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School Catchment Areas and Admissions 

Mostly researched from the City of Edinburgh Council website - these procedures are more or less the same at each of the Lothian Councils.


Starting Nursery  (3 - 4yrs)

The Scottish Government offers optional free learning and childcare, or ‘preschool education’ to all 3- and 4-year-olds as well as some 2-year-olds whose parents or carers are in receipt of certain benefits. 


WHERE -  Council-run nurseries are not bound by catchment area. However, they are often attached to primary schools. So, for continuity, you may prefer to choose a nursery in your own catchment area. Alternatively, you may use your allocation of free preschool hours at a private nursery, playgroup or childminder with partner-provider status.

HOW MANY HOURS -  The council will offer 1,140 free hours within their nurseries and  private nurseries who are a partner-provider for the council, if places are available. These hours are delivered in various ways. For example, 8am - 6pm two days a week all year, or 9am - 3pm Monday to Thursday and for half a day on Friday during term time. Ask the nursery what model they provide.

WHEN - Funding starts the term after a child’s 3rd birthday. NB: Some 2-year-olds will receive funding if their parents or carers are in receipt of certain benefits. The Government will also fund an extra nursery year for children who are still 4 years old at the start of the school year, end of August, and want to delay starting school for the following year.

HOW TO APPLY - Look on the council website for a list of early learning and childcare (ELC) providers. Then visit some before applying. If opting for an council run nursery, you can download the application form from the council website. It requires you to enter 3 choices. Next return the form to your 1st choice nursery with a copy of your child’s birth certificate and proof of address. If you choose a setting with partner-provider status, they will provide an application form to complete.

Starting Primary School - P1 (4.5 - 5.5 yrs)

If your child attends a  Council nursery or partner-provider setting, you will receive a letter in the October about school entry procedures for the following August. If you do not receive a letter, check the Edinburgh Council website for registration details.

WHERE -  For every address there is one catchment non-denominational primary school and one catchment Roman Catholic Primary School. You will find an interactive map on the Council website’s “Education and Learning” page. Enter your postcode and the interactive map will provide you with your catchment non-denominational primary and Roman Catholic school. Please note you may only register at the catchment school for your current address. 

WHEN TO REGISTER - In October each year, the council post a letter to parents about the procedures for starting school if the child attends a nursery school or class run by the Council or one of the partner nurseries.


The table below shows which year children will start primary school: 

BORN BETWEEN: 1 Mar 2019 – 28 Feb 2020  STARTS:   August 2024

BORN BETWEEN: 1 Mar 2020 – 28 Feb 2021  STARTS:   August 2025

BORN BETWEEN: 1 Mar 2021 – 28 Feb 2022  STARTS:   August 2026

BORN BETWEEN: 1 Mar 2022 – 28 Feb 2023  STARTS:   August 2027

Delaying entry to P1 or starting school early

If your child will not reach the age of 5 by the start of the new school year (normally mid-August), and you do not wish your child your child to start school in the year given in the table, you can make an application to delay your child’s entry into P1 for a year.

It is important that you register your child for school, even if you do not want your child to attend the catchment school, or if you plan to defer for a year. The registration process is in place to check and confirm your child’s age and address and helps the council manage the expected intake figures.

HOW TO REGISTER - You need to register at your catchment school during registration week – normally in early November. Times for registration in individual schools will be advertised on the council website or you can find out by calling the school office. Otherwise you will need to make an appointment.

You must bring these documents to the schools registration day:

• your child’s birth certificate

• proof of Roman Catholic baptism, if registering at a Roman Catholic school (if applicable)

• your Council Tax demand notice for the current year, in your name

• a utility bill (i.e. gas, electricity, landline telephone or broadband) in your name and dated within the last 6 months


If you are unable to provide any of these, ask the school staff for advice.

From Primary to Secondary School - S1 (11.5 - 12.5 yrs)

WHERE -  In October each year, we post a letter to parents about the procedures for moving to secondary school, if their child attends P7 at a primary school run by the City of Edinburgh Council.  If you live in the City of Edinburgh Council area, or within the catchment area of a school run by the council, they will automatically reserve a place for your child at one of your catchment schools. 

WHEN TO REGISTER - You do not need to register.  The nondenominational catchment school is allocated unless your child attends a Roman Catholic primary school. 


EXCEPTIONS - The council have Gaelic speaking schools which are not catchment bound. Pupils at Bun-sgoil Taobh na Pàirce transfer to James Gillespie’s High School to continue Gaelic study. They also have specialist provision for children who are highly able in dance, music or football. The application process is different for these schools - see the council website for more information.

Non-Catchment School Requests

WHEN - You can request a place in a school in another catchment area. To do this, complete the form at the council website (City of Edinburgh Council).  Applications open in early November each year. The closing date is 24 December each year and they post decision letters in early March.


HOW TO REGISTER  - When applying for a non-catchment school, you may only apply for one school at first. This is always treated as your first preference. It is very important that you provide all relevant information in support of your request.  Non-catchment placing requests will be granted if there are places available after all children living in the catchment area have been accommodated and reserved places retained within the agreed intake limit.


When there are more requests received for a school than there are places available, a committee of Councillors meet to look at exceptional reasons given for the requests received and agree how to prioritise the placements. The committee is called the Committee on Pupil/Student Support, and meets in February. The Committee has the authority to prioritise individual children where the reasons for the request are deemed to be exceptional and they decide the order of priority.

Otherwise, the priority order is:

1. Non-catchment children who will have older brothers/sisters who are attending the requested school in the next session

2. Non-catchment children who are resident within the council area but who do not have brothers/sisters who will be attending the requested school in the next session

3. Non-catchment children who are not resident within the council area and who will not have brothers/sisters attending the requested school in the next session.


Please note that being given exceptional status does not guarantee a place will be granted. It may only mean a higher placing on the waiting list. A waiting list is created for the children who will not be granted places in the initial school allocations, based on the priority order agreed by the committee. If there is more than one placing request in any of the three categories above, the shortest, safest walking distance from each child’s home to the nearest school gate is measured using an electronic mapping system. Children living closer to the school in each category are placed above those living further away

For full information on The City of Edinburgh - School Application Process CLICK HERE

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