Delaying school entry in the rest of the UK

There is no standard School Admissions code across the whole of the UK - it varies between each nation. This section aims to explain your rights based on where you live, and will be kept up to date as changes are made.

It is important to note that if you secure a delayed entry for your child in one country but move to another country within the UK, you will not be able to carry the delay with you. You will have to re-apply for your child to delay to your new Admission Authority under the rules of the country you now live in.


Since 2010, Scottish schools have been implementing a Curriculum of Excellence, which aims to provide children with a more flexible approach to learning. It is important to remember that in a Scottish classroom, children who were born in January and February will be the youngest in the year.

As part of the Curriculum of Excellence, parents have the following options for their child:

Automatic Deferral

  • Any child born in January and February is automatically granted a deferral if their parents request it.
  • This means they will start P1 in the year they turn six, rather than five. They will not miss any school years.
  • They will be automatically granted funding for an extra year in nursery.

Research carried out in the Growing Up in Scotland (GUS) study has found almost half of all children eligible for an automatic deferral did have their school start delayed.

Discretionary Deferral

  • Children born between the first day of autumn term and 31 December can apply for a discretionary deferral.
  • This is not guaranteed.
  • Applications will need evidence from the child’s personal plan, and detail of their additional needs.
  • Additional nursery funding is not automatically granted.


The Welsh School Admissions Code came into effect in July 2013. Like the English code, it is legally binding and admission authorities must follow the guidelines it sets out.

In Wales, the rules for deferring school entry are the same as in England. For delaying the code says it is ‘not normally appropriate’ for a child to be placed in a year outside of their age group, but when parents make a request it ‘should’ be considered carefully.

Like the English guidance they say that children who are gifted and talented or who have missed part of the year because of poor health are the most likely to request a delay. It also states ‘children who have experienced problems’ should be considered but it does not go into detail about what ‘problems’ this covers.

While this gives parents some options, it is important to remember:

  • The use of ‘should’ means the government are advising authorities to consider requests carefully, but they are not obliged to.
  • There is no reference to the effects of prematurity, unlike in the proposed revised English code.
  • Welsh schools are not covered by the governmental Guidance for Summer Borns 2013.

It is not impossible to delay your child’s school entry in Wales, but there is less legislative support for parents than in England.

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 Twins Trust, 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.

Sign up to our online campaign network

Support our work....
Sign up today

The information on this page is more than two years old