Applying for a Pre-School Place

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Pre-School education is available to all children in the year before they are due to start primary one. Pre-School education is not compulsory, although parents/carers may find it helps to prepare their child for starting primary school.

What is a Pre-School Place?

A pre-school place is a place in a pre-school class for your 'Pre-School' aged child (the year immediately before they are due to start primary one).

Pre-school classes can be held in settings such as Playgroups, Statutory Nursery Schools, Nursery Units/Classes within Primary Schools or pre-school places within a private or voluntary daycare setting.  

Most pre-school places are available:

  • at least two and a half hours per day
  • five days a week 
  • at least 38 weeks from September to June

Some nursery schools and classes offer full-time pre-school places which last four and a half hours per day.

What is a Funded Pre-School Place?

A funded pre-school place is a place in a pre-school setting that has no cost to the parent.

Although there is no cost for the place, some pre-school settings may charge for additional services such as snacks or lunch.

Funded pre-school places are for children who are in their pre-school year (the year immediately before they are due to start primary one).

Is Pre-School Education Compulsory?

No, you are not required to send your child to a pre-school setting. Although it is not compulsory, some parents find that the play and learning opportunities provided to their child through pre-school education greatly helps to prepare them for starting primary school. The opportunity to mix with other children can also help with the social aspect of starting school, especially if your child has never been in an early years setting before.

The Application Process

There is an application process to apply for a funded pre-school place, and each pre-school setting has set admissions criteria that you should read before applying. 

Further guidance and details of the application process are available from the pre-school setting, or online from the Education Authority: I want to apply for a pre-school place.

Sept. '19 Pre-School Places

You can now apply online for your child's pre-school or primary school place for September 2019.

Online applications open on 2nd January 2019 and close at 12 midnight on 31st January 2019.

Check the Education Authority website to apply: I want to apply for a pre-school place

Deadline for Applications

There is a strict cut-off deadline for the receipt of your pre-school application.  

Anything received after the cut-off date is classed as a late application and may greatly reduce your chances of being accepted for your choice of pre-school place.  

For information on how to submit a late application, and for an application form, contact the pre-school provider directly.  

Finding a Pre-School Setting

If you wish to view the choice of pre-school settings available in your area, you can use our childcare search to find a Playgroup and/or Statutory Nursery – there is also a filter to view those who offer funded pre-school places.

Family Support NI - Pre-School Settings

Family Support NI - Pre-School Settings with Funded Places

Some settings may also run sessions for underage children (children in their pre pre-school year). 

For further information, contact the pre-school setting directly.

Pre-School Admissions Helpdesk

If you require any further information on the Pre-School Admissions process, please contact the Education Authority's Admissions Helpdesk:

Tel: 028 9598 5595


Related Documents

EA Pre-School Key Dates for Sept 19 Admissions

Last Updated: 25/06/2019