National Parents Council Primary (NPC)


Call the NPC Helpline 01 887 4477
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Here you can find out answers to questions you might have about your child in school.
At what age should my child start school?

In order to start school your child must be at least 4 years of age. Once your child reaches the age of 6 it is compulsory that they attend school.

What do you mean by primary and post-primary education?

Children attend primary school between the ages of 4 and 12. Primary schools are also known as national schools. Primary education is also referred to as first level education. Primary school covers eight years which is comprised of a two-year infant cycle followed by six years from first to sixth class. Children move to the next class at the end of each school year.

Children from about 12 to 18 years attend a post-primary school. Post-primary schools include secondary schools, vocational schools and community and comprehensive schools. Post-primary education is also referred to as second level education.

What is the structure of Primary schools in Ireland?

Primary schools in Ireland are owned by a patron and are managed by a board of management. The Principal teacher is responsible for the day-to-day running of the school. Each class has a class teacher. In some smaller schools the teacher has to teach more than one class level at the same time e.g. third and fourth class this is referred to as a split class . The class teacher teaches all curriculum subjects to their group. There may be other teachers in the school who will help the class teacher. For example your child may have a Language Support Teacher to help learn English or a Learning Support Teacher to help them if they are falling behind.

What is the board of management?

The board of management manages the school on behalf of the patron and for the benefit of students. Its job is to make sure that the school is run efficiently and provides all students with a good education.

The board of management includes representatives of parents, teachers, trustees (owners) or patron, the Principal and the community. You can read more about the board of management via this link Governance Manual for Primary Schools 2015-2019 

Who is the patron?

In general, the patron of a school can be an individual or a group and represents the owners of the school. The patron may manage the school personally or may appoint a person or group, such as a board of management, to act as manager. Under the Education Act, 1998, the patron has the right to take over managing the school or appoint another board or board member and to dissolve and establish a Board of Management or remove an individual Board member.

In Catholic and Church of Ireland schools, the bishops are the patrons of schools within the churches' diocese. The parish priest usually carries out the functions on behalf of the bishop. In multi-denominational schools, the patron is usually the board of trustees of the limited company Educate Together. Patrons for Gaelscoileanna can either be church Bishops or Foras Pátrúnachta na Scoileanna Lán Ghaeilge, a limited company set up for this purpose.

You can check the details of the patron of any national school by contacting the school Principal or by looking up the register of patrons kept by the Department of Education and Science see 

What types of schools are available to my child?

The primary education sector includes state-funded primary schools, special schools and private primary schools. State-funded primary schools used to be known as national schools and include:

  • religious schools, such as Roman Catholic, Church of Ireland, Muslim etc
  • non-denominational schools;
  • multi-denominational schools; and
  • Gaelscoileanna (schools that use the Irish language to teach all areas of the curriculum)
  • Vocational Educational Schools

Single sex schools teach boys and girls separately. Co-educational schools teach boys and girls together. A number of special schools cater for particular types of disability and special needs.

What procedure do I follow to get my child enrolled in the local school?

Every school has to have its own enrolment policy. You can send your child to the primary school of your choice, provided there is a place available for them. Where there are not enough places, the school must give priority on the basis of their enrolment policy. This is drawn up by the Board of Management and should be available to you on request.

While most primary schools are in a position to enrol all children who apply, there is no automatic guarantee of a place in the local school.

In order to enrol your child, you should first check the list of primary schools in your area. For a list of the schools in your area please click here to go to the Department of Education and Science schools list. Once you have made your decision, you should contact the school of your choice as soon as possible to see if there is a place available. If your child needs to start school during the school year you should contact the Principal of the school as soon as possible.

The school of your choice may place your child on a waiting list or you may need to contact other schools to find a place.

My child is being offered a place in a catholic school but I am not a catholic, what should I do?

The vast majority of primary schools in Ireland are under the patronage of the Catholic Church so this is not an unusual situation and schools are quite used to dealing with this situation.

If you do not want your child to participate in religious education you should inform the Principal when you are enrolling your child. At all times your child must be supervised by the class teacher or another teacher. If you want religious instruction for your child in a faith other than that of the faith of the school, there are a number of options. You should discuss the options available with the school Principal. Some schools arrange religious instruction in faiths other than the religion of the school. In other situations parents arrange for religious instruction outside school hours.

What happens if my child is not taking part in the Communion or Confirmation preparation during school hours?

The onus of supervision is with the Principal, alternative arrangements must be made for the supervision of your child, for example your child could be placed in another teacher's class for the duration.

What should I do if my child is refused a place in a primary school?

If you have difficulty finding a place for your child in school you can contact the Educational Welfare Services - Child and Family email: Tel: 01 873 8700  

If your child is refused a place in a primary school, you have the right to appeal this decision under Section 29 of the Education Act, 1998, click here to see further information on this Section of the Act on the Department's website. If you need any help with processing this appeal please contact the NPC Helpline Tel: 01 8874477

Who is responsible for my child attending school?

Under the Education (Welfare) Act, 2000 you are responsible for making sure your child attends school. If a child's parents cannot look after them, a guardian or carer becomes responsible.

Do I have to pay to send my child to school?

In Ireland all children are entitled to free primary and post-primary education. Most primary schools are funded by the state and the vast majority of children attend these schools. However you will have to pay for your child's uniform, books, materials, trips etc. If you have difficulty meeting these costs you may be entitled to a back to school grant. The Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance scheme is open from 1 June to 30 September. Click here for further information 

Application forms are available online (pdf). You can also get an application form in all social welfare offices and Intreo centres, via SMS (text “Form BTSCFA” followed by your name and address to 51909) or you may email the Department at

There are a small number of private primary schools. If you decide to send your child to a private school, you will have to pay fees every year.

Children who are new to Ireland whether asylum seekers, refugees or children of migrant workers, have the same right to education as other children in Ireland. They must attend school between the ages of 6 and 16. However you can send your child to school in the September following your child's fourth birthday.

Does my child have to wear a uniform?

Many schools require their pupils to wear a uniform as part of their school code or admissions policy. If you do not want your child to wear a uniform for religious or other reasons you should speak to the Principal before the child starts school. Your child may also need special clothing for Physical Education or sports. The school will advise you on this. If you have difficulty paying for a uniform you may be entitled to a grant see question re “Do I have to pay to send my child to school” above.

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