Does your school support deferred entry to school?

Scotland is an outlier regarding starting school age, with only 12% of the nations worldwide starting school before age 6. All but two are former members of the British Empire. Uniquely Edinburgh Steiner School has long run a play-based curriculum in the Early Years, starting formal education in the August after a child’s sixth birthday.

Children born in mid August to February become eligible to begin primary school when they are 4-years-old. Parents living in Scotland have a legal right to defer their child’s P1 place until the August after their 5th birthday. Children born in January and February can automatically defer entry to P1 with another funded year of early learning and childcare, though to do so requires an application to The City of Edinburgh Council by the deadline of 28th March before the start of the new academic year they would be entering school.


Parent(s) with a child born between 15th August – 31st December have the right to give their child a further year in an early years setting also, however eligibility for another funded year of early learning and childcare (ELC) is at the discretion of Edinburgh Council, known as Discretionary Deferral, and requires the written support by the Head of the child’s nursery. For decades, specialist Steiner Kindergarten leaders have helped families with 4-year-olds whose birthdays fall between mid-August – December in this opaque application process, to give the children more time before they begin school.


The campaign Give Them Time was established in 2018 to end this ‘birthday discrimination’. Edinburgh Steiner School shares the drive to bring increased awareness to play being a child’s principal work, advocating a move away from the premature start to school. We are one of an extensive list of official supports of the campaign, which led to the milestone policy change by the Government at the beginning of 2021 to give all children whose parents decide to defer primary school attendance an extra year of free childcare from 2023. Edinburgh Council went further, pledging to honour all Defer Entry to P1 applications from August 2021.


It remains that parents need to submit an application to Defer entry to P1 (with or without ELC funding), and Edinburgh Steiner School actively raises awareness of this legal right to do so. We respect it is the choice of the parent to decide if their child is ready for formal learning.


Some children attending one of our four Kindergartens go on to begin mainstream school once they become eligible. Others remain within their mixed-aged Kindergarten group for one more year, before beginning P1 in their fifth year. Most of our Class 1 children, aged 6 or 7, transition from our Kindergarten.