As parents, one of the many important decisions we face is determining when our children should start their educational journey. The age at which children begin school can vary depending on several factors, including country-specific regulations and individual circumstances. In this blog post, we will explore the starting ages for children in the United Kingdom and shed light on the considerations involved in this significant milestone.

Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS):

In the UK, the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) sets the framework for education and care for children from birth to five years old. The EYFS curriculum focuses on fostering children’s development and preparing them for their primary school years. However, the formal education phase typically begins at a slightly later stage.

Reception Year:

In England, children usually start primary school in the academic year in which they turn five years old. The first year of primary school is known as the Reception year. Children in Reception follow the EYFS curriculum, which provides a play-based approach to learning and helps them transition smoothly from early years settings to formal schooling.

Flexibility in School Starting Age:

While the majority of children start school at age four or five, parents have some flexibility in deciding when their child is ready to begin formal education. This flexibility acknowledges that children develop at different rates and have diverse needs. Parents can choose to delay their child’s entry to Reception until they reach compulsory school age, which is the start of the term following their fifth birthday.

Benefits of Starting School Later:

Opting for a later school starting age can have several advantages for children. It allows them additional time for social, emotional, and physical development, enabling them to be more confident and better prepared for the challenges of school life. Starting school when they are developmentally ready can enhance their overall educational experience and promote long-term academic success.

Transition and Support:

When children begin their educational journey, whether at the typical starting age or later, schools in the UK are committed to providing a smooth transition and support for both children and parents. Schools organize induction programs, open days, and parent meetings to familiarize families with the school environment, curriculum, and policies. These efforts ensure that children feel welcomed, supported, and ready to embark on their educational adventure.

Considerations for Parents:

Determining the right time for your child to start school is a personal decision that should be based on careful consideration. Some factors to consider include your child’s individual needs, their readiness for structured learning, their social and emotional development, and their level of independence. Engaging in open and honest conversations with your child’s early years educators and seeking advice from professionals can provide valuable insights to help you make an informed decision.

Importance of Play-Based Learning:

Regardless of the starting age, it is crucial to emphasize the significance of play-based learning in a child’s early education. Play is a powerful tool for children to explore, create, problem-solve, and develop critical skills. Schools in the UK, including Reception classes, integrate play-based activities into the curriculum to foster children’s curiosity, imagination, and love for learning.

What age do children start school?

Usually, children start reception in September after their fourth birthday. However, applications can sometimes be deferred. School admission authorities are required to provide school places for all children in North Yorkshire to start school in the September following their fourth birthday. On our timelines page you can work out what you should do next based on your child’s date of birth.

What if I think my child is not yet ready to start school?

Parents offered a place in reception for their child have a right to defer the date their child is admitted, or to take the place up part-time, until the child reaches compulsory school age. Places cannot be deferred beyond the beginning of the final term of the school year for which the offer was made. Child’s fifth birthdayDate on which the child reaches compulsory school ageChild must start school Between 1st September and 31 December inclusive31 DecemberSpring termBetween 1 January and 31 March inclusive31 MarchSummer termBetween 1 April and 31 August inclusive (summer born)31 AugustAutumn term (along with new starters from the age group below)

Summer born children

Children born in the summer term (after 1 April) have the right to begin Reception in the September following their fourth birthday along with the rest of the children in their age range, but this is not obligatory. As the chart above shows, they could have a delayed entry to Reception, a full year after the point at which they could first have been admitted – the point at which other children in their age range are beginning year 1

If this is your situation, you should still submit your application for your child’s normal age group at the usual time – this is in case your request is refused. At the same time, you can submit a request for admission out of the normal age group by contacting us well in advance of the normal application deadline.

You will be told the outcome of your request for a year’s delayed entry before the primary national offer date.

  • if your request is agreed, your application for the normal age group has to be withdrawn before a place is offered – you must make a new application as part of the main admissions round the following year
  • if your request is refused, you must decide whether to:
  • accept the offer of a place for the normal age group
  • refuse it and make an in year application for admission to year one for the September following your child’s fifth birthday

Children with special educational needs

If you are a parent of a young child with SEND, you might be unsure about your child starting school when they reach statutory school age. If so there are two options you may like to explore. It might be possible to arrange for your child to have a deferred entry for less than one academic year, as with the examples for summer born children. Alternatively, you may wish to consider a deferred entry of one year for your child. This would mean that your child would enter school in the academic year that they turn 6. In this case, you need to decide whether you would like your child to stay with their chronological age group and go into year 1 or go into the Reception class. You would need to contact us and make a formal application which would need to be agreed by the local authority. If your child has an education, health and care plan, the professionals involved in writing it will help you decide on the most appropriate type of school for your child and help you to apply for the school that is best suited to your child’s needs.

Understanding Compulsory School Age

Compulsory school age refers to the minimum age at which a child is required by law to attend school. In most countries, this age ranges from 5 to 7 years old, and it may vary depending on the local laws or regulations. During this time, parents are legally obligated to ensure that their child receives an education either through attendance at a public or private school or through an approved homeschooling program. It’s important to note that while the term “compulsory school age” generally refers to a minimum age requirement, many children begin attending school before this age, often through optional preschool or pre-kindergarten programs.

Building Strong Foundations: The Importance of Primary School Education

Primary school is the first stage of formal education that children attend after pre-school or kindergarten. It typically covers grades or years one through six, and is usually attended by children between the ages of 5 and 12. During primary school, children are taught a variety of subjects including mathematics, English, science, social studies, and physical education. They also have opportunities to participate in extracurricular activities such as sports, music, art, and drama. Primary school is an important foundation for future education and personal development, helping children to develop essential academic and social skills that will serve them well throughout their lives.


The decision of when to start school is a significant milestone for parents and children alike. Understanding the starting ages in the UK, along with the flexibility provided, empowers parents to make informed choices based on their child’s unique needs and readiness. Whether your child starts school at the typical age or at a later stage, remember that every child’s educational journey is unique, and the focus should always be on creating a positive and nurturing learning environment that supports their holistic development.