Admissions FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions on school admissions.

For more information on the admissions process and what to expect when applying for a place in a pre-school / primary / post-primary school for your child see our Pre-School Admissions Guide, Primary Admissions Guide and Post Primary Admissions Guide.

Admissions FAQs

Can I still apply for this current school year which ends in June 2022 for a Pre-School or P1 place?

Many Pre-Schools or Primary Schools may at this stage of the year have filled their places.  You can contact a pre-school or primary school directly to find out if they have places available.  If you need further help contact Admissions Helpdesk.

Duplicate Applications

Only one application can be processed for your child. The system will highlight where 2 applications have been made and you will be contacted by EA Admissions to withdraw one of these applications.

In the case where there is disagreement between parents/guardians and two applications are lodged with different preferences and/or addresses, the Education Authority’s Admissions Service will contact both parties asking them to agree on a single application to go forward for processing.  In cases where parents cannot agree on the preferences for their child they should endeavour to do so as soon as possible.  If mutual agreement is not possible ultimately you may need to obtain a Specific Issues Order from the court.  If an agreement on a valid application form to be processed is not received separate applications will continue to be processed until an agreement is made or a court order is provided.  If you require further advice you should contact the EA Admissions Helpdesk.

Parents disagree on which schools to apply to/priority order for preferences

In the case where there is disagreement between parents/guardians and two applications are lodged with different preferences and/or addresses, the Education Authority’s Admissions Service will contact both parties asking them to agree on a single application to go forward for processing.

In cases where parents cannot agree on the preferences for their child they should endeavour to do so as soon as possible.  If mutual agreement is not possible ultimately you may need to obtain a Specific Issues Order from the court.  If an agreement on a valid application form to be processed is not received separate applications will continue to be processed until an agreement is made or a court order is provided.  If you require further advice you should contact the EA Admissions Helpdesk.

Pre-school

My child is under the age of 2, can I apply for pre-school?

No, if your child is under the age of 2 you can make contact with Altram (Irish Medium Pre-School Education), or the Early Years Organisation or Family Support NI for further advice 

Altram (Irish Medium Pre-School Education)   

Early Years Organisation

Family Support NI

Is Pre-School compulsory?

No, although good quality pre-school education has important benefits.  Parents make application for a funded place on the understanding that their child will attend 5 days per week.  This will enable their child to benefit fully from a quality pre-school experience.

For more information see our Pre-school Admissions Guide

Do I need to put my name down or register with a pre-school provider?

No and even if you have given your name to a provider, you would still need to apply for admission.

Can my child be enrolled for a second year in Pre-School?

If your child is already attending pre-school and is at the age to apply for a second year, you still must complete an application. There is no automatic entitlement to a second year placement.

What does socially disadvantaged circumstances mean when applying for a funded pre-school place?

Legislation requires pre-school providers to give priority to children in their final pre-school year who are from socially disadvantaged circumstances.

The Department of Education has defined socially disadvantaged circumstances as applying to a child whose parent is in receipt of any of the following benefits:-  

  • Income Support; 
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance; 
  • An award of Income Support which has been converted into an Employment and Support Allowance and the level of benefit remains the same; or
  • Universal Credit.

Note:  Tax Credits are not a defined benefit under the socially disadvantaged criterion when applying for a funded pre-school place.

In order for a pre-school provider to consider an application under the socially disadvantaged criterion a parent will need to provide benefit verification.  The process of providing benefit verification will not commence until after you have submitted your pre-school application form. 

For more information see the socially disadvantaged content within our Pre-School Admissions Guide

What curriculum is taught in pre-school?

All funded pre-school education centres must follow common pre-school curricular guidance to plan and organise the children's learning.

Who can I speak to about a pre-school provider’s published admissions criteria?

The Board of Governors of a Nursery School or Primary School with a Nursery Unit and the Management Committee of a Voluntary or Private Playgroup are responsible for determining and applying their own admissions criteria.  Any queries on the content of the published criteria should be directed to the pre-school provider.

Is the pre-school intake data available?

The table below provides a breakdown of the number of applications for Pre-School Target Age and Underage places received and considered by each pre-school during the admissions procedure and the number of children admitted, by preference.

The figures are collated
as applicable by Constituency and council and reflect the position at the end of Stage 2 of the timetabled admissions procedure, according to records held by the Education Authority, which administers the procedure.

Primary FAQs

Where can I find out about schools and their admissions criteria?

Use our 'Find a school’ section to search for schools in your area and read their admissions criteria.

You may wish to visit schools you are considering applying to by attending their open days/evenings. Details of the dates and times of open days/evenings and schools’ admissions criteria will be published on this website and advertised by schools.

Do I need to apply for a primary one place?

If your child was born between 2 July 2017 and 1 July 2018 they will be due to start primary one in September 2022 and as they will be of compulsory school age you must apply for a place in a primary school. 

Exceptions

Special Educational Needs Applications

If your child is undergoing statutory assessment you still need to apply for a primary one place.  However, you should not complete an application if your child has a Statement of Special Educational Needs.  Your child’s placement will be arranged through the EA’s Special Educational Needs Department.

Children currently enrolled in a Reception Class

If your child is currently enrolled in the Reception Class of a primary school and you wish for them to continue their primary one education at the same school then a new application is not required.  However, if you wish to apply for your child to be admitted to a different primary school then you must complete an application for consideration.

Preparatory Departments and Independent Schools
For information on making application to the Preparatory Departments of grammar schools or to Independent Schools you should contact the schools directly. 

Is the primary intake data available for 2021/22?

The table below provides a breakdown of the number of applications for Primary 1 and Reception places received and considered by each primary school during the admissions procedure and the number of children admitted, by preference.  The figures are collated by Constituency and reflect the position at the end of the timetabled admissions procedure i.e. 28 April 2021, according to records held by the Education Authority, which administers the procedure.

Schools, as part of their admissions criteria, also publish application and admissions information.  The figures contained in the information provided by individual schools may differ as they may be from a different point in time.

Post-Primary FAQs

Is post-primary intake data available?

The tables below provide a breakdown of the number of applications for Year 8 places received and considered by each post-primary school during the admissions procedure and the number of children admitted, by preference.  The figures are collated by Constituency and reflect the position at the end of the timetabled admissions procedure in each of the last three years’, according to records held by the Education Authority, which administers the procedure.

Schools, as part of their admissions criteria, also publish application and admissions information.  The figures contained in the information provided by individual schools may differ as they may be from a different point in time.

Can I make changes or add supporting documents to my child’s application after submission?

  • Between 4pm on Wednesday 23 February and 4pm on Wednesday 9 March 2022

Wednesday 9 March 2022 at 4pm is the final date/time for receipt of additional information/documents or changes of preference in exceptional circumstances. If, in exceptional circumstances, you wish to provide additional information to be considered or change your child’s school preference(s) you must submit a request in writing to the Education Authority, by email if possible, to postprimaryadmissions@eani.org.uk. You will need to provide your child’s details and set out the exceptional circumstances for consideration.

  • After 4pm Wednesday 9 March 2022

After 4 pm on Wednesday 9 March 2022 no changes or new information in any circumstances will be processed until after conclusion of the admissions procedure on Saturday 21 May 2022.

Can I submit a late application?

If you have not completed an application by the closing date of 4pm on 23 February 2022 you will still need to apply. Details on how to make a late application will be indicated on the website www.eani.org.uk/admissions after the closing date. You can contact the Admissions Helpdesk via email postprimaryadmissions@eani.org.uk or telephone to the 028 9598 5595 for advice and assistance, if required.

  • Between 4pm on Wednesday 23 February and 4pm on Wednesday 9 March 2022

Where exceptional reasons exist for an application not being submitted on time, a late application may be processed if received by Wednesday 9 March 2022 at 4pm. You will need to provide details of the exceptional reasons to be considered.

  • After 4pm Wednesday 9 March 2022

Any applications received after Wednesday 9 March 2022 will not be processed within the admissions timetable. Rather they will be held and processed after 21 May 2022.

Having a late application could reduce your child’s likelihood of gaining a place in your preferred school i.e. some schools will have filled all available places at the end of the admissions procedure.

Deferral of Starting School Age

Primary

What happens currently?

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 wants it in their final pre-school year but it is not compulsory for children to attend pre-school. Children start primary school in September if they are 4 years old by 1 July of that year.

Children born in July, August and September are the oldest in the school year group whereas those born in April, May and June are the youngest. These younger children are sometimes called Young for Year children.

The School Age Bill has changed the law to allow the parents/guardians of younger children in the year group a choice to defer their child starting primary school by one year should they wish to do so. It will also allow children born early, who would have been born on or after 1 April 2018, if born at term, to defer. There is no requirement for any child deferring P1 to receive home education during that year.

What does deferral of starting P1 mean?

Deferral means delaying starting primary school for one year from September 2022 to September 2023. 

Parents/guardians would withdraw the application from the current primary school application process for September 2022 admission and their child would then start primary school in September 2023.

Should you choose to defer P1 entry, your child will have the opportunity to apply for a place in a pre-school setting when Stage 2 of the pre-school admissions process commences on 28 April 2022.

Your child would then (unless in very unusual circumstances such as serious illness) remain within this year group throughout their time at school. 

Children who defer will transfer to post-primary school in September following their 12th birthday and complete compulsory education (Year 12) in the year they turn 17, though they may of course continue to sixth form (Year 14).

Who is eligible to defer P1?

Children born on or between 1 April 2018 and 1 July 2018.  Any child who was born before 1 April 2018 but who was due to be born on or after 1 April 2018 if born at term.

Does my child need to be assessed in order to defer P1?

No, deferral is a matter of parental choice and no educational assessment is required.  However, if you have concerns about your child’s development, you are strongly encouraged to speak to your GP or Health Visitor to discuss your concerns.

Do I have to provide medical evidence to confirm my child was born earlier than their expected due date and what do I provide and how can I provide it?

Medical evidence is ONLY required for any child who was born before 1 April 2018 but who was due to be born on or after 1 April 2018 if born at termIf you decide to defer your child from attending P1 in September 2022 following the completion of the deferral form, the Education Authority will then contact you in due course by email to advise how you can provide the relevant medical evidence.

Recommended medical evidence can include one of the following:-

Evidence must clearly show the child's name, expected due date and actual date your child was born (the information provided will only be held by the Education Authority for the purposes of processing this request).

Personal Child Health Record (Red Book); or 
Letter or any other evidence from GP, Midwife or Health Visitor or any other Health Professional involved with your child; or
Maternity Certificate (MAT B1).

NB: You do not need to provide all pages of any medical evidence held - You ONLY need to take a photo image of medical evidence that shows the child’s name, expected due date and actual date your child was born.

What happens if I choose to defer?

DEFERRAL OF P1 FOR SEPTEMBER 2022

I have already submitted a request to defer my child commencing P1

If you have already applied by 30 March 2022 to defer your child from commencing P1 in September 2022, and now wish to apply for a Pre-school place for September 2022, a list of Pre-schools with places available can be accessed here  Pre-school Places Available

See information below on how to apply for a funded pre-school place.

My child has been offered a P1 place and I now wish to defer?

Contact the Primary School where your child has been offered a place and confirm in writing that you will not be accepting the place offered. 

NB:        You MUST decline the P1 place offered before the deferral request will be processed.  School contact details are available on the EA Website www.eani.org.uk/search-schools   Please also copy the EA Primary Admissions office into your email - primaryadmissions@eani.org.uk

The Application Form to apply for deferral is available on the EA Website Deferring School Starting Age.  A paper application form is also available on request from the Education Authority Primary Admissions Office.

How to apply for a funded pre-school place?

Read the published admissions criteria to find out if any supporting documentation is required by the pre-school(s) you will be listing.  Admissions Criteria for all pre-schools is available on the EA website under Search Admissions Criteria.  

The Stage 2 Pre-school application form is available here Deferral - Pre-school Application  This form is to be submitted not later than 4 pm on 12 May 2022 and a copy of your child’s birth certificate is also required.  It is recommended that you name more than one preference as available places in pre-schools are limited.  A paper form is also available on request by emailing preschooladmissions@eani.org.uk

NB:      There is no guarantee of a funded place in a pre-school for your child and parents are reminded that it is not compulsory to send their child to a pre-school during their deferred P1 year.

If I submit a Pre-school application in Stage 2 when will I find out the outcome?

Parents will be notified of the outcome of their Pre-school Stage 2 on 16 June 2022.  Check the EA website at that time for further information on how the outcome will be communicated.

There is no guarantee of a funded pre-school place for 2022/23, however, the Department is conscious that children who are deferring P1 in September 2022 did not have the opportunity to defer pre-school and will be monitoring applications very closely.

When the application process commences for September 2023 you would submit an application for your child to commence P1 through the normal admission process.

NB Applications to P1 for deferred children will not receive a higher priority for September 2023 admission, but will be treated in the same manner as all children of compulsory school age who are applying.

Do I have to defer my child?

No.

You will have received notification of the outcome of your application on 28 April 2022 and if you wish to accept the P1 place offered you do not have to do anything.

We anticipate that the majority of parents of eligible children will not choose deferral for their child.

Is deferral best for my child?

For most children, deferral is not necessary or recommended.

However, if you have concerns about your child’s development, you are strongly encouraged to speak to your GP or Health Visitor to discuss your concerns.   We do not expect large numbers of children to defer and the vast majority of children born on or between 1 April 2018 and 1 July 2018 will continue to start primary school in September 2022.


In making your decision about deferral, it is important to remember that the vast majority of children regardless of their age within the year group thrive at primary school and we have excellent pre-schools and primary schools in Northern Ireland.

Primary 1 and 2 years of education, which are called the Foundation Stage, enable children to learn through well-planned, challenging play, recognising that all young children learn best when learning is interactive, practical and enjoyable. Please also be assured that children start primary school with a whole range of abilities and at different levels of maturity. Children learn at their own pace and teachers are trained to adapt the school day and all activities and learning to meet a range of children’s needs, including those who are the youngest children in the year group.


If you do not have significant concerns about your child starting school, it is unlikely that deferral is the best option for them. If you are strongly considering deferral you will need to consider whether you think your child would benefit and be stimulated from repeating their pre-school year.  Alternatively, you will need to consider how you will best support your child’s development over the next year if you choose to defer your child starting P1.  There is no strong evidence to suggest that repeating a school year, including in the early years has longer-term educational benefits for children. 

More detail on the early years of primary school are available on the CCEA website at Foundation Stage | CCEA.

What happens if I continue to proceed with my P1 application and then decide I wish to defer after the notification of outcome on 28 April 2022?

You can defer your child from commencing P1 at any time prior to their starting school.

However, you will need to withdraw your child’s application from the primary admissions process in order to have the option to apply for a pre-school place in Stage 2 which also commences on 28 April 2022.

A list of pre-schools with funded places available will be published on 28 April 2022 on the EA Website with details on how to apply.  The closing date for receipt of any new applications in Stage 2 is not later than 4 pm on 12 May 2022.  If you choose to defer there is no guarantee that your child will secure a place in a pre-school.

If I defer my child commencing P1 – can he/she remain in the Pre-school currently attended?

No, there is no guarantee that your child will be offered a place in their current pre-school.  You will have the option to apply for a funded pre-school place in Stage 2 which commences on 28 April 2022.  A list of pre-school settings with funded places available will be published on the EA Website on 28 April 2022 along with details on how to apply.   The closing date for receipt of any new applications in Stage 2 is not later than 4 pm on 12 May 2022.

If you choose to defer there is no guarantee that your child will secure a place in a pre-school.

What happens if I decide to defer my P1 application after the last date that new applications for pre-school can be received in Stage 2 (not later than 4 pm on 12 May 2022)?

You can withdraw your child’s application at any time up until the commencement of P1.  You will need to contact the Primary Admissions Office preferably by email primaryadmissions@eani.org.uk stating that you wish to withdraw your child’s application, please include your child’s name, DOB and name of primary school where the P1 place has been offered.

After you have submitted your withdrawal email, the Application Form to apply for deferral is available on the EA Website Deferring School Starting Age.  A paper application form is also available on request from the Education Authority Primary Admissions Office.

Should you also wish to submit a late application for a pre-school place this can be done at the end of the Stage 2 application process on 16 June 2022.  A list of pre-schools with funded places available will be published on 16 June 2022 on the EA Website with details on how to apply.

If you choose to defer there is no guarantee that your child will secure a place in a pre-school.

Can I continue to proceed with my P1 application and also apply for pre-school for September 2022 and then decide which place I want?

No, this is not possible as your child would be potentially holding two places. This may prevent other children accessing a pre-school or P1 place.

If I choose to defer, am I entitled to 2 years of government funded pre-school for my child?

There is not an automatic entitlement to more than one year in a government funded pre-school.  However, if you choose to defer and subsequently withdraw your child’s P1 application for September 2022 admission, you will have the opportunity to apply for a funded year of pre-school in Stage 2 of the pre-school application process. 

If you choose to defer there is no guarantee that your child will secure a place in a pre-school.

Can my child start P1 in September 2022 to see how they manage and then defer?

Legally, a deferred case means a child born on or between 1 April 2018 and 1 July 2018 who has not commenced full-time education. 


Once your child starts P1 they cannot legally defer from P1 and will not be eligible to apply for a pre-school place nor can you reapply for primary school through the P1 admissions process for September 2023.

If I defer, when do I apply for P1 Admission in September 2023?

You would submit a new application for your child when the application process commences for September 2023. 

NB Applications to P1 for deferred children will not receive a higher priority for September 2023 admission, but will be treated in the same manner as all children of compulsory school age who are applying.

If I defer my child starting P1 - can my child move a year group once admitted to primary school?

A child will usually remain in the year group to which they have been admitted throughout their time at school.

However, in a small number of cases a school’s Board of Governors may move a child into another year group if it believes that would be beneficial for the child.  In doing so the Board of Governors must take into account the views of the parent/guardian, as well as those of the school’s principal and the Education Authority.

What is the difference between a Nursery School/Unit and a Playgroup in terms of education provision?

None.  All pre-school settings deliver to the same curricular guidelines and are inspected to the same educational standards.  Pre-schools provide important opportunities for indoor and outdoor play in a stimulating environment and also enable your child to socialise regularly with other children.  More detail on pre-school education is available on the CCEA website at CCEA - Pre-school

My child is currently under Statutory Assessment – can I defer P1?

If your child is known to Special Education and going through the Statutory Assessment process the option to defer your child from P1 would also be available to you to consider if you so wish. A statutory assessment may not necessarily lead to a statement of special educational needs so normal admissions processes apply.

If your child has a statement or receives a Statement of Special Educational Needs (SEN 3), staff from your local Special Education Office will be in contact with you about your child’s placement.  If you require any further information contact numbers for Special Education can be found on the EA website here or by calling the SEN Helpdesk on 028 9598 5960 (available Monday - Friday 9am–5pm).

How do I defer ?

The Application Form to apply for deferral is available on the EA Website Deferring School Starting Age.   You should also complete this form if you have not yet submitted an application for P1 for September 2022 and wish to defer your child from starting P1 in September 2022.  A paper application form is also available on request from the Education Authority Primary Admissions Office primaryadmissions@eani.org.uk

It is not compulsory to send your child to pre-school during their deferred year.  

Who can I contact if I have a query?

Primary School FAQs

Pre-School FAQs

What happens currently?

Most children in Northern Ireland attend pre-school for one year before starting primary school.  Government funds a pre-school education place for every child whose family wants it in their final pre-school year but it is not compulsory for children to attend pre-school. Children start primary school in September if they are 4 years old by 1 July of that year.

Children born in July, August and September are the oldest in the school year group whereas those born in April, May and June are the youngest. These younger children are sometimes called Young for Year children

The School Age Bill has changed the law to allow parents/guardians of these Young for Year children to defer starting pre-school by one year should they wish to do so.   It will also allow children born early, who would have been born on or after 1 April 2019, if born at term, to defer.  This means a parent/guardian would apply again for pre-school September 2023 and subsequently apply for P1 September 2024.

What does deferral of starting pre-school mean?

Deferral means delaying starting pre-school for one year from September 2022 to September 2023.

Your child would then in turn delay starting primary school until September 2024.  This would mean your child would start pre-school aged 4 and primary school aged 5.

Children who defer will transfer to post-primary school in September following their 12th birthday and complete compulsory education (Year 12) in the year they turn 17, though they may of course continue to sixth form (Year 14).

Who is eligible to defer pre-school?

Children born on or between 1 April 2019 and 1 July 2019.  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.

Does my child need to be assessed in order to defer pre-school?

No, deferral is a matter of parental choice and no educational assessment is required.  However, if you have concerns about your child’s development, you are strongly encouraged to speak to your GP or Health Visitor to discuss you concerns.

Do I have to provide medical evidence to confirm my child was born earlier than their expected due date and what do I provide and how can I provide it?

Medical evidence is ONLY required for 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 termIf you decide to defer your child from attending Pre-School in September 2022 following the completion of the deferral form the Education Authority will then contact you in due course by email to advise how you can provide the relevant medical evidence.

Recommended medical evidence can include one of the following.  

Evidence must clearly show the child's name, expected due date and actual date your child was born - (The information provided will only be held by the Education Authority for the purposes of processing this request).

Personal Child Health Record (Red Book); or 
Letter or any other evidence from GP, Midwife or Health Visitor or any other Health Professional involved with your child; or
Maternity Certificate (MAT B1).

NB: You do not need to provide all pages of any medical evidence held - You ONLY need to take a photo image of medical evidence that shows the child’s name, expected due date and actual date your child was born.

What happens if I choose to defer?

I have already submitted a request to defer my child commencing Pre-school

If you have already applied by 30 March 2022 to defer your child from commencing Pre-school in September 2022, and now wish to re-apply, you can only submit a LATE Penultimate application and list a Nursery School or Nursery Unit that has funded places available.  (Deadline for a Penultimate application is 4 pm on 6 May 2022)

A list of Pre-schools with places available can be accessed here Admissions Placement Notifcation

See information below on how to apply for a funded pre-school place.

My child has been offered a Pre-school place and I now wish to defer?

Contact the Pre-school where your child has been offered a place and confirm in writing that you will not be accepting the place offered. 

NB:        You MUST decline the Pre-school place offered before the deferral request will be processed.  School contact details are available on the EA Website www.eani.org.uk/search-schools   Please also copy the EA Pre-school Admissions office into your email - preschooladmissions@eani.org.uk

The application Form to apply for deferral is available on the EA Website Deferring School Starting Age.  A paper application form is also available on request from the Education Authority Pre-school  Admissions Office.

How to apply for a funded pre-school place?

You can only submit a LATE Penultimate application and list a Nursery School or Nursery Unit that has funded places available.  Read the published admissions criteria to find out if any supporting documentation is required by the pre-school(s) you will be listing.  Admissions Criteria for all pre-schools is available on the EA website under Search Admissions Criteria.  

The Stage 2 Pre-school application form is available here Pre-School Application Form Stage 2  A penultimate application is to be submitted not later than 4 pm on 6 May 2022 and a copy of your child’s birth certificate is also required.  It is recommended that you name more than one preference as available places in pre-schools are limited. 

NB: There is no guarantee of a funded place in a pre-school for your child and parents are reminded that it is not compulsory to send their child to a pre-school during their deferred P1 year.

If I submit a Pre-school application in Stage 2 when will I find out the outcome?

Parents will be notified of the outcome of their Pre-school Stage 2 on 16 June 2022.  Check the EA website at that time for further information on how the outcome will be communicated.

You will be able to make a fresh application for pre-school for September 2023 through the pre-school admissions process. 

Your child will be treated the same as all other target age children when you apply for a pre-school place for September 2023 and will be able to apply for a funded pre-school place in a Nursery School or Nursery Unit in a Primary School or a Voluntary/Private Playgroup participating in the Pre-School Education Programme.

Government aims to fund one year of pre-school education for every child whose family wants it and your child will be in no way disadvantaged when applying for a place in September 2023.

Do I have to defer my child?

No.

If you wish to continue with your application for pre-school in September 2022, you do not have to do anything and your child’s application will continue to be processed as normal.  Notification of the outcome of your application will be available to view on the Citizen Portal on 28 April 2022 if you made your application online.  For any paper/late applications you will receive a letter/email from the pre-school where your child has been offered a place also on this date.

We anticipate that the majority of parents of eligible children will not choose deferral for their child.

Is deferral best for my child?

For most children, deferral is not necessary or recommended.

However, if you have concerns about your child’s development, you are strongly encouraged to speak to your GP or Health Visitor to discuss your concerns.  We do not expect large numbers of children to defer and the vast majority of children born on or between 1 April 2019 and 1 July 2019 will continue to start pre-school in September 2022. In making your decision about deferral of pre-school, it is important to remember that the vast majority of children regardless of their age within the year group thrive at pre-school and then primary school. We have excellent pre-schools and primary schools in Northern Ireland.


At both pre-school and in P1 and P2 which are called the Foundation Stage, enable children to learn through well-planned, challenging play, as all young children learn best when learning is interactive, practical and enjoyable.  Please also be assured that children start pre-school and primary school with a whole range of abilities and at different levels of maturity. Children learn at their own pace pre-school educators and teachers are trained to adapt the school day and all activities and learning to meet a range of children’s needs, including those who are the youngest children in the year group.


If you did not have significant concerns previously about your child starting pre-school, it is unlikely that deferral is the best option. If you are considering to defer your child from starting pre-school, you will need to consider how you will support your child’s learning and development over the next year.  Pre-school provides important opportunities for indoor and outdoor play in a stimulating environment and it also allows your child to socialise regularly with other children.

More detail on pre-school and the early years of primary school are available on the CCEA website at CCEA - Pre-School and Foundation Stage | CCEA.

Can I defer Pre-School for September 2022 and also defer P1 for September 2024?

No.

  • You can only defer on one occasion.
  • You can choose to defer your child from starting pre-school in September 2022.
  • If you do decide to defer your child from starting pre-school in September 2022, you can then choose to apply for your child to start P1 or pre-school in September 2023.
  • If you choose to apply for a pre-school place in September 2023, your child must start P1 in September 2024 and you will need to make application.

What happens if I continue to proceed with my pre-school application and then decide I wish to defer after receiving an offer of a funded pre-school place?

If you receive an offer of a funded place and accept this place for September 2022 but then decide to defer, by accepting the place your child will not be prioritised as a target age child for admission to pre-school in September 2023. This is because a child cannot be prioritised as a target age child for more than one year.

 If you decide to defer you will need to withdraw your application.  Once you withdraw your application it will NOT progress and cannot be reinstated during the current admissions process (10 Jan 2022 – 16 June 2022). 

Can my child continue to attend pre-school in 2022/23 and then defer entry to primary school in September 2023?

Yes, your child can defer entry to primary school at any time before starting P1.

However, if your child attends Target Age pre-school during the 2022/23 school year, they will not be prioritised for admission to pre-school in September 2023 as a target age child. This is because the law allows children to be treated as target age for pre-school on one occasion only.

If your child attends Target Age pre-school during the 2022/23 school  year and you decide to defer your child from starting P1 for September 2023 and you make application for pre-school for September 2023, your child will only be admitted to a pre-school place for the September 2023 – September 2024 year once all target age children (including children who deferred pre-school in 2022/23) have been admitted and if funded places remain.  There is no guarantee they will receive a pre-school place.

The process for deferral has been developed to help ensure deferred children have the benefit of a high quality pre-school funded experience in their immediate pre-school year prior to starting primary school.

It is not designed so that deferred children receive more than one year funded pre-school provision while other children would only receive a single year of pre-school.

If you wish your child to defer primary school, you should defer pre-school and this will ensure your child is prioritised as a target age child for admission to pre-school in September 2023.

Can my child start pre-school in September 2022 to see how they manage and then defer?

Pre-school is non-compulsory. However, if your child starts pre-school and then withdraws they will not be treated as a target age child when applying for pre-school for September 2023.

 
Such an approach is likely to be very disruptive for your child and may result in them not receiving a year of funded pre-school before starting primary school. 

If I defer pre-school in September 2022, can my child still start primary school in September 2023?

Yes, pre-school is non-compulsory and attendance at primary school is not dependent on going to pre-school first.

However, there are many educational benefits for your child if they attend pre-school. Pre-school education provides a rich variety of challenging play-based learning activities and other experiences in a stimulating environment and helps prepare children for primary school.

If you would like your child to start primary school in September 2023, you are strongly encouraged to continue your application for pre-school in September 2022.

What is ‘target age’ for pre-school?

If your child is born on or between 2 July 2018 and 1 July 2019 they are considered in their final pre-school year (Target Age) for the school year September 2022 to June 2023.

Due to the recent change in the law, children who meet the eligibility criteria for deferral and are withdrawn from the pre-school admissions for September 2022, will be treated as target age children for admission to pre-school for the school year September 2023 to June 2024 if a parent/guardian chooses to defer.

Am I entitled to two years of government funded pre-school for my child?

No, the government aims to provide one year of funded pre-school education for every child whose parents want it. If your child attends pre-school in the 2022/23, you can apply for a second year of pre-school for the 2023/24 school year. However, they will not be prioritised as a target age child for admission to pre-school in September 2023.

My child is currently under Statutory Assessment – can I defer Pre-School?

If your child is known to Special Education and going through the Statutory Assessment process the option to defer your child from pre-school would also be available to you to consider if you so wish. A statutory assessment may not necessarily lead to a statement of special educational needs so normal admissions processes apply.

If your child however receives a Statement of Special Educational Needs (SEN 3), staff from your local Special Education Office will be in contact with you about your child’s placement.  If you require any further information contact numbers for Special Education can be found on the EA website here or by calling the SEN Helpdesk on 028 9598 5960 (available Monday - Friday 9am–5pm).

How do I defer?

The Application Form to apply for deferral is available on the EA Website Deferring School Starting Age.   You should also complete this form if you have not yet submitted an application for Pre-school for September 2022 and wish to defer your child from starting Pre-school in September 2022.  A paper application form is also available on request from the Education Authority Pre-school Admissions Office preschooladmissions@eani.org.uk

If you have not yet submitted an application for Pre-school (Target Age) for September 2022 - it is not compulsory to send your child to pre-school.  

If I decide to defer my child from starting pre-school (Target Age), can I apply for a pre-school place for them as a penultimate pre-school aged child for September 2022?

Yes, you can submit an application for a nursery school or nursery unit in Stage 2 of the pre-school admissions procedure when it commences on 28 April 2022, you cannot apply to a playgroup.  If you submit a penultimate application it will be treated as a late application in line with the admissions timetable.  You should be aware that your child will not be prioritised for a funded pre-school place in that penultimate pre-school year.  A list of pre-school providers with funded places available and information on how to apply will be published on 28 April 2022 when Stage 2 commences.   The government aims to provide one year of funded pre-school education for every child whose parents want it.

Who can I contact if I have a query?

ADMISSIONS HELPDESK – 028 9598 5595             

EMAIL: preschooladmissions@eani.org.uk OR primaryadmissions@eani.org.uk

Information and guidance is also available on the Department of Education website Deferral Leaflet & Guidance

Pre-School FAQs

Last updated: 29/04/2022