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What is deferred entry to primary school and how can I apply for my child?

Youngsters starting P1 at Abernyte Primary School last August.
Youngsters starting P1 at Abernyte Primary School last August.

Starting primary school is a huge step – both for parents and their children.

And while the parting of pre-school routines can be an emotionally difficult period, parents usually feel reassured in the knowledge that their child is ‘ready’ for school.

But what if they’re not?

Depending on the child’s age, parents could be legally entitled to apply to delay sending them to school by one year.

It’s a huge decision and one we know you will not take lightly, so we’ve pulled together some information to help.

Below we explain more about deferred entry to primary school, entitlement, funding, forthcoming changes to rules around deferral, and how to apply.

What is deferred entry to primary school?

In Scotland, children usually begin P1 when they are aged between 4.5 and 5.5 years.

BUT parents of any child who will be 4-years-old on the first day they are due to start school have the legal right to defer their entry.

That means delaying their school starting date by one year, so that they will instead begin school the following academic year when they are aged 5.

P1 pupils at Dunbog Primary School, near Newburgh, Fife, in September.

If your child has already turned 5 in the months leading up to what should be their first day of school, you may still be able to defer, however that process is far trickier.

You will have to liaise with your local authority as there is no legal entitlement to deferral in this instance.

What funding is available for a deferred year?

This is where it gets complicated, and firstly it’s worth clarifying the difference between deferral entitlement and funding entitlement.

Parents’ legal entitlement to defer 4-year-olds, mentioned above, means that local authorities cannot refuse applications for deferrals.

Therefore if you want your aged 4 child to start school one year later they can – and, while schools can help guide you, that decision to defer is ultimately yours.

However parents are NOT automatically entitled to funding for an additional year of early years provisions, such as nursery placements or childcare, for these children.

From August 2023 they will be, but we’re not there yet (see here for more on this).

In preparation for these changes to funding entitlement which the Scottish Government will impose, some councils are currently piloting funding to all 4-year-olds who have deferred entry to primary school.

Those councils are:

  • Aberdeen City
  • Angus
  • Argyll and Bute
  • Clackmannanshire
  • Falkirk
  • Fife
  • Glasgow City
  • Scottish Borders
  • Shetland Islands
  • Stirling

You must apply to the local authority in which you are a resident for funding, and it will be allocated within that same area.

So if you are a resident in one of these council areas (listed above), then you will qualify for funding for an additional year of nursery of childcare for your 4-year-old in their deferred year.

If you live outwith these areas, then only children whose 5th birthday falls in January or February of their deferred year are automatically entitled to funding.

Those with birthdays from August to December will have to make an application to their local authority, who will make a decision on whether or not funding can be allocated.

Deadlines for deferral in Tayside and Fife

In Dundee, anyone wanting to defer their under five child in the year of this coming academic year of 2022-23, must submit an application to Dundee City Council by March 1.

Those living in Angus must submit an application form to Angus Council by February 25 and those in the Perth and Kinross Council area have until February 18.

In Fife, the deadline has already passed (January 31) however we have been reassured by Fife Council that applications will still be considered after this date, but parents are advised to check their nursery or childcare provider would still have space to be able to accommodate your child.

Information packs and application forms can be obtained from staff at your child’s early learning and childcare setting.

New role created to support children starting P1 at High School of Dundee

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