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At what age do children start school?

The information below will help you decide when your child should start school.

Primary school age provision in South Gloucestershire includes schools and academies. Academies are independent schools within the state sector. In this booklet, the word ‘schools’ includes both schools and academies unless a different procedure applies.

Children aged four

So that children can benefit from three full years of infant education, children are normally admitted to South Gloucestershire schools in the September following their fourth birthday. If your child was born between 1 September 2013 and 31 August 2014, he/she is able to start school in September 2018 and will join the reception class at the age of four.

Children aged five

Legally, children do not have to be in full time education until the term following their fifth birthday. This is the compulsory school age.  Parents/carers can request that the date their child is admitted to school is deferred until later in the school year or until the child reaches age five in that school year.

Deferred admission

Parents/carers can request that their child attends part-time until they reach compulsory school age, or that the date their child is admitted to school is deferred until later in the same academic year. Parents/carers should indicate at the time of accepting a place that they wish to defer their child’s admission until later in the school year. Deferral dates are set out as follows:

Child’s fifth birthday Can defer until If I defer which class will my child join?
1 September – 31 December January Reception class
1 January – 31 March April Reception class

Parents/carers are advised to consider carefully the implications of deferring their child’s start date to school. Some parents/carers consider that it is better for their child to start school at the same time as other children in their age group, i.e. from the beginning of the academic year (September) to help their child settle and adjust to school life.

Delayed admission

Parents/carers may request that their child is admitted outside of their normal age group. It is the responsibility of the admission authority of the school to make the decision on the basis of the circumstances of each case. Factors considered by an admission authority when considering admission outside the normal age group include:

  • the needs of the child and the possible impact on them of entering Year 1 without having first attended the reception class
  • in the case of children born prematurely, the fact that they may have naturally fallen into the lower age group if they had been born on their expected date of birth
  • whether delayed social, emotional or physical development is adversely affecting their readiness for school

Parents/carers should think very carefully about the implications of admitting their child outside the normal age group and ensure that joining a lower year group is in the best interests of the child.

Note: The local authority is the admission authority for community and voluntary controlled schools. The governing body is the admission authority for foundation and voluntary aided schools, and the academy trust is the admission authority for academies and free schools.

Admission to summer born children/delaying when your child starts primary school

Parents/carers may request for their child to be held back a school year (to start school in the September after their fifth birthday) if the following both apply:

  • they were born in the summer (1 April to 31 August)
  • you don’t think they’re ready to start in the September after they turn four

To request a delayed admission, parents/carers must apply for a place during the standard application process timeline for their child’s chronological age group, stating their reasons for requesting deferred entry to the following year. This can be done by contacting the Admissions and Transport Team.  It is for own admission authority schools to make the final decision, i.e. academies and voluntary aided schools. In respect of community and controlled schools, the local authority will make a decision in consultation with the head teacher.

Details of the council’s policy on summer born children can be found on the council’s website under school admissions/downloads/Early Late Policy August 2014.

Starting junior school

In South Gloucestershire there are a number of infant schools ‘paired’ to junior schools. If your child attends an infant school, they will leave at the end of Year 2 and, in paired infant and junior schools, they will transfer automatically between the two schools, if this is the parents’/carers’ wish.

Listed below are the paired infant and junior schools:

Infant School Paired Junior School
Broadway Infant The Ridge Junior
Bromley Heath Infant Bromley Heath Junior
Christ Church CE VC Infant Christ Church CE VC Junior
Crossways Infant * Crossways Junior *
Raysfield Infant ** Raysfield Junior **
St Stephen’s Infant St Stephen’s Junior
Samuel White’s Infant *** Hanham Abbots Junior ***

* These schools form the Crossways Schools Federation (see glossary of terms for details)
** These schools form the Raysfield Federation (see glossary of terms for details)
*** These schools form the Hanham Primary Federation (see glossary of terms for details)

Parents/carers have the right to express a preference for a junior or primary school other than the ‘paired’ school. If a place at the parents’/carers’ preferred school is not available then they have the right of appeal to an independent appeal panel.

If you are considering a non-paired junior or primary school for your child(ren) you will need to apply for a place for the September that they will start in Year 3. Applications can be made through the in-year application process, details of which are set out in the “In-year admissions” and “Admissions in other circumstances” sections.

Early education/childcare

In the term following their third birthday all children are entitled to 15 hours of funded early education per week. Places are available in any setting registered to receive the Nursery Education Grant. Settings include pre-schools, day nurseries and childminders all of which are subject to regular inspection by Ofsted. Further information on all aspects of early education/childcare including accessing the Nursery Education Grant, nursery groups, childminders and parent & toddler groups is available from

Free nursery places for two year olds

Children from lower income households are entitled to 15 hours of funded early education per week in the term following their second birthday. Eligibility for this entitlement is decided using criteria based on family income/benefit entitlement, high level special educational needs and to those who are looked after by the local authority or who have previously been in care. Please refer to the council’s website at the following link for further information

Extension of early education/childcare hours

From September 2017 families with a 3 or 4 year old who attend a South Gloucestershire childcare provider could receive an additional 15 hours of free childcare per week. This will be in addition to the current entitlement of 15 hours free childcare per week, which all 3 and 4 year olds are entitled to:

  • Current government criteria for 15 hours: All 3 and 4 year olds are entitled to 15 hours of free childcare per week (38 weeks).
  • New government criteria for + 15 hours: The additional 15 hours of free childcare (16-30 hours) will be available for families where both parents are working (or the sole parent is working in a lone parent family), and each parent earns the equivalent of 16 hours a week at the national minimum or living wage.
  • each parent (or lone parent) individually earns less than £100,000 a year

More detailed information for parents, childcare providers and employers can be found on the council’s website

Attendance at a nursery class or co-located children’s centre

Where a child attends a nursery class or children’s centre located on a school site, parents/carers will still need to apply for a school place. Attendance at a particular nursery class or children’s centre does not guarantee a place at a particular infant or primary school or give a child any higher priority for a place. A separate application must be made for transfer from nursery provision to primary school.