The compulsory school starting age in a National School is 6 years of age and the Rules for National Schools provide that a child must be at least 4 years of age before she/he may be enrolled in a National School. The primary school curriculum is designed as an eight year course, including a two year infant cycle followed by six years in standards from first to sixth, with children progressing to the next grade at the end of each school year. Pupils commencing school for the first time should be enrolled at the commencement of the school year in order to complete the full primary school course.
I have been informed by the Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (OMCYA) that under the free Pre-School Year in Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) scheme, which started in January 2010 children will normally qualify to participate in the scheme where they are aged between 3 years 3 months and 4 years 6 months on 1 September of each year. Exceptions to the upper age limit will be allowed where children are assessed by the HSE as having special needs or it is necessary to accept children at an older age due to the enrolment policy of the local primary school. The provision of a 15 month age range for eligibility is designed to give flexibility to parents to access the scheme at the most appropriate time for their children prior to commencing school and the majority of children who participate in the scheme would be expected to commence primary school between the age of 4 years 3 months and 5 years 6 months.