Deferred entry

Deferred entry to school means that children start primary school one year later than the typical start date.

Deadline 31 January 2024


Request for deferred entry to Primary 1 should be submitted by the 31 January 2024.

Deferred entry to school

Deferred entry to school means that your child can spend an additional year at nursery or with a childminder.

Parents and carers have the legal right to defer their child’s entry to primary school if they are not yet 5 years old at the beginning of the start of term in August.

When do children usually start school in Scotland?

Generally, children in Scotland start school when they are aged between 41/and 51/2. Their eligibility to start school depends on when their 5th birthday falls:

  • If your child’s 5th birthday is on or between 1 March and the day before the first day of school in August, your child will usually start school in the August of the year they turn 5. Applications for deferred entry for children within these birthdates will only be accepted when a recommendation is made by the Team around the Child (TAC). These applications will be considered by the Girfec Resource Group (GRG) before a decision is made.

  • If your child’s 5th birthday falls between the first day of school in August up until the last day in February, your child will usually start school in August before they turn 5, however, you have the option to defer your child’s entry to school.

If I choose to defer my child, what do I need to do?

If your child is eligible, and you would like to register for a deferred entry place, we need you to do three things:

  1. You should still enrol your child in your catchment primary school. This allows a place to be held in school should you choose to change your mind.

  2. Please inform your current early learning and childcare (ELC) provider that you intend for your child to defer entry into primary school. Please let them know if you are choosing to stay with your current provider, or are moving to a different provider.

  3. Complete the online deferred entry form to let us know you are choosing to defer your child's start at primary school.

My child is with a Stirling ELC provider but I don’t live in Stirling

If your child’s 5th birthday falls between the first day of term in August and the last day of February, please complete the online deferred entry form which will let your Stirling ELC provider know you have applied to defer your child’s entry to school. You should also inform the local authority in which you live of your intention to defer your child’s entry to primary school. If your child’s 5th birthday falls between 1 March and the day before the first day of the school term in August, you must apply to your own local authority for an exemption to the deferral criteria.

When do I need to decide?

All deferred entry forms should be submitted by 31 January the year your child would start school.

What if I change my mind?

You should still enrol your child at your catchment primary school. This usually happens in January of each year. This also safeguards your child’s place in Primary 1 should you change your mind.

How do I decide what's best for my child?

Choosing to defer when your child starts primary school is a big decision.

Before you make your mind up, it’s worth finding out a bit more about the primary school your child will be attending. If you’ve not visited a school recently, then you might be surprised at how much has changed since you were in Primary 1. Much of the learning in the early stages of primary school is based on play. This helps create a smooth transition for children moving from ELC into Primary 1.

Speak to the headteacher or depute headteacher about any specific concerns you might have, and if you think your child might benefit from a bit of extra support to settle in, then find out what the school can do.

Your ELC provider will also be able to give support and advice to help you reach your decision.

If you are thinking about deferring your child’s Primary 1 entry, here are some things you might want to consider:

  • If you are worried about ‘school readiness’, then please remember, it’s not the job of the child to be ‘school ready’, it’s the job of the school to be ‘child ready’.
  • What support would the school be able to offer your child if you choose not to defer?
  • What feedback has the ELC setting given you? You can ask for a discussion to get advice from the nursery, playgroup or childminder
  • If you choose to defer your child, what support and challenge will they receive from the ELC setting?
  • What deferral will mean when your child is older, for example when they are 12, or 16, and they might be one of the youngest or one of the oldest in their class.
  • What this will mean for gaining qualifications - if a child is deferred then that might mean they would be able to leave school at 16 without achieving any qualifications.
  • What this will mean for young people who choose to go on to further education - young people who do not defer entry to school will be the youngest in their year group and may not be able to participate in some of the social aspects of college or university life.

How are 4 year olds supported in Primary 1?

Schools and teachers focus on the needs of the child, not their age, whether they are in ELC or at school. Children are supported to progress through the Curriculum for Excellence at an appropriate rate. Children aged 3-5 in ELC settings and children in Primary one classrooms, usually work within the Early Level of the Curriculum for Excellence.

There has been a change in culture in schools over recent years, with a real focus on play and outdoor learning in many schools.

My child has additional support needs, should I defer?

Any deferral should be based on the individual needs of your child. There is no "one-size fits all" approach to deferral. Children with additional support needs don’t normally automatically defer. Instead, the school will consider what support to put in place for your child.

If starting school at this point isn’t in your child’s best interests because of their individual needs, then deferring entry to primary school can be considered. It’s worth chatting to your ELC provider and school about any concerns you have for your child.

Further information

Further information on deferred entry can be found here:

Further information about deferred entry can also be found on Parent Club Scotland, a Scottish Government website, which provides information for parents and carers, as their child moves through the various stages of nursery, primary school and secondary school.

For any other enquiries, please contact

Online Deferred Entry Form