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 school for your child see our Pre-School Admissions Guide and Primary Admissions Guide.

Admissions FAQs

Can I still apply for this current school year which ends in June 2021 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

You can only make one application for your child. Otherwise you will have made a false declaration.  In the event that parents are discovered to have lodged more than one application for a child, then the first application lodged will normally be treated as the formal expression of parental preference and all other applications will not be considered.

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

In cases where parents cannot agree on the preferences for their child they should endeavor to do so as soon as possible to minimise the risk of their child being unplaced.  If mutual agreement is not possible ultimately you may need to obtain a Specific Issues Order from the court.  If you require further advice you should contact the Education Authority.

Can I defer my child starting Primary One?

There is no legislative provision for deferring the normal age of starting primary school and as your child is compulsory school age then he/she is due to attend primary 1 unless he/she has a statement of special educational needs that says the child should remain in a pre-school setting.

Should you feel that your child is not ready to attend primary one you should read the information available in the document School Starting Age: A Guide for Parents which is available on the Education Authority website.

Pre-school FAQs

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 the Early Years Organisation or Family Support NI for further advice 

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.

Target Pre-School Age:-  If your child is born on or between 2 July 2017 and 1 July 2018 they will be in their final pre-school year (Target Age) and you will be eligible to apply for a funded place for your child in either:-

  • a Nursery School; or
  • a Nursery Unit in a Primary School; or
  • a Voluntary/Private playgroup provider.

Penultimate (Underage):- If funded places are still available after target age children are admitted then underage (penultimate) children born on or between 2 July 2018 and 1 July 2019 may also be admitted.  If your child falls within this age group you will be eligible to apply to:-

  • only a Nursery School or a Nursery Unit.

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.

Can my child do another year in funded Pre-School instead of starting school?

No. A child over compulsory school age is not entitled to a funded pre-school education place.

Our information leaflet entitled ‘School Starting Age – A Guide for Parents' includes information on the legislation that determines compulsory school age, making your own arrangements to educate your child of compulsory age and advice on what to do if you have concerns about your child settling into primary school.

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.

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.  To find out how this can be done visit

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.

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 2016 and 1 July 2017 they will be due to start primary one in September 2021 and as they will be of compulsory school age you must apply for a place in a primary school. 


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. 

Last updated: 05/01/2021