There is a little confusion amongst parents and Primary School Heads as to the correct legal age for enrolling a child for Grade 1. There shouldn’t be, as there is a law that governs this, which is the Education (Age on Admission to a Government School) Regulations, 1999 Statutory Instrument 70/1999, which states that a child enrolling at a Government school will only be enrolled if that child will be turning 6 years of age in the year of admission. This means that if the child is turning 6 years of age by 31 December in the year of enrollment, the child is entitled to be admitted to school. The practice of determining whether the child was born before or after June is, in fact, unlawful.
A school Head however, has limited discretion if the applications for enrollment outstrip the places available, to give preference to children who are older at the expense of the younger ones. Whilst this is the law, we believe that a parent so affected could challenge this provision as unconstitutional on the grounds that it discriminates against a child on the basis of age.
Whist there is no similar provision relating to private school enrollment into Grade 1, this does not mean that private schools may arbitrarily decide on the age of entry. We believe that to avoid challenges of discrimination, that they stand guided by this Statutory Instrument.
The next question that comes to mind is “Is there a maximum age for enrolling into grade 1?”. The answer is “yes”. The same Statutory Instrument covering admission into Government schools categorically sates that the maximum age for enrollment into Grade 1 is 8 years old in the year of enrollment.
But, do not despair if your child is older, as the Statutory Instrument allows a parent of the older child to apply to the Permanent Secretary for Education, who after consultation with the school Head, may allow the child to enroll. In order to go this route, the parent would have to satisfy the Permanent Secretary that special circumstances exist and that the enrollment into Grade 1 will not “be detrimental to the good order, administration and regulation of the school”.
There does not appear to be a maximum age limit for the enrollment into Grade 1 for private schools.