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Moving your children to primary school

Information

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 Irish school year for primary school children stretches from 1 September to 30 June approximately. 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.

The school-going age in Ireland

Your child will not be obliged to attend school before the age of 6. However, it is common for Irish children to attend school at 4 or 5. As a result, the youngest classes in the primary school system incorporate much of what would be considered "pre-schooling" in other countries.

You also have a constitutional right to educate your child at home. However, this is not common practice.

The types of schools available

The Irish 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 in Ireland on the Department of Education and Skills website.

Religion in Irish schools

Most Irish 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 will 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:

  • The "full and harmonious" development of the child, with allowances made for individual difference.
  • The central importance of activity and guided-discovery learning and teaching methods.
  • Teaching and learning through an integrated curriculum and through activities related to the child's environment.

In recent years, a pilot project has introduced the teaching of modern European languages to 5th and 6th class students in a number of schools around the country.

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.

Rates

Children in Ireland 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.

Page updated: 10 September 2013

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  • Starting school
    Find out what is involved when starting school at primary level.

Contact Us

If you have a question relating to this topic you can contact the Citizens Information Phone Service on 0761 07 4000 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm) or you can visit your local Citizens Information Centre.