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Northern Ireland

It is compulsory in Northern Ireland for children to start school in the September following their fourth birthday. The Education Minister, John O’Dowd, has said that there will be no change in the compulsory school age but that they will consider a policy which allows deferral for one year (this is called ‘delay’ in England).

At the end of 2014, the Northern Ireland Executive released a consultation on allowing deferral for children in exceptional circumstances. Unlike the English and Scottish processes, it is not based solely on the youngest in year – so any parent would be able to apply regardless of whether their child was born in the youngest few months or not.

The consultation will allow the executive to define what ‘exceptional circumstances’ are, and how they will be processed.

Bliss has joined a campaigning consortium in Northern Ireland which includes other organisations such as TAMBA NI, TinyLife and Parents Out Loud. We will be responding to the consultation to make sure the needs of children who were born premature are considered and integrated as fully as possible.

We will keep this page up to date with any developments from the consultation, but if you want to make sure you never miss out on news, please sign up to our online campaign network

If you would like more advice, or are concerned about your child’s school start, please call our Bliss Helpline.


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