Moving your children to primary school
If you are moving to Ireland and you have a child of school-going age, you will need information about the educational choices available to you and the procedures involved in getting your child enrolled.
The dates of the school year for primary school children are not standardised but all schools are closed for July and most (or all) of August. Children attend primary school from around the age of 4 or 5 years until they are 12 or 13 years of age. The primary school cycle is 8 years long. Schools generally have 2 years of infant classes, followed by class 1 to class 6.
Your child will not be obliged to attend school before the age of 6. However, Irish children attend school at age 4 or 5. Pre-school education is available for children from the age of 3 to 5 and a half years under the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Scheme.
You also have a constitutional right to educate your child at home. However, this is not common practice.
The types of schools available
The primary education sector consists of State-funded primary schools, special schools and private primary schools. State-funded primary schools used to be known as national schools and you may still hear this term being used. State-funded schools include religious schools, multi-denominational schools and Gaelscoileanna, which are schools that teach the curriculum through the Irish language. You can find a list of State-funded primary schools on the Department of Education and Skills website.
Religion in Irish schools
Most primary schools are under the management of one denomination or another and the majority of these are Roman Catholic. There is, however, a growing choice of schools of other denominations and of multi-denominational schools.
Schools that cater for a single religion may give priority to children of that religion but they may also admit children with other religious beliefs, or none. Children do not have to attend religion classes and you may choose to withdraw your child from such classes if you wish.
Regardless of religion, all primary schools operate under similar rules. The main differences relate to the appointment of the principal of the school and the choice of teacher representatives on the Board of Management.
The primary school curriculum
The Irish primary school curriculum is child-centred. It emphasises
Certain children who come to live in Ireland may be exempted from learning Irish in school.
Choosing a school
You should, in theory, be able to send your child to the school of your choice. However, when it comes to enrolling your child, you may find that there is little or no choice in the area in which you live. Each school operates an admissions policy, which they must make available on request. It is important to ask for the admissions policy of any school in which you are interested.
State-funded primary schools tend to give priority to children living in the immediate area, but problems can arise if their classes are already full and they have a waiting list. Multi-denominational schools and Gaelscoileanna each decide their own admissions policy.
Some secondary schools give priority to students coming from particular primary schools so it may be useful to plan ahead when choosing a primary school for your child.
Children are entitled to free primary and post-primary education. The majority of primary schools are State-funded which means that you will not have to pay annual fees for your child's education.
In practice, however, schools often need to raise extra funds for additional resources such as computers, sports equipment or improved facilities. You may be asked to make a contribution or to take part in fund-raising for the school, but your participation in these activities must always be voluntary. State-funded schools cannot require you to make contributions.
If you choose to send your child to a private school, you will have to pay annual fees. These can vary considerably from school to school. Contact the school of your choice to ask for details of fees and other expenses.
How to apply
Contact the school to which you want to send your child. Ask for their admissions policy and check whether you need to register your child's name on a waiting list. You can find out more about starting primary school here.