School age

Most children begin primary school at the start of the school year in which they reach school age (5 years old). All schools must provide for the admission of children from the September following their fourth birthday.

A school year runs from September to the following August.

Find out when your child starts school

Enter your child's date of birth to find out when they should start school and when you'll need to apply for a school place.

Your child's date of birth

When children start school

Your child can start in reception class in the September following their 4th birthday. Schools often suggest a part-time induction process, but parents do have the right to request their child attends on a full-time basis from the start of the school year.

Compulsory school age

If you do not think your child is ready to start school at the usual time, they can start later. Legally, a child doesn’t have to start school until they reach Compulsory School Age (CSA) which is the term after their 5th birthday.

If you’d prefer, your child could start school on a part time basis before they reach CSA, or you can delay your child’s start date until later in the academic year. However, once your child reaches CSA, they must be in full time education.

The table below shows when your child will reach compulsory school age:

Your child's birthdayWhen your child can start schoolWhen your child must start school reaching CSA
1 September to 31 DecemberSeptember aged 4January aged 5
1 January to 31 MarchSeptember aged 4

April aged 5

1 April to 31 August
(also known as a summer born child)
September aged 4September aged 5  
(Starting from year 1)

Apply for their school place at the usual time and speak to the school about how and when you would like your child to start school.

Summer born children

Summer born children (born between 1 April and 31 August) do not reach compulsory school age until the following September when they would join year 1. This means parents have a number of options to consider when deciding when their child will start school. Find out who is eligible and the process to defer entry to a primary school.

Free early education

If you choose to delay or defer your child’s start to school, they continue to be entitled to free early education until the compulsory school age of 5.

When your child can finish school

Children must go to school until the last day of the school year in which they turn 16. This is usually the end of school year 11.

Your child is then required to continue in education and training until at least their 18th birthday. This could be studying in sixth form, going to college or becoming an apprentice.