Information for parents on pre-school application process

In Northern Ireland, children are entitled to a funded pre-school place of at least 12.5 hours per week for 38 weeks in the year before they start primary one.

Pre-school education is not compulsory, but it helps prepare your child for primary school by providing a variety of challenging play-based learning activities and other experiences in a stimulating environment. Studies have shown that pre-school education can contribute to better performance in school and that high quality childcare and early years education in general can have a positive impact on children throughout their school years and beyond.

Applying for a pre-school place for the 2022-2023 school year

The Pre-school admissions guide is now available on the Education Authority website. This guide provides parents with the key dates relevant to the application as well as having information on the admissions criteria for pre-school settings in Northern Ireland.

We would encourage parents to review the Education Authority guidance, and the published criteria for their preferred pre-school(s) carefully, before applying. The portal for online applications opens at 12 noon on Monday 10 January 2021 and closes at 12.00 noon on Friday 28 January 2021.  Applications received after then will be treated as late.

You will then have until Friday 4 February to submit supporting documentation.

If you are unable to apply online, a request for paper applications can be made from the Education Authority Pre-School Admissions Office.

pre school admissions 2022


If your child was born on or between 2 July 2018 and 1 July 2019, you are eligible to apply for their admission to either a Nursery School, Nursery Unit in a primary school, or a voluntary/private playgroup provider which provides funded pre-school places, for the school year beginning September 2022.

If there are funded places still available after all target age places have been allocated then younger children born on or between 2 July 2019 and 1 July 2020 may also be admitted. If your child falls within this age group you will be eligible to apply to a Nursery School or a Nursery Unit only. Applications for younger children must still be made within the application deadlines above.

Further information

Parents can read further information on the pre-school admission procedure on the Education Authority’s website.

Further information regarding funded pre-school places in Northern Ireland is available in our factsheet: Funded Pre-School Places – Information for Parents or by contacting our Family Benefits Advice Service on 028 9267 8200.