The Premature Baby Charity for Northern Ireland

Flexible School Starting


Consultation on Flexible School Starting

What’s Happening?

School starting age in Northern Ireland currently depends on when a child’s 4th birthday falls. Children who turn 4 on or before 1st July start school at the beginning of September that same year. Children turning 4 on or after 2nd July start school the following year when they are 5 years old.

The Department of Education is now considering a change in the law which would mean ‘young for year’ children (born between 1st April and 1st July) could wait another year before starting primary school, if their parents/carers think that is best for them. This is called “deferring school starting age”.

What does this mean for me and my child?

This is really welcome news for all parents. Northern Ireland already has one of the earliest school starting ages in Europe. A change in the law would mean that parents of ‘young for year’ children (born between 1st April and 1st July) would have a say in whether or not you feel your child is ready for school at age 4.

We know school starting age is also a major issue for parents and carers of premature babies, multiple birth siblings, looked after children (foster/adoptive) and children with special educational needs (statemented or not).
Whatever your perspective, it’s important that you share it with the Department to inform their thinking on the changes they are planning to make.

How and when can I have my say?

Your consultation response needs to be received by the Department of Education before 5pm on 4th January 2022 but we’re encouraging parents to respond early, before things get busy over the Christmas and holiday period!

The consultation guidance and questionnaire booklet are available online. You can post or email your response or choose to complete an online questionnaire.

Who can support me to make my voice heard?

We can. Tiny Life are helping parents to respond to the Department’s consultation.

  • Our Guidance document explains what you’re being asked in the consultation and the key points we think are important to make in your response
  • Our sample response  can be tailored to your individual circumstances or perspective then just posted or emailed as your reply.
  • The Dept have pulled together an Easy Read document that can be downloaded.

We are organising three workshops for parents that will allow us to listen to your experiences and talk you through the ways to make your voice heard in the consultation, please book your place below:

  • 7 December at 7.45pm- 8:45pm – register here 
  • 8 December at 8:00- 9:00pm – register here 
  • 9 December at  09:30am – 10:30am- register here 

If you have any questions, please call on us on 02890 815050 or email