Preparing for the future

Little girl playing with wooden block toys with a female teacher

When your child is very young the future can feel like a long way away. However, planning can support a smooth transition to the next stage of their education. Most children start school full-time in the September after their fourth birthday. This means they’ll turn 5 during their first school year. Some parents of children born in the summer term may choose to request delaying or deferring you’re their child’s start to school.  

As a parent it is your decision as to the best next steps for your child. You may choose for them to attend primary school, or if your child has an EHCP and complex needs, you may consider if a special school is the right place for them. Some parents may choose to electively home educate their child 

Applying for a school place

Applications for school places are managed centrally by the Admissions team and follow a nationally agreed timescale. If your child has had extra support in their nursery, pre-school or early years setting but does not have an Education, Health, and Care Plan, or is undergoing assessment, you will need to follow the primary school admissions process.  

If your child has an Education, Health, and Care (EHC) Plan, your SEN Casework Officer from the Statutory Assessment team (SAT) will contact you to explain the application process for your child. 

Starting Primary School

If your child has been identified with some additional needs in their nursery or pre-school, this should be shared with their school as part of the plan to start school. If you and your child are working with other professionals such as a family worker and there is an Early Help Assessment in place, the Team Around the Family meeting will discuss plans to help your child's start in school. Once your child is in school, if the class teacher has any concerns about their progress or development, they will talk to you and explain what is being planned to support your child. You should be involved in any discussions about what will be put in place and how this is reviewed. All children are offered school entry health tests when they start school or during their first year. These cover sight, hearing and growthIf anyone has any concerns, they will refer your child for further checks and discuss with you. 

Help with choosing a school placement

Choosing which school you would like your child to attend will be based on a range of factors individual to you and your child. Most children attend their catchment school. Information about schools, special schools, and specialist centres can be found in the Cambridgeshire Online Directory. The Parents' School Preference Adviser can help at this stage, with advice and information on choosing a school and how to apply. 

Each year, all schools (maintained and academies) and nurseries must produce an Information Report describing the way they support pupils with special educational needs and disabilities. This must be displayed on the school’s website. Please visit individual school websites for details. 

Delaying or deferring your child’s school entry

If you do not think your child is ready to start school at the usual time, they can start later - as long as they’re in full-time education by the time they reach ‘compulsory school age’. 

They can start: 

  • part time 

  • part-way through the year 

  • in the next school year, in the September after they turn 5 

You’ll still need to apply for a school place at the same time as everyone else. You request your child’s later start when you apply. Your child must start full-time education once they reach compulsory school age. This is on 31 December, 31 March or 31 August following their fifth birthday - whichever comes first. If your child’s fifth birthday is on one of those dates then they reach compulsory school age on that date. 

If your child has a statement of special educational needs or Education, Health & Care Plan (EHCP) the appropriateness of whether or not to delay his/her entry to school will be considered through the formal Review process, in conjunction with the Statutory Assessment Team (SAT). You should contact your Special Needs Officer on 01480 372600 or e-mail 


Starting school and planning for the move to reception

Children make the best start at school when arrangements and plans are made in advance so that they are familiar with their new environment and staff at the school are prepared to receive them. Parents and carers play a vital role in this process. It can be hard to hide your worries at this time but if you are positive about what is going to happen next your child will feel secure and this will help them make the change and settle into school. 

All schools, including special schools, have a visiting programme for new starters which is usually held in the latter part of the summer term before your child is due to start school. Visits help children to get used to their new surroundings, find out where the toilets are and find out how things will be organised for them. Sometimes your child might need specific arrangements to be planned in order to help them make a successful transition into Reception class. This might involve organising a separate visit for your child instead of, or as well as, the general class visits. You can talk to the school or any of the people working with you about how to organise this. 

What you can do

Arrange to meet with the school SENCo to discuss matters that are specific to your child. The school will want to know what works for your child so that they can plan in advance and make arrangements that will help your child to settle. The school is responsible for making sure that they are ready to meet your child’s needs when they start. 

You can begin to prepare your child for their move into Reception, for example, talk to them positively about school, visit the school together, get used to the journey to school and read books about starting school. Having photographs of the staff, the classroom and the school at home can help you to prepare your child. 

You can also put together information about your child to share with the school. This could be from your Family File if you are part of Early Support or something that your early years setting, or childcare provider helps with such as an 'All about me' or a communication passport. 

Who can help?

Any of the people working with you and your family can help you with advice and support. 

The Special Educational Needs and Disability Information, Advice and Support Service (SENDIASS) offers impartial information and advice for families who have a child with special educational needs. 

Helping your child prepare for the future

It’s important that children start to build independence skills as early as possible as this will help them prepare for their next stage of education. Giving children the opportunity to try new things in a safe and supportive environment will help them develop independence, resilience, and confidence. It is important that we ensure that the independence we are offering them is safe and suitable for their level of development.

The Characteristics of Effective Learning describe behaviours that children use to support them in their play and learning. By developing these behaviours children are starting on the journey to developing independence. Simple steps such as giving children time to carry out tasks for themselves, modelling how to achieve a task rather than completing it for them or using simple language for instructions can all support children’s journey to independence. Please see our downloadable leaflets on Supporting Independence and Supporting School Readiness to find out more about how to help your child.

Related Pages

  1. SEND Information, Advice and Support Service (SENDIASS)


  1. School Readiness Leaflet
  2. Supporting Independence Leaflet

External Links

  1. - Applying for a school place
  2. GOV.UK - School admissions guidance
  3. Disability Huntingdon
  4. GOV.UK - Disability Living Allowance
  5. Spectrum Cambridge


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