The school year starts in August, with any single school year group usually consisting of children born between the beginning of March in one year and the end of February the following year.
Children who are not yet 5 years old on the day that the school year begins, can be 'deferred'. This means that their start date at primary school is delayed until the following August.
It is usual for children to remain at nursery for an additional year.
Who can defer?
If your child is 5 before the start of the school session in August, they must start Primary 1.
Only in the most exceptional circumstances would consideration be given to delaying entry to primary school of a child whose birthday falls between March 1st and the first day of term in August, that is, children who have reached 'school commencement age'.
If your child is 4 years old on the day they would usually start primary 1, you can opt to delay (or defer) when they start primary school. This means, that this option applies to children whose 5th birthday falls between the day after the school starts in August and the last day of February the following year.
When do I need to decide?
You need to let us know no later than 28 February if you decide to delay your child's entry to primary school.
This allows your child's nursery place to be allocated as part of the nursery admissions process.
Notifications received after 28 February will not be considered until the nursery allocations process is complete, usually in May. This could mean that your child may not be allocated a place at the nursery of your choice, if they are staying at nursery for an additional year.
Choosing to defer
While the decision to delay your child's entry to primary school is ultimately for parents, it is widely accepted that the best decisions are reached by the involvement of those who know your child as a learner, including nursery and school staff.
It is important that you begin the process of consideration well ahead of the deadline date (end of February) for notification of your decision.
Every child is different, even those of the same chronological age. Prior to making your decision it is important to give consideration to a range of factors, including:
- How your child feels about starting school.
- Your child's strengths as a learner.
- The particular outcome that would be achieved for your child by additional year at nursery.
- Who can help inform your decision-making.
We have also produced commonly asked questions to support your decision-making.
What happens after I ask for my child to be deffered?
Your notification is dealt with jointly by the Forward Planning Team and the Early Learning and Childcare Admissions Team.
You will receive an email advising your delayed entry notification has been processed, and provided it is received by the last day in February, you will receive confirmation of your child's nursery place by the end of April.
A decision-making guide for parents/carers
Listed below are commonly asked questions by parents who are considering delaying their child's start to primary school.
The responses aim to provide additional information to support decision-making.
How do I know my child is ready for school? I am concerned they may not cope.
Primary 1 classes are very well equipped to meet a wide range of needs and no longer require children to have certain skills to start school. Children have access to developmentally appropriate learning experiences planned to their needs both academically and emotionally.
It is important to avoid focusing on what your child is not yet able to do, especially in relation to reading and writing. Young children have a well-developed ability to learn new skills when supported by skilled practitioners. There is no expectation, for example, children will be able to independently read and write certain words.
Primary teachers work closely with early learning and childcare staff to ensure that information about your child's learning and achievements are passed on.
Staff will also share other information that will help the teacher support your child's learning, for example friendship groups, preferred ways of working.
What is the difference between nursery and primary 1?
The Early Level of Curriculum for Excellence ensures that there is continuity and progression of experiences and outcomes from nursery to primary 1. Children's experiences in primary 1 are more aligned to those in nursery. Experiences are active and support how best young children learn and develop.
What happens if the staff at my child's nursery disagree with my decision to defer?
Whilst it is important that decisions are taken jointly by parents and professionals, ultimately, the final decision to defer rests with parents as this is a parental choice.
Do I still need to register my child for primary 1?
You either choose to defer or register your child for primary school. You do not need to do both.
You do, however, need to register your child for primary school for the year after their deferred year.
What can I do to support my child's transition from nursery to primary school?
To help support your child to make the most positive start you can:
- Listen and talk to your child about this change. Use positive language and encourage them to feel excited and ready for the next stage.
- Involve your child in getting ready for school by helping choose the things they will need, for example their uniform, lunchbox, schoolbag.
- Support school staff in getting to know your child, let them know about interests and health issues.
- Keep in touch with the school about anything that may affect your child's learning.
- Find out how the school will communicate with you.
- Talk to your school if you have questions or concerns.
Parenting across Scotland has further information to support your child starting school.
What if my child has additional support needs?
Children with additional support needs are supported throughout all stages of their education particularly at points of transition. With effective communication and teamwork, children's strengths and development needs are planned for and put in place for when children begin Primary 1.
Are there advantages to delaying my child's entry into Primary 1?
Despite a vast range of support and developmentally appropriate learning experiences with Primary 1 classes, some children can benefit from an additional, carefully planned year at nursery. This is individual to each child.
Will there by implications for my child later on if they are deferred?
It is important to consider your child's whole school career when making the decision to defer. In Scotland, young people can leave secondary school at 16. Children who are deferred will be the eldest in their cohort and this is worth reflecting upon when making your decision.
Should I discuss delaying my child's entry into Primary 1 with nursery staff?
This is highly recommended. Staff in early learning and childcare settings will be able to discuss deferring starting Primary 1 and offer information about transition. They will be able to alleviate any concerns you may have and give further information about Primary 1.
What if I change my mind?
If you change your mind before your child takes up their deferred placement, every effort will be made to provide a primary school place at your child's catchment school.
Once children are deferred and begin their deferred year, the decision is unable to be reversed at any point in the your child's education.