by Lukas Mentken from Twinkl

The switch from Kindergarten to primary school in Germany can be a big change for children and parents. Here is everything you need to know, including useful resources from Twinkl to prepare your child for the next step in their educational journey. 

When do children in Germany start attending school?

Attending school in Germany is compulsory for all children once they reach the age of six. The latest dates for school enrolment vary across the different local regions (Bundesländer), so it is worth checking the website of your local authority for more information. It is also important to check the requirements for school enrolment examinations (Schuleingangsuntersuchung), which are overall examinations of a child’s health and readiness for school, in your Bundesland.

Primary school in Germany is called Grundschule and covers the first four years of education (1. Klasse – 4. Klasse). The only exception to this is Berlin and Brandenburg, where students attend the Grundschule for six years (1. Klasse – 6. Klasse). This is an important time for children, as it lays the academic foundations for their further educational path and determines which type of secondary school they will attend. Unlike in other countries, it is not uncommon for children to repeat the 3. Klasse if they are not ready to progress into the 4. Klasse. In a lot of primary schools, school ends in the early afternoon. If your work schedule does not allow this flexibility, it might be worth considering a Ganztagsschule, where students can stay longer after their lessons finish. 

What are the key differences between school and Kindergarten? 

The first difference lies in the day-to-day activities which the children are engaged in. In Kindergarten children spend most of their time playing and exploring, with occasional teaching. In primary school, the focus switches to learning, with designated break times for playing and socialising. This means that children will need to be able to sit patiently and listen to their teacher during lessons. As children become more used to their new environment, they will soon learn how to let others speak and politely ask questions. 

It is possible to already do certain activities with your child during the kindergarten-age to improve their ability to focus and prepare them for their primary school life. For example, you can use this vocabulary card to practise key instructions which your child should be familiar with before attending a school. Colouring sheets can help to teach your child how to concentrate and work on a task for a longer period without getting distracted.

Children are also expected to be more independent in primary school than in kindergarten. This is not always easy, especially as the new and unfamiliar environment can be a substantial change. Therefore, it is advisable to teach your child how to take care of themselves and how to communicate with others. In most classes, there will be a ‘duty’ list where children are delegated certain classroom duties for the week such as keeping the bookshelf tidy, sharpening the colouring pencils, handing out worksheets or laying the lunch tables. This encourages independence, responsibility, and teamwork. 

This category has lots of resources to help you convey these key skills, including basics such as going to the toilet independently, sitting in a circle during class and treating classmates with respect. Of course, your child is not expected to know everything before they start school. It is important to stress that guidance and help is always available. Your child will learn in the first day or two who in school they can ask for help and support if needed. 

In terms of academics, children often learn about basic maths and language skills in the Vorschule (nurseries and kindergarten). This can provide some elementary foundations for their subjects and smoothen the transition into the school system. There are plenty of resources for you on Twinkl if you want to practise these fundamental skills at home and ease your child’s transition into school. This booklet is a great place to start. You can also search our site per subject for exercises related to MathematicsGerman, and Sachunterricht.

What can I expect on the first school day?

The special day has finally come! There is no strict plan for the first day of school, so remember that it is always worth checking with your local institution about your preparation. Usually, you will be able to join your children on their first day, which may include a performance by older students, activities for the children to get to know each other, a tour of the school and meet and greets between parents and teachers. 

It is also common for parents to give their children so-called Schultüten for this occasion. These are colourful paper cones filled with sweets and presents. In many schools the first day is not an actual school day and is merely there for orientation purposes. It is always useful if you have already bought a few notebooks, a pencil case, and a schoolbag to make sure you are ready when your child’s first timetable is released. Here are a few booklets and resources related to the first day of school for more info. 

All you need to know about the Grundschule in Germany
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