Deferring entry - guidance

Guidance for parent(s) and carers who feel that their child would benefit from an additional year of early learning and childcare


Curriculum for Excellence

Curriculum for Excellence aims to raise standards and prepare children and young people for their future. The curriculum begins in early learning and childcare and continues to the end of S3 when learners move to the senior phase. Its purpose is to develop the knowledge, skills, attributes and capabilities of the four capacities of Curriculum for Excellence:

  • Successful learners
  • Confident individuals
  • Responsible citizens
  • Effective contributors


It is designed to provide the depth and breadth of education to develop flexible and adaptable young people with the knowledge and skills they will need to thrive now and in the future. Early learning and childcare and primary one (P1) are presented together as Early Level where learning approaches build on the knowledge, skills, attributes and capabilities explored in early learning and childcare. The continuous focus on literacy, numeracy and health and wellbeing underpins a clear, shared understanding of progression and high quality learning and teaching in order to meet the needs of all.


When should my child start primary school?

Traditionally in Scotland almost all children aged between 4 ½ and 5 enrol in primary school in August, at the start of the autumn term. You should make an enrolment application for the catchment primary s chool in the November before he/she is due to start school.


Children who have not had their 5th birthday by the time school starts in August, are entitled to another year of funded early learning and childcare. For session 2023/24 this is available to children who turn 5 years of age between 17 August 2023 and 29 February 2024.

This does not mean that all parents with children in this age group will choose to take up this option. The parent, the school and the local authority collectively have the responsibility to arrive at the decision, which is in the best interest of the child.


How should I decide if my child is ready to start primary school?

By the time children reach the age of 4 or 5 years old, there are already differences in each child’s development, learning and levels of independence.  All P1 classes will have a spread of age ranges, abilities and needs.  

If you have concerns about whether your child should take up a place in P1 you should discuss this with the head teacher/manager of the early learning and childcare setting(s) your child attends as soon as possible.  This enables focussed discussions to be planned and appropriate evidence to be collated.


What else should I consider?

Some questions that should be explored when there are concerns about school entry are:

  • What are the current barriers for your child moving into P1?
  • What strategies are currently being used and what is the impact on the child?
  • Has the future primary school been involved in this discussion?
  • What could be put in place in P1 to ensure your child’s needs can be met?
  • What evidence supports the suggestion that your child’s needs cannot be met in P1?
  • Are there any exceptional circumstances which would suggest another year in nursery would meet the needs of your child?
  • Have the possible long term consequences of delaying school entry been fully explained to you e.g. school leaving age, long term impact of child being older than peers?


How do I apply for an additional year in Early Learning and Childcare?

Staff in your Early Learning and Childcare setting will be able to explain the process and will support you to make an informed decision and discuss any concerns.

Once you have discussed this with the head teacher/manager of the Early Learning and Childcare setting(s) your child attends. 

Please complete the application form


My child does not go to nursery. What should I do?

Where a child has not attended an Early Learning and Childcare setting, and you are concerned about a child’s readiness for school, please email for advice before Friday 10 February 2023


When will I be notified of the decision?

Applications received by Friday 10 February 2023 will receive confirmation of their request to defer by email in March.  Applications submitted after the closing date will not receive confirmation until after the Easter school break.