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.
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 birthday||When your child can start school||When your child must start school reaching CSA|
|1 September to 31 December||September aged 4||January aged 5|
|1 January to 31 March||September aged 4|
April aged 5
|1 April to 31 August |
(also known as a summer born child)
|September aged 4||September 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.