Starting primary school

Primary school aged children with balloons and Bliss banner

In England, all children have the option to start school in September following their fourth birthday. A small number of children born prematurely may, however, encounter difficulties with starting school at this time.

Find out more about the options for parents for their children in this situation.

Some parents feel that their child, who was born premature, will benefit starting following their fifth birthday, which is the age a child legally has to be in formal education.

One reason you might want to delay your child’s school start is that because of your child’s premature birth they have now fallen into the ‘wrong’ year group.

You may also feel that your child hasn’t reached the developmental level they need to be at to be ready for school.

There is no legal barrier to children starting school a year outside of their chronological age group.

However, schools are often reluctant to allow children to start their first school year when they are five and Government Guidance on the Admission of summer born children stresses that parents ‘can’t insist’ their child is placed out of their normal year group.

Options available for children born premature and starting school

In this section we explain some of the options available to parents in this situation, outlining the advantages and disadvantages of deferring or delaying school entry.

It is intended to help you if you feel your child would benefit from starting school a little later.

Although we have listed several different possibilities, it does not mean that your child will be affected by any or all of these issues. Each child is unique and develops at their own rate.

Different processes and rules exist in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Make sure you read our nation-specific advice if you live outside of England if you want more information.

Bliss also campaigns to ensure that premature children are able to start school at a time that's right for them. Find out more on our campaigns pages.

In light of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, some information on this page may be different from normal. We would encourage you to visit our coronavirus (COVID-19) pages for the most up-to-date information.

Delaying primary school entry in England - a fact sheet for parents

If you would like more information please download our Delay fact sheet.

The information on this page is more than two years old