Attending school

As a parent, you are legally responsible for making sure that your child is educated. This usually means going to school, although some parents choose to educate their child at home.

This Scottish Government parent guide to school attendance includes information on:

  • what to do if you child is ill and will be off school
  • holidays during term-time; and
  • truancy.

When will my child start school?​​

Generally, children in Scotland start school when they are aged between 4½ and 5½ years old. When they are eligible to start school depends on when their fifth birthday is:

  • If your child’s birthday is on or between 1 March-31 August, your child will usually start school at the beginning of the Autumn term in the August the year they turn 5.
  • If your child’s birthday is on or between 1 September-last day in February, your child will usually start school at the beginning of Autumn term in the  August before they turn 5.

Deferred Entry to School

If your child is still 4 years old on the date they are due to start primary school, you can choose to delay your child's entry to primary school by a year. Children who have deferred entry to primary school are now entitled to an additional year of funded early learning and childcare (ELC).

Choosing to delay your child’s entry to school is a big decision. You will want to think carefully about what is in your child’s best interests. The Scottish Government’s website provides information about things you may want to consider before you decide.

Look at your local authority’s website to find out more about how to apply for deferred entry and an additional year of funded ELC in your local area. Some local authorities have a cut-off date for applications.

Your child’s ELC setting and the primary school they will attend, can also provide helpful information. 

At what age will my child leave school?

In Scotland, if your child's 16th birthday falls on or between 1 March and 30 September, they can leave school in the May of that year. If their birthday falls between October and February, they can leave at the start of the winter holidays.

Useful documents and websites

PDF file: School education in Scotland - A guide for refugees (271 KB) -  Information about the school system in Scotland, including when children start and finish school and what children study.

The Scottish Government, Local Authorities and schools are working hard to ensure that moving to Scotland has a positive effect on the educational outcomes of children from Armed Forces families. The Forces Children's Education website has been created in order to bring all these efforts together and put the resources that parents and the education professionals who support their children need, together in one place.