Reception class is the first year at primary school, but unlike every other school year, it is not compulsory for your child to attend, but it is a good way to introduce your child to life at school.
If your child is four years old before September, you can apply for a place in a reception class in the same way as you would for any school place. A child is of compulsory school age at the beginning of the 1st term after their 5th birthday.
Choosing your school
There will be a choice of primary schools in your local area, but you may not always get a place at the first school of your choice, so it is a good idea to research the area well so that you have second and third choices you are happy with. The links below will help you start your search.
Schools’ websites must include details of the curriculum, admission criteria, behaviour policy, special educational needs policy, disability policy, links to Ofsted reports, links to performance data and the school’s latest Key Stage 2 and 4 attainment and progress measures.
There is no substitute for visiting schools to get an idea what they are like so make an appointment and prepare questions in advance so you don’t forget anything important, from uniforms to lunch arrangements. Talk to other parents and listen to their experiences, or join a local community forum online to get feedback from others.
It is important to check admissions criteria carefully, in case the school receives more applications than it can take, and these can vary according to the local authority and the type of school, such as faith schools and community schools.
Check how places were allocated in previous years to gauge how likely your child is to get a place. Also make use of all of your preferences and list them in order; it will have no bearing on the likelihood of getting your first choice, but make realistic choices so as not to waste them.
- Choosing your school
- Ofsted find a school search
- About Ofsted inspections
- About the national curriculum
- Due to start school – find out more about the options available
- Information from Parentdish
Preparing your child for school
The first day at school is always a big step but you can prepare your child by talking to them about it, explaining and showing them where the school is, what they will be doing and for how long. Listen to their concerns, tell them about some of the things they will enjoy and make sure they know you’ll be there to pick them up afterwards.
It may also be helpful to get to know other children who are starting the same school so they have a familiar face, and you can have some fun by letting your child choose some of the things they might need, such as bags, uniforms and stationery.
Every school has its own way of introducing children into reception. This might include welcome visits for you and your child, contact with your child’s nursery or childminder, invitations to summer events and practical information on such things as uniform, the organisation of the school day and lunch time arrangements. Ask your school how they welcome new children and families when you visit.
- NHS information about the first days of school
- Tips from Family Lives
- Advice from Parentdish
- The dad’s guide to starting school
- Preparing for the big day
Learning and development progress
By the end of their foundation years, children should be ready for school: healthy, sociable, curious, happy, active and able to make the most of the opportunities available to them.
At the end of your child’s reception year in school, you will get an Early Years Foundation Stage report about your child’s development and learning progress. This will highlight the things your child is good at, any areas that might need more support when they move into Year 1 at primary school and how you can help.