Children normally start full-time school at the beginning of the autumn term after they are 4 (this means they would join the reception class at the beginning of the 2021 autumn term, when they had their fourth birthday on or between 1 September 2020 and 31 August 2021).
Parents can defer the date their child is admitted to the school until later in the school year, but not beyond the point at which they reach compulsory school age and not beyond the beginning of the final term of the school year for which the application was made. Parents can also take up a part-time place until later in the school year but not beyond the point at which they reach compulsory school age.
A child reaches compulsory school age on the prescribed day following their fifth birthday (or on their fifth birthday if it falls on a prescribed day). The prescribed days are 31 December, 31 March and 31 August.
Therefore, if you are offered a reception class place at a school, you can opt to defer your child’s start date, but they must start full-time school following their fifth birthday by the dates given below:
- children born on or between 1 September and the end of December must start full time school by the beginning of the spring term in January
- children born from 1 January to the end of March must start full time school on 1 April
- children born from 1 April to the end of August must start school at the beginning of the autumn term in September
This means that children with a birthday on or between 1 April and 31 August whose parents do not want them to start school until the September (beginning of the autumn term) following their fifth birthday will be a year 1 pupil when they join, and therefore their parents would need to apply for a year 1 school place for the September following their child’s fifth birthday, by making an in-year application online.