Three children in school uniform skip in front of a playground.

This year there will be changes to term dates, policies and programs that may involve your family.

17 January 2024

Canberra families are about to start another exciting school year.

This year there will be changes to term dates, policies and programs that may involve your family.

Here is everything you need to know for the year ahead.

Student-free days and start of term

From 2024, there will be four student-free days for ACT public schools. These are the first day of each school term.

Student-free days are for staff development, enabling teachers and schools to plan in a student-free environment.

Monday 29 January will be a student-free day.

On Tuesday 30 January, new students will start school. Continuing students will return to school on Wednesday 31 January.

Other term dates for the 2024 school year:

  • Friday 12 April– Term 1 ends
  • Tuesday 30 April – Term 2 begins (students start school)
  • Friday 5 July – Term 2 ends
  • Tuesday 23 July – Term 3 begins (students start school)
  • Friday 27 September – Term 3 ends
  • Tuesday 15 October – Term 4 begins (students start school)
  • Tuesday 17 December – Term 4 ends.

Visit the Term Dates page for all school term dates.

Financial assistance

The Future of Education Equity Fund (Equity Fund) offers eligible families financial support to help with school essentials. It supports the more vulnerable families in our community.

Low-income families of students – from preschool through to year 12 – can receive  a one-off, annual payment. This is to help cover the costs of schooling, such as:

  • uniforms
  • sport equipment and activities
  • tuition
  • music lessons.

The Equity Fund payments are $400 (preschool), $500 (primary school), and $750 (high school and college level, including CIT Year 11 and 12).

Equity Fund applications  for the 2024 school year are now open.

Families can apply for all eligible students in their family in the one application, regardless of whether they attend different schools.

School staff are also able to help families to apply.

Applications close in November 2024.

Find out more about eligibility criteria and how to apply online.

Mobile phone policy

A new mobile phone policy for all ACT public schools starts in term 1 2024.

  • Students in preschool to year 10 at ACT public schools may not use or access personal communication devices at school. This includes recess and lunch, and during school authorised events.
  • For year 11 and 12 students, mobile phones and other personal communication devices must be silenced and put away during class time.

Students can request an exemption if they need their device for medical or other specific reasons.

Schools will communicate their expectations about how and where to store devices at the beginning of the school year.

Read more about the new mobile phone policy.

Healthy lunches

Find tips on how to pack a healthy lunchbox on ACT Health’s Fresh Tastes Lunchboxes website.

It includes a Grab and Go shopping list and tips for a waste-free lunchbox. You’ll also find tips on which food groups to include and how to swap for healthier options.

Looking for more healthy lunchbox tips? Try the Cancer Council’s Healthy Lunch Box Builder. It’s a great tool to help build a lunchbox so your child can get a healthy brain boost throughout the school day.

Wellbeing for students

A new school year can be tough for some students, whether they are:

  • starting a new school
  • moving into high school or college
  • just dealing with any of the life changes thrown their way.

The ACT Government has online resources that could be helpful in starting conversations on finding ways to support them.

Visit the Education website to watch a video series on supporting an anxious child, and to access a mindfulness podcast series.

Asthma management

If your child has asthma, the start of the school year is a good time to make sure you’re managing it.

You may wish to:

  • book an asthma review with your child’s GP
  • update your child’s asthma action plan with their GP
  • make sure the school has your child’s reliever medication and spacer
  • talk to school staff
  • book an appointment with one of the asthma nurse educators at Canberra Health Services.

Child development

Are you concerned about your child’s development? The start of a new year is a good time to contact the Child Development Service, to access free drop-in clinics and assessments.

Free three-year-old preschool

ACT three-year-olds can now benefit from 300 hours of free preschool at over 140 locations.

This will save the average family around $1,329 a year.

Read more and find where to access three-year-old preschool.

Period products at all schools

In 2023 the ACT Government passed new legislation to make free period products available at a range of community locations across the ACT for anyone who needs them.

This includes at every ACT public school, which is something we already do as a system, and will continue to do.

Pads and tampons are available in ACT public high schools, colleges, and combined schools. Pads are available in ACT public primary schools.

They can be accessed at any time during the school day from the school front office for staff, students, and visitors.

The ACT Government will deliver the broader project in stages and a procurement process for dispensers to be installed in public places, including ACT public schools, will occur in 2024.

The Education Directorate will continue to work with ACT Health to ensure age-appropriate information on menstrual hygiene is available for students through our schools.

Read more about free period products.

Public transport for students

From Monday 29 January dedicated school services will resume. This includes ‘S’ trips which divert into schools.

Please check your timetable so you are prepared and ready.

If your child is in primary school, you can refer to your school’s pack to plan your child’s travel. Find it on the Transport Canberra website.

If your child is new to school or changing schools, please check available school bus and light rail information on the Transport Canberra website.

Familiarise yourself and your child with their school routine. They should know which stop the bus will pick up from in the morning and where to get off at the end of the day.

Make sure your child has a MyWay card that is registered and topped up with sufficient funds. A MyWay card is easy to get and will save you time and money. Find out more about ticketing and MyWay.

School bus services are available to school students only. Under special circumstances, parents with young children may apply to travel on these services for a few weeks to help their child get used to bus travel.  Find out more about parents travelling on school bus services.

If you’re a student in college or tertiary education, check the Journey Planner for timings. Just enter your destination for the fastest, most convenient options.

To stay up-to-date with Transport Canberra updates, including changes to services and latest news, you can:

40 km/h school zones

Road safety is everyone’s responsibility. As students return to school, remember to slow down and stick to the 40 km/h limit around schools between 8am and 4pm.

Mobile speed vans and police regularly patrol school zones. Let’s all slow down and support kids’ safety.

Parking around schools

The start of the school year is a particularly busy time in Canberra’s school carparks and surrounding streets.

Unsafe and illegal parking reduces visibility for students and motorists. This creates a hazard when students cross the road.

Parking inspectors and license plate recognition vehicles will be out and about enforcing safe parking around schools.

For drop-offs and pick-ups, arrange a meeting spot, arrive after the rush, or park a little further away from the school and walk with your kids the rest of the way.

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