Orkney Islands Council
Working together for a better Orkney

Deferring Entry to Primary One and Requesting an Additional Year of Early Learning and Childcare

In Scotland, there is one intake to Primary School in August of each year. Children born between the beginning of March and the end of the following February are able to start primary school in the August when they will be between 4.5 and 5.5 years old.

Children born between March and August start school in the August after they become five. If your child has a September to February birthday, you have the option of deferring their entry to school until the following August when they will be five.

Some parents/carers therefore, have a choice of when their child starts primary school. Taking the choice to delay starting school for a year is known as deferred entry. This choice takes place when your child will be starting Primary One, not when they are going into their second year of early learning and childcare.

Automatic Deferral

If your child’s birthday is in January or February, they will have the right to start school. They will also have the right to defer entry to Primary One and we will provide a free early learning and childcare place for an additional year. If you wish your child to have an automatic deferral, please speak to your child’s nursery staff who will organise this for you.

Discretionary Deferral

If your child’s birthday is from September to December they will have the right to start school. They will also have the right defer entry to Primary One and parents may then decide to explore the possibility of an additional year of early learning and childcare for their child. The local authority has the discretion to provide up to 600 hours of early learning and childcare where:

  • There is agreement between parents and the nursery attended by the child that this is in the best interests of the child’s developmental needs/wellbeing.
  • There is sufficient capacity in the setting within existing staffing arrangements.
  • And, there are no additional costs incurred to the local authority.

At times there may be special circumstances for deferred entry to school and the request for additional early learning and childcare, for example, for children with additional support needs following a wellbeing assessment. In this case, the local authority would provide a funded place.

Parents make a request for a discretionary deferred place in March before their child would be due to start school. The allocation of a free place is not automatic and is at the discretion of the local authority.

Discretionary Deferral: What to do Next?

Parents/carers who have any concerns about whether or not they wish their child to take up a place in Primary One the following August should discuss this with the nursery staff or with the head teacher/manager. Things to consider include your child’s:

  • Approach and attitude to learning.
  • Ability to communicate their needs, feelings and ideas.
  • Levels of independence and self help skills.
  • Emotional and personal development, including confidence and self-esteem.
  • Relationships and friendships with other children and adults.

If after on-going discussions with the nursery staff, you wish to make request for an additional year of early learning and childcare, you should complete the “Request for Discretionary Deferred Entry” form. A copy of this form is available in PDF format from the 'Related Downloads' section of this page.

Your child’s school/setting will also have this form and nursery staff can support you to fill it in if you wish.

Return the form to your child’s nursery. They will let you know if they have any places by early May.

Decisions About Spaces

The allocation of a free early learning and childcare place for a discretionary deferral is not automatic and is at the discretion of the local authority. We will try to provide a free early learning and childcare place where there is agreement between parents/carers and the nursery staff that this is in the best interests of your child, and where there is a space at the nursery setting. If there are not enough spaces in your local nursery, every effort will be made to accommodate your request in another nursery setting. Alternatively, you may be offered fewer sessions in your local setting if these are available.

If you are not able to have an early learning and childcare place, your child still has the right to defer entry to primary school and enrol the following year.

If you have any questions about this process, please talk to your local school or setting, or alternatively, contact Early Learning and Childcare.