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.

Applying for a pre-school place for the 2020/2021 school year

The pre-school application procedure opens on Tuesday 7 January 2020 at noon and closes at 12.00 noon on Thursday 30 January 2020.  Applications received after then will be treated as late.

Online applications have now been introduced for admission to pre-school for the 2020/2021 school year, available at

Following completion of your application, you have until 12.00 noon on Friday 7 February 2020 to send or take supporting documentation to your first preference pre-school provider. This includes your child’s birth certificate and any other documents as specified by the pre-school in the published admissions criteria. If you are unsure what is required, contact your first preference pre-school provider to find out what they need to process your application.


If your child was born on or between 2 July 2016 and 1 July 2017, you are eligible to apply for admission to either a Nursery School, Nursery Unit or Playgroup for the school year beginning September 2020.

If there are funded places still available after all target age places have been allocated then younger children born on or between 2 July 2017 and 1 July 2018 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. The ‘Find a Pre-School’ postcode search option on this website will assist parents in familiarising themselves with the name and location of pre-schools in their area in preparation for nominating their preferences when the application procedure opens.

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