Most children in Northern Ireland attend pre-school for one year before starting primary school. Government funds a pre-school place for every child whose family want it but it is not compulsory for children to attend pre-school. Children then start primary school aged 4 or 5.
Where a child reaches the age of 4 on or between 1 September and 1 July, the child will usually start school at the beginning of the next school year.
Where a child reaches the age of 4 on or between 2 July and 31 August in the same calendar year, the child will start school in the September following their fifth birthday.
This means that children born in July, August and September are the oldest in the year group whereas those born in April, May and June are the youngest. Children who are the youngest in the class are sometimes called Young for Year children
Deferral of Starting School
The School Age (Northern Ireland) Act 2022 allows the parents/ guardians of Young for Year children to defer the start of pre-school and, in turn, primary school for their child for one year. If the child defers prior to starting pre-school, they will then start pre-school in September following their 4th birthday and primary school in September following their 5th birthday.
Deferral of primary school starting age is available on parental request to any child born between 1 April and 1 July and to any child due to be born after 1 April but born before this date. Deferral does not require an educational assessment.
Deferred children will be treated as normal members of the school year group below their original school year and will apply for pre-school and Year 1 through the normal admissions process. They will usually remain part of their revised year group throughout their time at school.
Parents can defer eligible children at any time prior to their commencement of primary school.
Deferral of Primary School – September 2023
Children born on or between 1 April 2019 and 1 July 2019 or any child who was born before 1 April 2019 but who was due to be born on or after 1 April 2019 if born at term are eligible to defer primary school this year. If you choose for your child to defer, they will then start primary school in September 2024 aged 5 instead of September 2023 aged 4.
If you wish to defer your child from starting P1, Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) are available on the EA Website FAQs Deferral of Primary School which you should read carefully.
Further information is available at Deferral of Primary School Leaflet
Deferral of Pre-School – September 2023
Children born on or between 1 April 2020 and 1 July 2020 or any child who was born before 1 April 2020 but who was due to be born on or after 1 April 2020 if born at term are eligible to defer pre-school this year. If you choose for your child to defer pre-school, they will then start pre-school in September 2024 aged 4 and primary school in September 2025 aged 5.
If you wish to defer your child from starting Pre-School, Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) are available on the EA Website which you should read carefully.
Further information is available at Deferral of Pre-School Leaflet