Starting school

New report from Growing Up in Scotland

A new report from the Growing Up in Scotland study provides new information about experiences of starting primary school for children and their parents. The findings provide a better understanding of the factors which lead to a positive early experience of school for children; the early engagement of parents with the school and their child's teacher; and the many practical issues associated with starting school such as school choice, transport, lunches, homework and wrap-around care.

Entry to school

87% of children started school the year they were eligible. 13% were deferred until the following school year. Almost half of children born during January and February were deferred. Boys were more likely than girls to experience deferred entry - 15% of boys were deferred compared with 9% of girls. The rate of deferral did not vary by parents' level of education, household income or area deprivation. The most common reasons given for deferral were that parents felt their child was 'not ready' for school (44%) or not old enough (32%). 5% of parents had deferred following advice from their child's nursery.

The transition to school

Most parents felt that their child had been ready to start school but children starting school aged under five and those starting at over 5.5 years (and more likely to have been deferred) were more likely to be perceived as less ready. Children perceived to be less ready for school by their parents had higher social, emotional and behavioural difficulties and lower cognitive development scores.

Almost all parents (99%) had undertaken some activities to help prepare their child for school, such as visiting the school, talking to their child about school and practising letters and numbers. Parents with higher levels of education were more likely to undertake a greater number of preparation activities than those with lower educational qualifications.

Most parents (92%) said that their child had adjusted well to school. However, about one third of children had complained about school or were sometimes reluctant to go. Boys had more problems adjusting than girls, as did children with higher social, emotional and behavioural difficulties and lower cognitive development scores.

Contact with school and teachers

The majority of parents (94%) had attended a parents' evening since their child started P1. The main reasons for attending were to find out about their child's progress (81%) and to ask the teacher if the child had settled in well and had made friends (22%). Almost half of parents had spoken with their child's teacher outwith a parents' evening.  86% of parents felt their child's teacher knew their child well and gave them appropriate support.

Two-thirds of parents had received information or advice from the school about how to help their child to learn. Almost all of these parents found the information useful.

Parental involvement

Parents were asked whether they had participated in a range of activities since their child had started Primary 1. The most common activity was visiting the child's classroom (86%) followed by attending a school event in which their child had participated (81%). 24% of parents had attended a parent council, PTA or other such meeting and 19% of parents had volunteered in the classroom, school office or library. 5% of parents had not taken part in any activities or event at their child's school. Couple families, older mothers, parents in less deprived areas and those with higher educational involvement reported higher levels of involvement.

Some other facts

  • Two-thirds of parents chose to send their child to the local school while one-third had made a placing request to a school outwith their local catchment area
  • 71% of six-year-olds get homework every day or most days
  • Just over half of children walk to school every day while 38% travel by car and 8% use public transport or a school bus
  • 8% of children in primary 1 have an Additional Support Need
  • 16% of six-year-olds attend after-school club and 8% go to a breakfast club
  • 88% of parents would like their child to go to college or university

Read the full report:

For more information: visit or contact

Growing Up in Scotland (GUS) is the longitudinal research study tracking the lives of thousands of children and their families from birth through to the teenage years and beyond. GUS is funded by the Scottish Government and is carried out by ScotCen Social Research in collaboration with the Centre for Research on Families and Relationships at the University of Edinburgh and the MRC Social and Public Health Sciences Unit in Glasgow.