Applying for a funded pre-school place – 2022/23

Guidance on how to apply for a funded pre-school education place as well as information about the Department of Education run pre-school education programme.

Applying for a funded pre-school education place 2022/23

Funded pre-school education is provided under the Pre-School Education Programme.  This is a programme funded by the Department of Education (DE) with the aim to provide one year of non-compulsory pre-school education to every child in their immediate pre-school year whose family want it.  It provides a rich variety of challenging play-based learning activities and other experiences in a stimulating environment and will help prepare your child for primary school.

The DE Pre-School Education Programme provides funded pre-school education places: it is not free or funded childcare.  Information on childcare provision is available at Family Support NI.

What age should my child be to access a pre-school education place in September 2022?

The Pre-School Education Programme for the 2022/23 school year is targeted at children born between 2 July 2018 and 1 July 2019.  If your child was born during this period you will be eligible to apply for admission to either a Nursery School or Nursery Unit or Playgroup for the school year 2022/23. 

If funded places are still available after target age children are admitted then underage children born on or between 2 July 2019 and 1 July 2020 may also be admitted.  If your child falls within this age group you will be eligible to apply to only a Nursery School or a Nursery Unit within a primary school.

Deferral for younger children

A new law will allow the parents or guardians of younger children in the year group to defer the start of pre-school and in turn primary school for their child by one year. All parents who have applied for a funded pre-school or primary school place for September 2022 will be contacted with more information about this change.

You can also find more information about this here

Frequently asked questions relating to deferral of pre-school are also available on the EA website and can be accessed here

When should I apply for a pre-school education place?

The Pre-School admissions process for the 2022/23 school year commenced at Noon on Monday 10 January 2022 with Stage one of the process closing at Noon on Friday 28 January 2022.

An application received during this timeframe will be treated as ‘punctual’.  If received after Noon on Friday 28 January 2022 the application will be treated as target age ‘late’ in Stage 1; or underage late throughout the procedure.

Following completion of the application parents were required to provide any documentation requested in support of their application before 12.00 noon on Friday 4 February 2022 to do this.  Such documentation may include the child’s birth certificate or any other documents as requested in the published admissions criteria of the parent’s nominated pre-school preference(s).

It was possible to make a late application for a funded pre-school education place until Noon 4 February 2022.  However, applications for funded pre-school places received by the closing date and time (Noon 28 January 2022) will be considered first. 

Any applications/information received after 12 noon on 4 February 2022 will not be processed until Stage 2 of the pre-school admissions process.

Where are pre-school education places available?

Pre-school education places are available in nursery schools, primary schools with nursery units and voluntary/private settings that have funded places.  Pre-school education is not defined according to sectors so all pre-school education settings, regardless of location, are considered accessible to children from all backgrounds.

How do I complete an application for a pre-school place?

Parents can apply for funded pre-school education places online, through the Education Authority website which will be updated with information on the 2022/23 admissions process from 17 December 2021.

Education Authority website

You will complete one online application, listing all the pre-school education settings you wish your child to be considered for.

Please note that it may not be possible to secure a place at your first preference setting if more children apply to a setting than there are places available.  It is therefore important to list as many settings as possible (that you are willing to send your child to) on your application.

The admissions criteria for all pre-school settings in Northern Ireland will be published on the Education Authority website from Friday 17 December 2021.  

Parents who submitted a pre-school application for their child at Stage One of the admissions process will be advised of the outcome of their application on 28 April 2022.

Stage Two of the pre-school admissions process will then commence when new pre-school applications may also be considered. 

If additional information is required or you have any difficulty when making an application, or you need to apply in another format, you can contact the Education Authority admissions helpdesk on:

028 9598 5595

or via email at the address below


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