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Compulsory school age

This advice applies to Wales

This page tells you about compulsory school age and what it means for your child. It tells you about the local authority's duty to provide education and what duties you have as a parent.

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The Local authority has a duty to provide a free school place for all children who are of compulsory school age. Parents have a duty to make sure that their children receive education during the compulsory school age years.

Starting school

Compulsory school age begins at the start of the term following a child's fifth birthday. Most admission authorities in Wales offer places in the reception class of a school in the September after a child’s fourth birthday.

Parents can choose to send their children to pre-school before they turn five, but don't have to.

Leaving School

Young people can leave school on the last Friday in June of the school year in which they are 16. Many schools allow pupils who are preparing for examinations to take study leave. Individual schools will decide on their own arrangements for study leave.

Example

A 15 year old who will be 16 after June but before the September term starts, can leave school on the last Friday in June.

Someone who is 16 in October cannot legally leave school until the last Friday of June the following year, even though they reached the age of 16 well before then.

Local authority's duty

The local authority (LA) must offer a school place for all children who are of compulsory school age.

Local authorities must try to find out which children in their area of compulsory school age are not already:

  • registered at a school
  • receiving suitable education otherwise than at a school.

Parents have a duty to make sure that their children receive education during the compulsory school age years. Parents means either or both parents, and anyone else who has parental responsibility for the child. In some circumstances, this means that a child may have one, two or more people with parental responsibility, who have a say in their education.

If you are a parent and you fail to carry out your duties in relation to your child's education, there are a number of measures that can be taken to ensure that you carry them out.

If your child is of compulsory school age and is unable to receive education at school, the LA has a duty to provide suitable education in some other way, for example, home tuition.

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