk to the school about anything else they might need to know to help them support your child, such as:

  • Special educational needs and disabilities
  • English as a second language
  • Twins and multiple births – for example whether your children will be in the same class
  • Life at home.


The school will send you your child's start date and information about the settling in process. Most schools like to ease children in slowly so your child might not go for full days at first. It's worth noting in case you need to arrange childcare for these times. You may also need to arrange childcare before or after school or during the school holidays. There are lots of different, good quality childcare options available.

Type of childcareDescriptionAge of children
ChildmindersLook after other people's children in their own home. Many offer care before or after school and in the school holidays.Any age
NanniesProvide childcare in your home. They can live-in or come to your home on a daily basis. They often work flexible hours so can be a good option if you work shifts or unsociable hours.Any age
Au pairsAu pairs are young people who have come to the UK on an au pair scheme. They usually come to learn English. They're entitled to free board and lodging at your home and their duties can include childcare and light housework.Any age (but they're not permitted to have continuous sole charge of children under two years old)
Breakfast clubsMost breakfast clubs open between 7.30am and 8am and run until school starts. They provide play opportunities and many can provide a healthy, low cost breakfast.Normally school age children, up to 12 years old.
After school clubs and activitiesRun from the end of the school day to around 5.30pm or 6pm. They'll usually be at the school or in a local community hall or building. They can provide care and play activities, sports or supported study.After school clubs and activities
Holiday play schemesRun in the school holidays and can offer a wide range of activities such as sports, outdoor and indoor games, arts and drama.Normally school age children, up to 12 years old

To find out more about childcare and the different types available, visit the Family Information Service Choosing Childcare web pages.

At School

Attendance at school

By law, you must make sure that your child gets a suitable, full time education. It's important your child goes to school regularly and on time, otherwise Surrey County Council can take legal action. This can include issuing a penalty notice, prosecution or applying for an education supervision order. If your child is off school, you must let the school know the reason that day or as soon as possible.

Your child may only be off from school if they:

  • are ill
  • are observing a religious holiday
  • have permission from the head teacher

Further information can be found on Surrey County Council's School attendance and absence web pages, you may also like to speak to your child's school.

Inclusion Officers

All schools in Surrey have an allocated Inclusion Officers. Their job is to support schools and parents to make sure that every child goes to school regularly. Inclusion Officers can get referrals or act on enquiries from schools, parents, other agencies or members of the public when a child is not going to school. Ask the school for their contact details or visit the Inclusion Service web pages for further information.

School Nursing Service

Every school has access to the School Nursing Service. The School Nursing Service will offer your child a school entry health review. It's an opportunity for you to talk through any concerns you may have and get more information. Your concerns could be anything from bedwetting, worries about your child's behaviour or managing a health condition at school. You'll have other opportunities to meet the School Nursing Service, either through the routine childhood immunisation programme or at the drop in sessions they offer to schools. You can find out more about the childhood immunisation programme at and find advice about children's health at

What your child will learn at school?

Children in Reception class follow the Early Years Foundation Stage. Children learn through play to give them the skills they need to progress through school and future life. You can find out more about the Early Years Foundation Stage and how to support your child's learning and development at home on the Surrey County Council Early Learning pages.

Time for you


If you get income support and your youngest child will be starting school, you may need to think about the money you'll get as your payments may change. You can find out more about income support on the GOV.UK income support pages.

Lots of employers offer flexible working or part time hours, the GOV.UK website has further information about flexible working. If you're looking for a job, try the GOV.UK Find a job tool or find your nearest Jobcentre Plus

If you're interested in a career in childcare, you can find out about the different roles available on the Surrey County Council Starting your childcare career or Childcare jobs web pages.

Further education

If you want to go back to education or just learn something new, you can:


You could volunteer at your child's school. Most schools welcome the help and there are lots of things you could do, such as listening to children read, preparing art and craft materials, going on school trips or talking about your job, culture or festivals. If you want to volunteer regularly, you may need to have a Disclosure and Barring Service check. The check is free for volunteers and is in place to protect children and vulnerable adults.

Volunteering can be a great way to use your skills to help others, learn something new and meet new people. And there are many local and national organisations that would welcome a few hours of your time. Search for volunteering in the Family Information Directory to see what's available locally.

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