Northern Ireland news

Consultation launched on deferral of school starting age

Proposed changes would allow flexibility for younger children born between April 1 and July 1 to defer starting primary school for one year

A CONSULTATION has been launched on the deferral of the school starting age.

Proposed changes would allow flexibility for younger children born between April 1 and July 1 to defer starting primary school for one year.

Northern Ireland's starting age for pupils is currently the lowest in Europe with most children beginning in the September of the school year after their fourth birthday.

The Department of Education is consulting on proposals to introduce a new policy and changes to the law to allow flexibility for the youngest children in the year group.

Most children will continue to start primary school at the usual time, however, flexibility would allow the youngest children to defer starting pre-school and then primary school for one year.

These children would then start pre-school in the September following their fourth birthday and in primary school in September following their fifth birthday.

Flexibility would be available on parental request and would not involve an educational assessment.

Education Minister Michelle McIlveen said she was "fully committed to introducing greater flexibility in school starting age and I understand that this is a genuine concern for parents of children born later in the academic year".

"The vast majority of children regardless of their age within their class thrive at primary school," she said.

"However, some parents feel that starting school shortly after their fourth birthday is not right for their very young child.

"They have concerns around issues such as social skills, emotional readiness, the longer school day and independence in personal care."

The consultation runs until January 4 2022.

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