Views sought on pre-school education admissions criteria

Date published: 19 April 2021

A public consultation seeking views on pre-school admissions has been launched today.

Public consultation pre-school admissions criteria

The Department of Education’s Pre-School Education Programme provides every child in their immediate pre-school year (age 3 to 4) the option to have a year’s education.

Currently all pre-school providers are required to give priority to children from ‘Socially Disadvantaged Circumstances’ (as defined by the Department) before considering applications from other children.  Approximately 16% of children are currently prioritised in this way. 

Peter Weir MLA, Minister for Education, said: 

"The current legislation requiring priority to be given during pre-school admissions to children from Socially Disadvantaged Circumstances was written over 20 years ago and much has changed since then. 

“Pre-school education is also delivered in sessions of varying lengths, all teaching the same curriculum and being inspected to the same educational standards. 

“This consultation is an important part of the process to ensure that the pre-school admissions process is the best it can be. I welcome all views but would particularly value comments from parents and guardians, pre-school education providers and staff, and stakeholders and organisations working in the pre-school education sector.”

The consultation will run for a 12 week period from 19 April 2021 and is available on the department’s website at The online questionnaire is available at Consultation: Pre-school admissions criteria.


Notes to editors: 

  1. The consultation seeks views on revising the current priority criterion both before and after the planned standardisation of pre-school patterns of attendance.
  2. After the consultation, policy development work will continue and will be informed by the views expressed during the consultation.  This will allow the Minister to take informed decisions on any changes required. No changes will be made to the statutory pre-school admissions criterion for the 2021/22 academic year.
  3. The Department of Education aims to provide a pre-school place for every child in their immediate pre-school year whose parents want it.  This has been achieved for at least 99.8% of children whose parents stayed with the admissions process in each of the last eight years.
  4. Pre-School Education is non-compulsory, although most children attend a funded pre-school education place (c. 92%).
  5. Further background information on the Department’s Pre-School Education Programme and the priority criterion for children from Socially Disadvantaged Circumstances can be found in the consultation document which is available at the Department’s website 
  6. Follow us on Twitter @Education_ni
  7. Media enquiries to the Department of Education Press Office at
  8. The Executive Information Service operates an out-of-hours service For Media Enquiries Only between 1800hrs and 0800hrs Monday to Friday and at weekends and public holidays. The duty press officer can be contacted on 028 9037 8110.

Share this page

Back to top