Starting primary / elementary school in a foreign country is often a challenge. Here are a few tips to help get prepared.
Most Volksschule kids carry a special type of large square backpack called ‘Schulranzen‘. They come in many different patterns – Starwars, dinosaurs, ponies etc and often include a matching sports bag and pencil case. A good selection can be found at Kastner & Öhler, Müller, Pagro or Libro. They can be eye watering expensive though! 80- 250 euros, so I also suggest buying second on-line at willhaben.at or check out the Carla stores – they often have a school supplies display at the end of summer.
For school trips (which they have a lot of!) kids just need a small regular backpack.
Stationery / School supplies
Schools usually send out the school supply list before the start of the year, specifying which sort of pens, art supplies, book covers, folders etc to buy. This list can be hard to translate, even Austrians can have a hard time figuring out the exact book cover to buy! Höfer is the cheapest place for school supplies – they usually have a good selection before the school year. Pagro and Müller also will have everything you need.
Libro is a great place to visit as they have helpful staff on hand just to help with the school supply lists. Just show them the list and they will help you find everything. Pagro and Libro also offer a free Shopping Service (Libro and Pagro) – just drop off your list by 4 pm (minimum 5 articles) and they will prepare everything for you to pick up the following day. You can also submit the list on-line – they will fill your on-line basket with the items needed and you can look it over and then order for home delivery.
Label EVERYTHING! Including the glue stick tops etc, it’s amazing how fast kids lose everything….
The cost of school supplies add up fast! So Steiermark give all parents with school kids (6 – 15 yrs) a €100 ‘Schulstartgeld’ bonus for each child in September along with the Familenbeihilfe.
To “sweeten” the first of school, parents give their kids a giant cone filled with small things like little toys, sweets, fun stationary, a new water bottle, socks etc. This usually gets presented to them as they leave for school and they carry it with them (although some schools ask the kids not to bring them in). They then open them when school ends, after being picked up. You can buy these cones in Libro, Müller or Pagro or crafty parents can make them at home. (You only need to give a Schultüte on the first day of the first year).
Schools usually have a no shoe policy so kids will need houseshoes or slippers – Deichmann is a good place for inexpensive houseshoes. You can also buy gym slippers or sports hall shoes there. For rain clothes, I can recommend Tchibo (needed for outdoor play time and for school trips). They also do good inexpensive warm winter boots, although for proper weatherproof snow protection – I recommend Superfit boots (I usually get them from Shoes4you when they have a sale).
Kids will also usually need to bring in a morning Jause and drink bottle (similar to kindergarten). I can recommend the stainless steel lunch boxes as they last way longer than the plastic ones. And the foam insulated glass water bottles are also very popular or stainless steel ones.
First day of the first year
Many kids dress up in their sunday best. Parents accompany their kids to school, take their photos outside and in the classroom. The first day usually lasts for about 2 hours and then most kids are picked up again (although if they are signed up for nachmittagsbetreuung they can stay longer). Grandparents often come along too and after the first day finishes they all go out for lunch or to a cafe to celebrate and look through their schultüte.
One of my favourite sights in Graz is all the kids with their Schultüte heading off to school on their first day!