Pre-school education places
The Pre-School Education Programme funds education for children in the year before they start primary school. Pre-school education is available to every child but it's not essential. If you want your child to have pre-school education, you need to apply for a place.
Children eligible for pre-school education places
Children born between 2 July 2019 and 1 July 2020 (target age) are eligible to apply for a funded pre-school education place starting in September 2023.
Deferral for younger children
A new law will allow the parents or guardians of younger children in the year group to defer the start of pre-school and in turn primary school for their child by one year. All parents who have applied for a funded pre-school or primary school place for September 2023 will be contacted with more information about this change.
You can find more information about this at: Deferral of Pre-School or Primary school places
When and how to apply for a pre-school education place
The pre-school online portal closed at 12 noon on 27 January 2023.
The online application procedure for pre-school admissions is available on the Education Authority website.
All applications submitted on or before 12.00 noon on 27 January 2023 were treated as ‘punctual’. Places are not awarded on a first-come-first-served basis.
For further information on the application procedure go to the Education Authority website
Where pre-school education places are provided
Funded pre-school education places are provided in:
- nursery schools
- primary schools with nursery units
- voluntary and private pre-school education settings with government-funded places
All pre-school education settings follow the same Curricular Guidance for Pre-school Education. Read the guidance at the link below.
The Education and Training Inspectorate inspects every pre-school setting.
Funded pre-school education places
All pre-school places available under the Pre-School Education Programme are funded by the government. Parents don't pay for these places.
Admissions criteria for pre-school settings
You should check the admissions criteria for each pre-school education setting that you are considering for your child. In your child’s application, it’s important to show how your child meets the admissions criteria for each pre-school setting.
The admissions criteria for all pre-school settings can be found at:
When will I know the outcome of my pre-school application
Visit the Education Authority website to find out more information.
More information about pre-school places
If you need more information about applying for a pre-school education place, contact: