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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 after 1 March start school in the August after they become five. If your child is not five at the start of the autumn term, you have the option of delaying their entry to school until the following year.

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 has an autumn birthday and is not five at the start of the school year, they have the right to start school. They also have the right to defer entry to Primary One and parents may decide to explore the possibility of an additional year of early learning and childcare for their child. From August 2023, a change in legislation means that all eligible children who defer will automatically be able to access funded early learning and childcare. 

However, until August 2023 there is no statutory right to an additional year of early learning and childcare. The local authority has the discretion to provide early learning and childcare where:

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 developmental or 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 their child’s keyworker or with the head teacher or early learning and childcare manager.

If after ongoing 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 and return it to us by email.

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

We aim to let you know if you child is able to have a place 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 able to take 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 us by email.

School Place, Kirkwall, Orkney, KW15 1NY

Telephone: 01856 873535

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Orkney Islands Council: BOREAS DOMUS MARE AMICUS