Moving your children to primary school

Introduction

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 how to have 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.

School-going age

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 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
  • 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 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.

Primary schools cannot use religion as a basis for admission and cannot prioritise students based on their religious beliefs. However,

  • A school that provides religious instruction or education in a minority religion can prioritise a student of that religion who is looking for admission to a school that provides religious instruction or education consistent with, or similar to, their religious beliefs.
  • A school that aims to promote certain religious values can refuse to admit a student who is not of that religious denomination if it can prove that the refusal is essential to maintain the ethos of the school.

The primary school curriculum

The Irish primary school curriculum is child-centred. The curriculum aims to ensure that all children are provided with learning opportunities that recognise and celebrate their uniqueness and develop their full potential.

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, so you may have to look at schools in the surrounding area. 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 if their classes are already full your child could be placed on 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 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.

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 edited: 6 July 2022