Choosing a school for your child

Last updated: 12 November 2019

Every child has a right to a free place at school.

If you're a parent, you must make sure your child either goes to school or is taught at home.

Find a school

You don't decide which school your child is given a place at. It's your local council's choice.

You can request a place at another school, but whether this request is granted depends on whether there are free places.

How councils decide

Councils use 'catchment areas' to decide where your child is given a place at school.

A catchment area is an area around a single school. Any children who live in this area are given a place at the school.

Most Scottish councils publish catchment area maps on their website.

You can find out where your child will be given a place at school by looking on your local council's website:

If you want your child to go to your catchment area school

In the year before your child gets to primary or secondary school age, some councils send you a letter to confirm your child has a place at a local school. It should also ask you to confirm this place.

If you want your child to go to this school all you need to do is reply to confirm. If your child has a place at another school you should let your local council know.

Some councils might not send letters. In these councils you'll need to enrol your child at school.

If you're not sure what to do you should contact your local council to find out more:

If you want to choose another school

You have a right to request a place in a local council school outwith your catchment area.

If there's space at the school your request must be granted.

If there's no space the council doesn't need to grant your request. If this happens you'll either need to:

  • find a school with free places
  • send your child to the school in your catchment area
  • look at options for fee-paying private schools that aren't run by your local council

You also have a right to appeal if your request isn't granted.

You can ask a council about school places for your child at any time. It doesn't need to be when your child is at the age to go to primary or secondary school.

You can find out more about what schools are in your local area on the Parentzone Scotland website.

School ages

This table shows when children will usually start primary school, based on their birth dates:

Born between: Start primary school
1 March 2014 - 28 February 2015 August 2019
1 March 2015 - 29 February 2016 August 2020
1 March 2016 - 28 February 2017 August 2021
1 March 2017 - 28 February 2018 August 2022
1 March 2018 - 28 February 2019 August 2023

Or for secondary school:

Born between: Start secondary school
1 March 2007 - 29 February 2008 August 2019
1 March 2008 - 28 February 2009 August 2020
1 March 2009 - 28 February 2010 August 2021
1 March 2010 - 28 February 2011 August 2022
1 March 2011 - 29 February 2012 August 2023

Deferring primary school

If your child is still 4 years old on the date they are due to start primary school, you can defer your child's entry to primary school by a year.

If your child is deferring entry to school for a year, you can:

  • automatically get an extra year of early learning and childcare funding if their 5th birthday is in January or February
  • apply to your local council and request an extra year of early learning and childcare funding if their 5th birthday is after the beginning of the autumn term, in August, and before 1 January - your local council will decide if your child will get an extra year of funding

Even if your child is not granted an extra year of funding, you can still choose to defer their entry to school for a year.