School starting age

Most children start reception full-time in September after their fourth birthday.

For example, if your child turns 4 in June, they’ll usually start school in September that same year.

If you want your child to start later

If you do not think your child is ready to start school in September, they can start later. For example, if your child only turns 4 in August, you might decide to wait before sending them to school. But they must be in full-time education by the time they reach ‘compulsory school age’.

They can start:

  • part time
  • part-way through the year
  • in the next school year, in the September after they turn 5

You’ll still need to apply for a school place at the same time as everyone else. You can ask for a later start when you apply.

If your child starts in the September after they turn 5

Your child will go into year 1. Contact the local council or school if you want your child to start in reception instead. They do not have to agree.

Compulsory school age

Your child must start full-time education once they reach compulsory school age. This is on 31 December, 31 March or 31 August following their fifth birthday - whichever comes first. If your child’s fifth birthday is on one of those dates then they reach compulsory school age on that date.

For example, if your child reaches compulsory school age on 31 March, they must start full-time education at the beginning of the next term (summer term that year).

Children must stay in full-time education until they reach school leaving age.

All 3 to 4-year-olds in England are entitled to free early education before they start school full time.

  1. Step 1 Find out if you can get help with childcare costs

  2. and Find where you can get childcare

  3. Step 2 Get help paying for childcare

    You can get help with childcare costs for children under 18. You might be able to apply for:

    You could also get free hours childcare when your child is aged 2 to 4. You might be able to apply for:

    You can only get childcare vouchers if you have already joined a scheme.

    1. Check the rules for childcare vouchers
  4. Step 3 Check what to do if your circumstances change

    Tell government straight away if your circumstances change and you're getting:

    If you're getting free childcare if you're working or Tax-Free Childcare you have to confirm if your details are up to date every 3 months.

    1. Sign into your childcare account to find out when you next have to check your details

    Your eligibility for support with childcare costs might also change.

    1. Check if your eligibility for help with childcare costs has changed
  5. Step 4 Check what to do when your child reaches school age

    1. Apply for a primary school place
    2. Find before and after school and holiday clubs

    You might be able to use help like tax credits or Tax-Free Childcare to pay for childcare like wraparound care, after school clubs or other activities.