No empty spaces in Sydney

You’d be forgiven for feeling a little like you’re going into battle, when faced with the task of finding a preschool in Sydney. Of course, it depends where you live, but in the most popular family friendly suburbs (Eastern Suburbs, Northern Beaches) finding a preschool that you like, and that has places available, is challenging.

When we arrived in January 2010 we visited five preschools. We only truly like one of the options, and they didn’t think we’d get a place that year. We started our son at an acceptable preschool and got lucky, because a spot at our preferred preschool became available after a few months.

There were a number of times, during those first weeks in Sydney, when I wished we’d known sooner that finding preschools in Sydney is no easy task. We know many families who have had a stressful time finding preschools, and often they have settled for schools they’re not totally happy with, or that are located a distance from where they live. With this in mind we’re sharing our top tips for finding a preschool in Sydney.

Good luck with your search, if  you’ve experienced the hunt for a preschool in Sydney, please share your tips below.

1. Plan ahead and waitlist early

If you can plan ahead and waitlist your child or children at preschool before you move to Sydney, do it! Waitlisting typically costs $20- $50 per family which is a small price to pay to ease the journey.

The centre we ended up using, and the one we waitlisted our son at as soon as we arrived, was the centre we liked the look of when completing online research nine months before moving to Sydney. At the time, we wondered whether to waitlist our son without having seen the centre and decided not to. We regretted that decision.

Our advice to relocating families is always to waitlist children at Sydney preschools and day care centres as soon as you know you’re making the move. The cost is nothing compared to the stress of wanting your child to start somewhere and not being able to get a place. If you haven’t decided where to live but have a few suburbs in mind, we’d still recommend waitlisting your children at your preferred centre in each of the suburbs.

2. Think about the timing of your trip

Most Sydney preschools have an annual intake of children, starting in January. If you can arrive in Sydney the year before your child needs to start preschool you will have more chance of securing a place for the following January. The longer you can give yourselves the better.

3. Use a relocation consultant

To ensure you get to hear about the best preschool options available and help you make decisions before you arrive, you could use a relocation consultant. For example, Lesley Snell from Northern Beaches Know-How will visit preschools for you, take pictures, talk to staff based on your questions, and complete waitlist forms. A relocation consultant will know all the options available; online research doesn’t always present a full list.

4. The best online directories

Talking of online research, here are the best online directories we know for searching for preschools in Sydney:

5. Consider the online search terms you’re using

When searching online for preschools you should consider the terminology you’re using. Australian’s don’t call child care facilities “nurseries” like we do in the UK.

Officially the first year of Primary School in NSW is called Kindergarten, however we know many Australian mums who call preschool (the year or years before Primary School) “kindy” or “kinder” – it’s a little confusing for new arrivals.

As we mentioned yesterday in Finding a preschool in Sydney is no easy task, the format of Sydney preschools isn’t consistent. Some centres cater for children from 3 – 6, some preschools only cater for children who are eligible to start school the next year, and other preschool rooms are found within Long Day Care Centres. This means you should use a broad set of terms when searching for preschools in the suburbs you’re considering, here they are:

  • preschool + suburb name
  • kindergarten + suburb name
  • kindy + suburb name
  • kinder + suburb name
  • day care + suburb name (then look for day care centres with preschool rooms)
  • long day care + suburb name (as above look for centres with preschool rooms)
  • early learning centre + suburb

6. Use online forums to ask for recommendations

Finally, as well as reading Mum’s gone 2 Aus for essential advice and information to help with your move to Australia, we recommend you use online forums to ask for preschool recommendations. Poms in Oz and British Expats are forums aimed at helping British people moving to Australia; Poms in Oz has state and region specific sections where you can ask questions about specific suburbs and schools. Kidspot and Bub Hub are two of Australia’s most popular parenting sites, their forums also have Education and Schooling sections that you can use to ask members about preschools.

Note: If you’re moving to other states and cities in Australia you’ll still find these tips useful. Some of the terminology may differ, for example preschool is called kindergarten in Western Australia and Tasmania.

As always, if you’ve got tips and experiences to share regarding your preschool search in Sydney or elsewhere in Australia, please leave a comment below. Hopefully we’ll be making things easier for others entering the preschool battle zone. Thank you.

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