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When Can My Child Start School? Understanding minimum school starting age, year groups and school type.

Choosing and sending your child off to school for the first time, or to a new school, is likely to be one of the most emotionally challenging and nerve-wracking decisions that any parent makes. After all, you are choosing what you hope will be the best school, the best education and the best future for your child, often based on a fairly subjective decision.

Our Guide, of which this is the first in a series about choosing and applying to schools in the UAE, is designed to assist you through this process.

Schools in the UAE operate to two distinct Academic calendars. There is supposed to be a unified calendar that applies to all schools throughout the UAE, but in reality, variations still exist between different Emirates and individual schools. The following is therefore indicative.

For Indian/Pakistani and Japanese curriculum schools, the academic year is similar to the home countries, with the new academic year starting in April. There is a summer break from late June to late August, a further two week break at the end of the calendar year; school ends mid-March. There is a further two week break before the start of the new academic year.

All other international curricula schools follow the Western calendar, with the academic year starting in September, a short (two week) break at the end of the calendar year, a two-week Spring break in April and the end of the academic year at the end of June or early July. Most schools have a short mid-term break in the first and second terms, but not all. US curriculum schools, which tend to close for the summer earlier, tend also to have little or no mid-term break periods.

You will need to bear in mind the curriculum you plan your child to follow in order to make sure that you start the research process and making applications in good time.

The next question is more about timing – when is the right time for your child start school in the UAE – both from a legal perspective on the one hand, and in terms of your child’s individual development on the other?

School starting ages vary considerably from country to country, with some children starting their education in “big school” from as young as 3 years, to others only moving into this environment at the age of 7.


In the UAE, children are legally obliged to start school in the academic year in which they turn 6. So your child will be 5 years of age when s/he is obliged to start school.

In order to ensure that children are of an appropriate age to start school, the Ministry of Education has set out specific age by date criteria (so called cut-off dates), which vary depending on the curriculum and Academic calendar followed by the schools. To make life a little more complicated, schools in the UAE have different grading structures depending on the curriculum.

In practice, however, the rules means that, as of 2023, children now need to have attained 3 years of age at the start of the academic year. 

This chart shows the most common curricula, grade structure and current age (cut-off) requirements.  It will be updated once the regulators have formally announced the changes to cut off dates mentioned above. 

Turning Age Age at 31 Aug American curriculum IB curriculum* Age at 31 Aug British Curriculum Age at 31 Mar Indian curriculum
3-4 3 None Pre-K 3 FS1 3 Pre-KG
4-5 4 KG1 KG1 4 FS2 4 KG1
5-6 5 KG2 KG2 5 Year 1 5 KG2
6-7 6 Grade 1 Grade 1 6 Year 2 6 Grade I
7-8 7 Grade 2 Grade 2 7 Year 3 7 Grade II
8-9 8 Grade 3 Grade 3 8 Year 4 8 Grade III
9-10 9 Grade 4 Grade 4 9 Year 5 9 Grade IV
10-11 10 Grade 5 Grade 5 10 Year 6 10 Grade V
11-12 11 Grade 6 Grade 6 11 Year 7 11 Grade VI
12-13 12 Grade 7 Grade 7 12 Year 8 12 Grade VII
13-14 13 Grade 8 Grade 8 13 Year 9 13 Grade VIII
14-15 14 Grade 9 Grade 9 14 Year 10 14 Grade IX
15-16 15 Grade 10 Grade 10 15 Year 11 15 Grade X
16-17 16 Grade 11 Grade 11 16 Year 12 16 Standard XI
17-18 17 Grade 12 Grade 12 17 Year 13 17 Standard XII
  • Some IB curriculum schools follow the UK curriculum structure

Most schools in the UAE start to offer formal education in the year in which children turn 4. Historically, families have chosen to send their children to school at the earliest possible age, in large part because they fear that there will be no places available if they wait until a year or two later for entry to year 1 or KG2. Unfortunately, it is still the case in many Indian schools that later entry is extremely difficult. However, in other international schools – particularly the UK curriculum – a later start is often an option.

Historically, in Dubai, nurseries increasingly lost children of 3-4 years to schools and, in recent history,  were not permitted to offer UK curriculum FS classes. Today the landscape has changed as nursery schools, now referred to as Early Learning Centres, come under KHDA regulation. These combine both Nursery and the Foundation/KG units of established curricula and have become a growing alternative to “big school” for 3 and 4 year olds. Many parents are today choosing ELCs as a better alternative to Pre-FS – FS2 in all-through schools because they are seen as better protecting childhood and keeping little ones away from the hubbub and influences of older children. A good example can be found here. 

In Abu Dhabi and the Northern Emirates, the Regulators are responsible for children only from KG1 to grade 12 (5-18 years). As a result, Foundation 1/pre-KG classes are being phased out in some schools and more nurseries are offering these options.

If you feel that you would prefer to keep your child in a smaller, less formal school environment, legally you are permitted to do so. However, before you make this decision, do check with your preferred schools whether you can apply for later entry, at what point in time, and what the likelihood is of a place being available. In the past, schools often added places in these year groups/grades, but with the tendency for families to place their children in school as early as possible, this is not guaranteed.

Given this situation, we suggest that you think carefully about whether you want to keep your child in a Nursery/ELC environment or have a greater chance of assuring them of a place in your chosen school by applying for the first year group or grade offered. Some schools will offer the possibility of deferring an offered place to the following academic year and guaranteeing that the place is held for your child. Positively, the sheer scale of choice for parents between outstanding schools means that all-through schools are less powerful than they once were in insisting children join their schools.

The ELC’s too are often choosing to associate themselves with local schools that will offer places to the ELC’s students (subject to assessment), and this may well be the happy medium. There are also nurseries that have links with Primary Schools and, again, it’s worth asking nurseries and schools about such links before making your decision.

As you can see, there is a definite answer to when your child can start school, but a rather more flexible one in terms of when s/he should – to a large extent in the period between the age of 3 and 5, parents have a choice. It should be noted that many believe that school starts should be much later when children reach the age of 7 years, as is the case in many European countries. The UAE takes an opposing view, but today balances this with giving parents genuine choice between ELCs, dedicated Primary schools and all-through schools. As always, there is no one best school – each option has its strengths for individual children.

Further information

Our Guide to Dubai ELCs and Nursery Schools can be found here. 

© A WhichMedia Group publication. 2023. All rights reserved.

About The Author
Lis ONeal
  • Nidhi
    November 12, 2017 at 9:48 pm

    Hi Lis,

    We are facing some difficulties given our Son’s age and his current school. Could you please let me know if I could reach out to you to have a one on one?

    Thanks and regards,

  • rose casilagan
    January 3, 2018 at 3:53 pm

    HI my daughter will be 4 on December 8, 2018. Is she required to go to school now?

    • January 4, 2018 at 1:39 pm

      Hi Rose,

      Your daughter is not legally required to start school in the UAE until the school year in which she turns 6 – that means that she would need to start school by September 2020 if you are considering a curriculum other than Indian. For Indian curriculum, she would not need to start until April 2021.

      However, the various school curricula tend more commonly to start in the year in which children turn 4 – so in the UK curriculum this would be for FS2 and in the others for KG1. She could therefore start school in September 2018. In fact, if you wanted her to start school sooner, she could have already joined FS1 in the UK curriculum last September. If you wait to enrol her after she has turned 4, it may be more difficult for her to settle into school and to join in with her peers as she would need to catch up with them. There are also often less school places available.

      If you are not sure that you want her to start school so soon, you could consider her joining FS1/FS2 or KG1 at one of the Early Learning Centres if you are based in Dubai. These have been designed to follow the international curricula but in a smaller more nursery-like environment. They are relatively few in number currently, but may be a good option since your daughter will be one of the youngest children in her school year in view of her birth date.

  • Fari
    February 2, 2018 at 11:23 am

    Hi Lis
    My Son is born on 8/04/2013.He will be turning 5 this April.Last year we couldnt place him n schools as we had to shift many times.He will get admission for kg2 ( Indian Curriculum) But i would lile to put him in Kg1 .Is it possible can i put him in kg 1 is age a big criteria for kindergartes??? Or shall i put him private nurseries so i can enroll him directly for grade 1 when he trurns 6.Will that be problem later…is kindergartens a must for grade1???

    • February 2, 2018 at 5:43 pm

      Hi Farid,

      Many thanks for your question. As you know, the admission rules now relate almost solely to the age of the child. Your son is indeed old enough for KG2. You do not mention which emirate you live in and this is an important factor. In all of the Emirates – with the exception of Dubai – it is almost impossible to arrange admission to a lower grade unless there are medical reasons to do so. In Dubai, it is possible to request that your child be demoted, but this needs to be supported by the school to which you apply since they have to submit the request to the KHDA. Some schools are less willing to allow this, since in theory, teachers should be able to differentiate teaching and provide support, irrespective of whether the child has attended school previously or not.

      Your suggestion that you place your son in Nursery in advance of Grade 1 is likely to be very difficult to arrange, since most nurseries are no longer able to take children beyond the age of 4 (KG1). There are a few Early Learning Centres who are able to take children for longer, but they are few. In addition, the transition for your son to school in Grade 1, if he has had no experience of nursery or school is likely to be a challenging one, as this will be a major change for him at a time when he will also potentially be trying to “catch up” both socially and educationally with his new classmates.

      On balance, therefore, my advice would be to aim to obtain admission for your son to KG2. I would certainly explain your concerns when you register him with your preferred schools, and if you feel strongly that KG1 would be a better way forward, discuss the possibility of demotion with them, but I think you will find that provided he is socially and academically capable, he will settle into school very quickly and make good progress. In fact, given the obviously turbulent time you had last year, it might well be that starting school (even if it is a little challenging to start with), will provide him with stability.

      Good luck in your search.

  • Nithin Basheer
    March 1, 2018 at 9:17 pm

    My son born on 30/July/2014. He will be 4 in this July last and will be 5 on next July last. He is still very shy and less interactive. So we r planning to put him in kg1 next year. Will schools ( Indian curriculum) accept him. We r living in Dubai. Please advise.

    • March 2, 2018 at 12:33 am

      Hi Nithin,

      You are correct in thinking that your son could start school in April in KG1 in view of his birthdate. The challenge you will potentially face if you postpone his entry to school until next year, is that schools will almost certainly seek to place him in KG2 which would be the appropriate grade for his age.

      I think you have two possible options. You can see whether the schools to which you plan to apply would be agreeable to his demotion to KG1 next April. In general Indian curriculum schools seem to be reluctant to do this. The other possibility is that you place your son in an Early Learning Centre, where he would then start to develop the social skills and confidence to be able to cope with a larger school environment. You will probably find that this is more likely to follow a US or UK curriculum, but if he is able to join a KG1/FS2 equivalent, he would be developing his personal skills and also starting the academic content which would prepare him for KG2 in April 2019.

  • Sakshi
    March 6, 2018 at 10:51 am

    Hi dear my daughter completed her 4yr in aug I’m unable to take her admission in any Indian school.coz of 1month her 1yr spoil

    • March 12, 2018 at 3:58 pm

      Dear Sakshi,

      Yes, I am afraid that many families have found themselves in a similar situation. There is no flexibility with the regulator in this respect, and it is inevitable that there will always be children who just miss out on the start date.

      If you feel your daughter is ready for school, and is not already doing so, perhaps you could consider an Early Learning Centre or Nursery where she can get used to the learning environment and become well-prepared for her start at school next year. This extra year gives her a chance to still learn through play and the environment around her. It has been proven that children who are among the oldest in the class, tend also to be more academically able – perhaps because of the additional confidence they have when they start school, but also because of the extra learning they do before they start school.

      In many ways, this is an opportunity for you to spend that extra time with her, enabling her to grow in confidence and to be really ready to start her school career next year.

  • Nida
    March 19, 2018 at 10:41 pm

    Any updates on whether other Emirates, especially Abu Dhabi , are now allowing the Early Learning center structure license like Dubai ?

    • March 19, 2018 at 11:15 pm

      Dear Nida,

      Our most recent understanding is that the Early Learning Centre licence is still under discussion and study in the other emirates. We understand that this is also on hold in Dubai pending a common agreement across the UAE Education Authorities.

  • Lakshmi
    May 17, 2018 at 4:07 pm

    Hi my daughters dob is 28 september 2015. We are in abudabi . By 2018 sep she will be 3 and by march 31 2019 she will only be 3.6 yrs . Will she get an admission to kg1 in indian schools ?
    Also would like to know if i go back to india n do her kg1 kg2 and grade 1 there and be back to abudabi aftr completing grade 1 , will she be able to get an admission in std 2 or grde 2 in indian schools . Will that be a better solution .

    Also to know is ther any indian schools in abudabi which follow icse /isc syllabus

    • May 21, 2018 at 8:21 pm

      Hi Lakshmi,

      The cut off date for the Indian curriculum is 31st July, by which time your daughter would need to be 4 years of age to join KG1. She will therefore be too young to join a school next April in the UAE. If you return to India for her to start school there and to complete KG1, KG2 and Grade 1, provided she has completed Grade 1 and has an attested Transfer Certificate showing this, then the transfer certificate will take precedence over her date of birth – based, of course, on current regulations.

      We are not aware of any ICSE schools in Abu Dhabi.

  • Srimathi saravanan
    July 12, 2018 at 12:59 pm

    Hi Liz
    My daughter’s DOB is 23rd November 2012. She has completed her kg2 in India and was promoted to grade1. we have just moved to RAK, UAE. Now we are seeking admission for grade 1 here….But the schools here are saying that she is eligible only for kg2. She completes her 6yrs by this November. I m worried that she will loss 1 year. I would like to know whether she will be able to join grade 1 here.

    • July 12, 2018 at 1:07 pm

      Dear Srimathi,

      The rules issued by the Ministry of Education here require that children are 6 years old by 31st July to enter Grade 1. From Grade 2 onwards, the Transfer Certificate takes precedence, but until this point the birth-date of the child takes precedence. I am afraid that your daughter will have no option but to join KG2 and she will then be promoted to Grade 1 in time for the next academic year in April 2019.

      • Srimathi saravanan
        July 12, 2018 at 2:17 pm

        Thank you Lis.

      • Srimathi saravanan
        July 16, 2018 at 9:20 am

        Dear Liz
        If I go back to india to complete the 1std there and wen i come back for 2std here in rak UAE will there be any problem because of the DOB(23 nov 2012) of my daughter

  • Anand
    July 15, 2018 at 5:50 pm

    My daughter date of birth 05.08.2015, is she required to go to school 2020(kg1) CBSE curriculum this is possible? Other wise what is other option, suppose UK curriculum.joining(KG1,Kg2) after I am change cbse curriculum this change possible please explain thank you u reply

    • July 17, 2018 at 2:56 pm

      Hi Anand,

      Since your daughter will not turn 4 until August 2019, she will be too young to start KG1 in April 2019. The cut off date is 31st July and Indian curriculum schools throughout the UAE are not able to be flexible in this respect. Your daughter would not be able to start CBSE until April 2020 as a result. Your daughter would be able to join a UK curriculum school in FS1 in September 2018 (pre-KG equivalent) in a UK curriculum school. Please bear in mind that she would be among the very youngest children in the year group and this may not be the best option for her. If you place her in a UK curriculum school this year, this would not have any effect on her entry grade in a CBSE school, as the age criterion remains the key one.

  • Anuja
    August 5, 2018 at 1:06 pm

    Hi Lis,

    My son will turn 4 in jan 2019.

    Please let me know the options for him to start schooling.also where do i check a list of schools which have been honestly reviewed online? I get confused with the rating of 2.5 on one wensite and 4 on other.

    • August 5, 2018 at 1:35 pm

      Hi Anuja,

      Since your son will be 4 by 31st July 2019, he will be able to start KG1 in April in the Indian curriculum, which I assume is the curriculum that you are considering. In terms of looking for schools, I would suggest that you research the schools following the curriculum you want on our sister website,, where you can use the search function to find a list of CBSE and ICSE curriculum schools. You can then read the reviews on both websites.
      In terms of ratings, it is quite likely that these will vary from one site to another, since each will use different criteria. On and, we consider the official school inspection reports and our own visits, together with feedback from parents and educators, to come to a view on the schools. We do not rate the schools – rather, we including independent ratings. Our advice would be that you look at all the available sources, including the schools’ own websites, and then create a short-list of the schools that seem to fit your needs. We would strongly advise that you visit the schools that interest you if at all possible – a first-hand impression often really helps to narrow your choice. Good luck in your search.

  • A Khulbe
    August 21, 2018 at 1:42 pm

    Thank you Lis.please let me know if he will go to fs1 or fs2 incase i send him to british curriculum in sharjah ?

    • August 22, 2018 at 12:22 pm

      Hi Anuja,

      Since your son will be 4 by 31st December next year, I would expect that he would start school in FS1 in September 2019. Sharjah and the other emirates use the 31st December cut off date. Your son would therefore be one of the oldest in his class. I would, however, suggest that you check this with the schools that are of interest to you, as FS1 does not fall under the remit of SEZ (who are responsible for FS2- Year 13/KG1 to grade 12) and it may be that FS1 may be an option for him in September 2018 if you wish him to start school earlier.

  • Govinda Rao
    August 25, 2018 at 9:14 am

    Hi, My son date of birth is 19 November 2014. when should i start for admission into KG1

    • August 26, 2018 at 12:44 pm

      As your son will have turned 4 by the end of this year, you may apply for FS2 in the UK curriculum or KG1 in other international curriculum for September admission now. For Indian curriculum starting in April next year, most schools open applications in September/October. You will need to check with the individual schools to confirm the exact timing for applications.

  • Irfan
    August 30, 2018 at 11:20 am

    Hi, My son date of birth is 30 March 2015. When my son can start schooling for KG1 in Pakistani school. He will be turned 4 on 30 March 2019. Kindly advise.

    • August 30, 2018 at 8:16 pm

      Hi Irfan,

      Since your son will have already turned four before 31st July 2019, he will be able to start KG1 in April 2019. Most schools start to accept applications in around September/October, so do keep up to date with when you need to apply. Good Luck.

  • karthika
    September 3, 2018 at 1:53 pm

    Haii my daughter’s DOB is 24th april 2015. By 2019 april 24th , she will be aged 4 years. So please lets u know when should i take admission in indian school.

    • September 3, 2018 at 4:35 pm

      Hi Karthika,

      Since your daughter will have turned 4 before 31st July 2019, she will be able to start school in April next year. Most admissions for Indian curriculum schools open at the end of September through October. We would advise you to check on the websites of the schools that you plan to apply to and to ensure that you follow the instructions and timings for applications, as demand for KG1 in Indian schools remains high.

  • Heena Rajwani
    September 14, 2018 at 9:17 pm

    HI, My daughter date of birth is 09-Sep-2016, can you please guide me for the admission process for Indian CBSE , british and IB curriculum

    • September 15, 2018 at 12:06 am

      Hi Heena,

      Since your daughter will be 3 years of age by 31st December 2019, she would officially (as per the KHDA guidelines), be able to join a UK curriculum school in FS1 in September 2019. You may find that some traditional UK curriculum schools (particularly those with strong UK links) may feel that she is too young for FS1 as she will be barely 3 years old at the start of the academic year. I would advise you to consider whether your daughter is mature enough for “big school” at that age. You could potentially wait a year so that she would be among the oldest in the class rather than the youngest but this may involve you requesting demotion in order for her to start FS1 in September 2020, and you should definitely check in advance with the schools that you are considering.

      IB curriculum schools do not generally accept children until the equivalent of FS2 – the year in which your daughter would be 4 years of age – so again you would be looking at September 2020 for EY1.

      As regards Indian curriculum, again your daughter would need to be 4 by the 31st July cut off date in order to start school in the April prior to this date. In this case, therefore, she would be able to start school in KG1 in April 2021.

  • Mahesh Costa
    October 17, 2018 at 1:38 pm


    My daughters birthday is on 04th june 2015. For the moment she is going to Nursery in Abudhabi.
    We’re hoping to enroll her to the school from 2019 academic year (British).
    Could anyone can advise me which class she will be enroll in 2019 year. Or else we should enroll her in this year…?

    Waiting for advice’s & opinions ….


    • October 17, 2018 at 8:18 pm

      Dear Mahesh,

      Since your daughter was already 3 years and 3 months by the start of school in September, she could potentially join FS1 in a UK curriculum school in 2018. She would be among the youngest children in her class, however, and it may be that you feel she is perhaps a little young yet for a school environment. Since she is already at nursery, though, she may well be ready for the next step. This is something that you should consider carefully.

      Should you decide to wait a further year, your daughter would join FS2, since she will already be 4 years of age. There are a couple of considerations in this regard. If she is joining a school with FS1, it will be a big step for her to start school, when many other children in her class will potentially already have been in school for the previous year. In addition, you may have more difficulty in finding an FS2 place for the same reason.

      My advice would be to contact the schools that are of interest to you to see whether entry to FS1 at this point is an option. If not, you will have no choice but to wait until entry to FS2 in 2019. Schools will already be taking applications for September 2019 now; therefore it would be wise not to delay in approaching those of interest to you.

  • B kaur
    October 23, 2018 at 5:36 pm

    Hi. My daughter is January 26, 2016 born.
    Pls guide me for her admission in British curriculum FS 1.
    When she is eligible to start FS 1?
    Thanks in advance.

    • October 24, 2018 at 7:12 pm

      Dear B Kaur,

      This is somewhat dependent on where you are located. In general, your daughter can join FS1 provided she has turned 3 years by the time that school starts – that is by 31st August for most UK curriculum schools in most Emirates. In Dubai, the cut off date has changed to 31st December, so this means that children born between September and the end of December who were previously too young (being less than 3 years on 31st August) may now also join in the calendar year in which they turn 3. Many UK curriculum schools (and parents) feel this is too young and are sticking to the original August cut off date.

      In your daughter’s case, it is quite clear-cut. Since she will be 3 years old in January 2019, she will be able to start FS1 in September 2019.

      • B kaur
        January 17, 2019 at 5:09 pm

        Many thanks .One more query, is it ok to continue in a nursery this year for her instead of joining her in big school In fs1? Is fs1 and nursery curriculum same?

        • January 17, 2019 at 8:23 pm

          Thank you for your message. This is a somewhat difficult question to answer due to recent changes implemented by the regulator. We are finding that parents of FS1-aged children in nursery are being advised that they must place their children in school as soon as they turn 4 years. Since your daughter will be 4 in January, there is a risk that she would be affected by this ruling. The exception seems to be Early Learning Centres which are permitted to retain children until they start in FS2/KG1. I would advise you to discuss this with the nursery before making a decision not to send her to school in September. If she is required to move in January, this could potentially be very unsettling.

          As regards the curriculum at the nursery, you would again need to check which curriculum is being followed. If it is the EYFS curriculum, this is likely to be similar to the curriculum in FS1.

  • October 29, 2018 at 2:30 pm

    Hi Lis. My son turned 3 on 8 June. We would not have commenced him in ‘big school’ until 2021 in Australia so it is our preference to keep him in a preschool setting for as long as possible. Can you please direct me to a list of ELCs, nurseries or preschools in Dubai that offer FS2 or KG1. Can you also confirm whether my understanding is correct that there are no ELCs, nurseries or preschools that offer FS2 or KG1 in Abu Dhabi. Thanks in advance. This information would be very useful.

    • November 4, 2018 at 6:17 pm

      Dear Andrew,

      Thank you for your message. You can check out Early Learning Centres and Nurseries in Dubai that offer FS2/KG1 on our sister website – by using the search function at the top of the home page. To some extent, this will be very dependent on where you are living; the majority are in the more southerly New Dubai areas and the numbers are limited due to a restriction on the introduction of new centres until recently.

      With respect to Abu Dhabi, since ADEK is responsible for the education of children from KG1 or equivalent, there are not, to the best of our knowledge, any pre-schools in Abu Dhabi Emirate. Legally, children do not need to be in school until the academic year in which they turn 6 years of age, so this would be September 2020. However, we would generally advise you do enrol him for FS2/KG1 as this is the age at which both the UK and other international curricula formally commence, and entry at Year 1/KG2 equivalent is likely to be more difficult, both in terms of acceptance and also in terms of your son settling into school.

  • Niharika
    November 27, 2018 at 9:35 am

    Hi Lis..
    My son is going to turn 4 on this December 2018…i wanted to send him for nursery. But in abu Dhabi most nurseries have denied to accept as he will be 4.and by the time we moved here most of the school registration process is over for Kg1.
    Can u help me to decide what I should do now.

    • November 27, 2018 at 2:40 pm

      Hi Niharika,

      I am sorry that you are finding yourself in this situation. It is now the Ministry of Education’s policy to require nurseries to enroll children only up to the end of their third year of age. If they are four by the end of the calendar year for all curricula starting in September, the child is expected to enroll in school and nurseries are not permitted to take older children. Unfortunately, there are no Early Learning Centres in Abu Dhabi that are able to bridge this gap.

      The only option really is to enroll him in a pre-KG or FS1 class in school. Although schools may say that they are no longer enrolling children, if they have availability, there is no real reason why they should not do so. There are several new schools in Abu Dhabi that still have availability, but this will depend on where you are located. If you are not able to locate a school yourself, or if you find a school that has places but is unwilling to enroll your son due to the cut-off date, I would advise you to go to ADEK’s offices on Abu Dhabi Island and ask them to assist you.

  • Mai Ling
    February 19, 2019 at 11:32 am

    Hi Lis

    My son’s date of birth is 05.07.2017 we are thinking of enrolling him to UK curriculum. When should he start nursery and schooling. Please advice. Thank you.

    • February 19, 2019 at 3:48 pm

      Dear Mai Ling,

      Children do not start school in the UK curriculum until the year in which they turn 3. Therefore the earliest he would be able to start school is September next year. Nursery is not a must, but most children do benefit from leaving their carer and interacting with children of their own age – this does tend to make the transition to school easier. Your son will be among the younger children if he does start school next year, so helping him through the separation process by sending him to nursery is definitely worth considering.

      When this happens is very much your decision. Children do not generally have to start in nursery at the start of the academic year, but can join later. My suggestion would be that you visit the nurseries that you think would suit your son and discuss the timing with the staff there.

  • Arlon
    March 17, 2019 at 10:36 pm

    Hi Liz,

    My son is born on Nov 14, 2013…he is currently 5 years old and still in nursery school as Pre kg! When we went for assesment in one of the schools they caught up our attention because they said he should be in year 1 now… he will be turning 6 this november what do you think at his age he should be into?



    • March 18, 2019 at 8:20 pm

      Hi Arlon,

      Thanks for your message. You do not mention in which emirate you live, but as a general rule, most schools now apply 31st December as the cut-off date. This means that since your son will be 6 by the end of this calendar year, it would indeed be possible for him to be in Year 1 now. Some of the UK curriculum schools in Dubai – in particular those that have strong traditional links to the UK or a large number of UK students – still prefer to apply the 31st August cut off date, since this is in line with UK practice. In this case, since your son was 4 turning 5 at the beginning of the current academic year, he would have been placed in FS2. I am surprised that your son has been able to remain in Nursery, since the Ministry of Education now takes the view that children who are over 4 years at the cut off date should be in school. Pre-KG is for children that are three turning four (the equivalent of FS1), so this is certainly not the age-appropriate year group by either cut off date.

      Most certainly, you are legally obliged to place your son in school from September since he will be turning 6 which is the legal requirement for school in the UAE. My advice would be to apply for year 1, since this is still age-appropriate under the UK system. You may find that schools will tell you that he should be in Year 2 from September. You can, in Dubai at least, request that he is demoted to Year 1 so that he has the chance to settle into school and to catch up with his peers if necessary. I would also most certainly be guided by the school admissions team in terms of his ability to cope in regard to the year group, and ensure that they are aware that he will be attending school for the first time.

    June 12, 2019 at 9:04 am

    Mine Daughter DOB 04.10.2012 now presently in India seeking admission in Abu Dhabi next year in India curriculum school for Grade III. Can she able to get admission for the same as she will be only 7.5 as at 31.03.2020.

    • June 23, 2019 at 12:22 pm

      Dear Sunil,

      Provided you have an attested transfer certificate from your daughter’s current school confirming that she has completed Grade II, this takes priority over her age. The schools to which you apply in Abu Dhabi will provide you with full details of the documentary requirements.

  • Anisla Salam
    June 22, 2019 at 3:20 pm

    My daughter is now 4 years and 7 months for August 2019. Is it possible for her to join a school now? What is the maximum age to go school for kg1? I am confused as some one has told me that we can directly take kg2 admission in March 2020.

    • June 23, 2019 at 12:38 pm

      Dear Anisla,

      Assuming you are seeking a school place in the Indian curriculum, when the school year starts in April, the cut off date to START KG1 is 31st July, by which time the child needs to be 4 years of age. Therefore, since your daughter is already 4 years old, she is old enough to join KG1 in the current academic year. However, since school started in April, it may be too late for her to join for the current academic year. You would need to contact Indian curriculum schools now (before the holidays start), if you wish to enroll your daughter for semester 2. You may find that some of the newer schools are able to help you.

      If you are not able to enroll your daughter for the current year, then she would be old enough to join KG2 next April as she will already have turned 5 years, based on the information you have provided. Schools generally open for Admissions in late September/October. You will need to check the websites for the schools that you are interested in or contact them directly in early September to find out when enrollments start.

  • Juan Carlo
    October 6, 2019 at 8:42 pm

    How early can you reserve a slot for your kid for a School year? My son was born on Dec. 7 2016 and will turn 3 and 9 months start of School Year 20/21. Trying to compare IB or UK curricula and whether he will start as KG1 or KG2.

    • October 8, 2019 at 12:23 pm

      Dear Juan Carlo,

      Since your son will be 4 years of age by 31st December, he is eligible to join FS2 in the UK curriculum which is the equivalent of KG1. However, in Dubai, because his birthday falls after 31st August (which is the cut off date used by many UK curriculum schools, since it is in line with practice in the UK), you may be offered the option of enrolling him in FS1 (pre-KG equivalent), as he would be among the youngest in an FS2 class. Whether you choose to do so is your decision and dependent on whether you feel that he needs the slower, more nursery like environment of FS1. This does not apply to all UK curriculum schools – it is mainly those with very strong links to the UK and a high UK student population who offer this option. As regards IB schools, he would be age-appropriate for KG1.

      You can apply for entry next September from now onwards. Many schools open applications in October – once the new admissions intake has been dealt with – and start the assessment process early in the New Year, with a view to offering places by the end of March/April. However, depending on the schools to which you apply, and whether they are full or have availability, the process may be quicker. We would definitely advise you to start the application process sooner rather than later if you intend to apply to the established, popular and highly rated schools as this is where demand is at its highest.

  • Justin
    October 7, 2019 at 10:02 pm

    Hello Lis,

    I have read your replies – very insightful.

    Our daughter’s DOB is 26.Sep.2016. Being aware of the recent guidelines, where age-appropriate she would be at FS1 or Nursery at this stage (as long as 3 by 31 Dec 2019).

    Where as, back home in the Philippines, the school year starts at June/July, and only can start KG1 on year 2021 (must be age 4 by start of school).

    We live in Dubai. She hasn’t attended any nursery/ELC yet.

    We thought of enrolling her this October, to a Nursery/FS1 Montessori, here in Dubai. We have spoken to several learning nurseries/school and they can still accept late admission.

    Our concern that, she might still be too young, for Nursery/FS1, as she just turned 3 years old and would be the youngest in their class.

    Could you please share your thoughts.

    Thank you,


    • October 8, 2019 at 12:32 pm

      Dear Justin,

      This is a tricky question as it depends so much on your daughter’s personality. If she is out-going, confident and independent for her age, if she is curious and bright, she may well settle into FS1 very well, and there are many children of her age, who have done so. Many teachers feel that to start children in school when they are under 3 years of age is too young. However, your daughter is only 4 weeks younger than the cut-off date, and it may be that it is the right decision for her.

      On the other hand, there is also considerable evidence that children who are among the older ones in their class tend to perform better academically, because the requirements to settle into school routines, cope with a new environment etc. are easier for them as they are more mature.

      My feeling is that since your daughter has not been to nursery and gained the experience of being away from mum or dad for long periods, having to develop some of the independence she will need in school and learning to get along with other children points towards a nursery rather than school. A nursery environment, where she is likely to be with a smaller group of children and not in the potentially overwhelming environment of a school, may well be a gentler way to ease her into education. I would definitely take the advice of the nursery in terms of what would be best for her, but given the information you have provided, I would be more inclined towards the nursery option.

  • Manivellan
    November 21, 2019 at 1:40 pm

    I am facing trouble to understand the school admission age criteria which seems to be something as rule and but different while obtaining admission.

    My daughter was born on 15th Dec 2016, so I have been trying to apply for UK curriculum for 2020-21 FS2 since she will be 4 by end of Dec 2020. However, it seems Abu Dhabi schools do not consider Dec but child must be 4 by Aug 2020.
    ADEK website mentions end of Dec by the way.

    However confusion arised because in Dubai, schools seems to be ok with 4 years by end of Dec. Why is this different rule in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, especially when these schools claim they follow UK admission policy and is not about ADEK or KHDA.

    Do I have any choice of UK curriculum school?

    I could finally find a school in Abu Dhabi who are accepting her age but I am concerned how come they are accepting and not other schools like Gems education? They claim they follow grade system and not year system. What’s this new terminology?

    Will be glad to get some thoughts.

    • November 21, 2019 at 9:24 pm

      Hi Manivellan,

      There has definitely been some confusion about the admission age for FS in both emirates. Historically, UK curriculum schools that have a high proportion of children from the UK, or who adhered to the UK admissions process, used the 31st August cut off date, whereby children were admitted to FS1 if they had turned 3 by this date, and FS2 if they had turned 4. Several years ago ADEK changed the cut-off date for children starting school at the start of the September academic year to 31st December. Somewhat later, the KHDA also officially followed suit with this rule, though this caused grave concern since it means that children who are under 3 years of age on 1st September (when school actually starts) could be as young as 2 years and 8 months when joining FS1 – bearing in mind that other curricula do not admit children to school until the equivalent of KG/FS2. As a result, the more traditional UK curriculum schools in both Emirates have continued with the August cut-off date on the basis that children returning to the UK would be age-appropriate based on this date.

      Many schools believe that children who are born in the last third of the year (September to December) are disadvantaged by being placed in a higher year group (FS2 rather than FS1) and prefer that these children are held back to the following year. There is a lot of evidence that children who are among the oldest in the class adapt better and are more successful academically than those who are among the youngest. In Dubai, it is possible at schools who have adopted the 31st December cut-off, to request a “demotion” to enable this to happen, though parents may choose for their child to enter the higher year group if they prefer. You will find that there are UK curriculum schools attracting children of other nationalities, and who are less concerned about UK practice that will accept the 31st December cut-off. Essentially, although the rule was made, it is not being as strictly implemented for children in the Foundation Stage due to the concerns expressed by educators about the possible negative impact of starting school at such a young age.

      The issue of Year Group versus Grade is a different matter. ADEK wishes to implement a single grading structure from Kg to Grade 12, as this is range of education for which it is responsible. You will find that some schools no longer offer FS1 or house it separately. In this context, KG would be FS 2 and Grade 12 is the equivalent of Year 13. So for your daughter, if you are looking at a school offering the KG to Grade 12 structure, the equivalent for FS2 is KG.

  • Saniya Patel
    August 4, 2020 at 12:11 pm

    I found all your replies very helpful and they cleared a lot of confusion. My query is.. my son’s dob is 21/09/17.. so he’ll be 3 by September. if i want to put him in UK curriculum he should go to fs1 starting this September term. I was not aware of the age criteria at all and just recently learned about all this so I have not done any research or admission enquiry. In light of Covid-19, if I just avoid fs1 and think of fs2 next year, will he get admission? Or can I get him admission in an ELC where he can complete his fs1 and fs2 and then go to Year 1 to start school? I’m based in Dubai. Kindly clear up my confusion.

    • August 4, 2020 at 3:04 pm

      Hi Saniya,

      Your son can indeed start FS1 in September, though depending on which UK curriculum school you look at, some schools may suggest that he should wait a further year. The reason for this is that they follow the UK age requirements whereby children should be 3 by 31st August, so he just misses this date. This is something you will need to check with the schools you contact. You can certainly plan to send him to school next September for FS2 (assuming you choose a school that uses 31st December as the cut off date) as he will be turning 4 then.

      An Early Learning Centre may also be an option, certainly for FS1, though not for FS2, and this may be a smaller, more friendly environment for him to start school. Generally we would not advise starting in Year 1 at school – he will have missed out on up two years of a real school environment which will be a very big change from an ELC.

  • Nora
    August 7, 2020 at 8:03 pm

    Hi Lis

    My daughter’s DOB is 28 August 2011 and she was put in FS2 in Dubai. At that time I was thinking that FS2 is equivalent to KG2 but it is not. Now she is in year 3 going to year 4 but I always feel guilty as she supposed to be in year 5 and she has lost a year and is one of the oldest in her class. I am moving to Abu Dhabi before the school year starts and i am thinking to speak to the school to see if they can place her in year 5.

    is this possible you think ? if yes, what I should tell the school ? How do I approach them?

    Looking forward to hear from you.

    • August 9, 2020 at 12:59 pm

      Dear Nora,

      I am afraid that there is no possibility of your daughter being permitted to skip a year and to join Year 5, irrespective of her age. Once a decision is made on the year group/grade that a child joins in the UAE, he or she can only be demoted (moved down).

      However, I would allay your concerns. There is a lot of evidence to suggest that children who are among the oldest in their year/grade are more successful academically and socially, because they are generally more confident and self-assured. This is likely to be especially important in view of your relocation to Abu Dhabi and her change of school. Since your daughter is obviously happy and making good progress, you have no reason to feel guilty for the decision made at the time of her entry to school.

      • Nora
        August 9, 2020 at 1:46 pm

        Thanks Lis. I have actually just heard back from the school and they confirmed that based on my daughter’s age they will be able to place her in year 5 (grade 4). the school is Wales International School.

        what do you think ?

        • August 9, 2020 at 1:55 pm

          Dear Nora,

          The school will require a Transfer Certificate from the KHDA which will be required by ADEK and if this shows that your daughter has not completed Year 4, but only Year 3, I do not believe that the school will get approval from ADEK for Year 5/Grade 4. I wish you luck, but I think it would be wise to check this situation with ADEK directly as you may otherwise find that your daughter will be demoted to Year 4/Grade 3 when the school registers her. Age is not relevant once children enter Year 2/Grade 1 and above; the Transfer Certificate showing the previously completed school year/grade is the key criterion. Since this school follows the 12 grade structure, your daughter should be admitted to Grade 3.

  • Nora
    August 9, 2020 at 2:15 pm

    Thanks Lis. This sounds a bit complicated and might cause me issues in the future so I will follow your advice and let my daughter do year 4 as normal. I have registered her in 2 schools, Belvedere British School who told me exactly what you said; that it is not possible to put her in year 5 as age is not relevant, and Wales who said it is possible!

    I will stick with Belvedere British School as they seem to have a better understanding of ADEK rules. Any thoughts here would be appreciated.

    • August 9, 2020 at 3:19 pm

      Hi Nora,

      I think this is a wise decision. Belvedere is an established school with a stronger history than Wales International and I would definitely would advise you to avoid any issue with the ADEK registration.

  • Shahzad
    October 9, 2020 at 5:22 pm


    I have to ask a question with regards to my son’s age. He will be turning 5 on 2nd March 2022 and in April he will start his schooling. Will he be admitted in kg1 as per my plan or will the school take him in kg2.

    Since I live in Sharjah I am not sure of the rules that apply here. He will go in an Indian curriculum school.

    Please advise.

    • October 10, 2020 at 1:21 pm

      Hi Shahzad,

      As your son will have turned 5 years of age before 31st July, he will be admitted to KG2 if he goes to school in Sharjah. If he were to go to school in Dubai, it might be that a school would agree to his “demotion” to KG1, but in general, Indian curriculum schools do tend to stick to the cut-off dates and do not have any choice in this outside Dubai.

  • Hadeera Parisa
    December 29, 2020 at 2:13 am

    Hello Liz,

    Hope you are doing good and staying safe.

    I have a question regarding admission of my Daughter Zuha.

    She was born on 25th October 2017.

    Can she join Foundation Program at the age of 3 years 3 months ?

    When can she start her KG ? Can we admit her to KG in 2021 in British Curriculum.

    If not What are the possible options so that she gets to attend grade 1 at the age of 6. ?

    Thank You

    • January 3, 2021 at 2:50 pm

      Hi Hadeera,

      Based on the information you have provided, I assume that you would like your daughter to start FS1 in this current January 2021 at 3 years and 3 months. It is likely that Zuha could have started FS1 in the current academic year, at least in Dubai, as the cut off date is 3 years of age by 31st December. However, not all schools apply this cut off date – some still prefer children to be 3 year by 31st August in line with UK practice. However, irrespective of this, I think it is very unlikely that you will find a school that will admit her in the current term as it is not the norm for UAE schools to take children already resident in the UAE other than at the start of the academic year (which was last September). However, you may well be able to send her to FS1 in a nursery if this is an option for you. I would recommend this is you wish her to join FS2 in September.

      KG1 is the equivalent of FS2 in the UK system. If you enroll your daughter for FS2 in September this academic year (which based on her age, you would be able to do), then she would start in Year 1 in September 2022, and would turn 5 the following month. However, I am not sure if you wish her to attend Grade 1 in the KG to Grade 12 system – this would be the equivalent of Year 2 in the FS to Year 13 British system.

      In all honesty, unless you have very specific reasons for wishing her to be in a particular grade/year group, the most important criterion should be your daughter attending school at a time and level of education that suits her as an individual. Starting FS1 in a nursery at this point may well be one way to ensure that. You will also find that if you apply for FS2 in September, your daughter will almost certainly be invited to some form of assessment. At this point, the school will determine what is appropriate for her and will potentially offer you the option of FS1 if she has not previously attended at this level. I would advise you to heed their advice in this regard. Meanwhile, I would suggest that you reach out to the schools that are of interest to you and seek their advice also.

  • Nitin Gugnani
    February 28, 2021 at 6:34 pm

    Hello Lis,

    Hope you are doing good.

    I have a question regarding admission of my son Gaurish. His DOB is Nov 2017.
    We are Indian parents and interested in IB curriculum. My son is impacted by the revised cut off dates.

    Our plan was to start KG 1 in Sep 2021 in one of the IB schools. However, as per revised guidelines he can only start KG 1 in Sep 2022. The school has offered us a solution. We can enroll him currently in Term 3 (Apr to Jun) and then he will be eligible to join KG 1 in Sep 2021 as revised age guideline will not be applicable to students already registered in KHDA system.

    Scenario 1
    I enroll him with an IB school in Pre KG for Term 3 (Apr 2021 to Jun 2021).
    KG 1 from Sep 2021 to Jun 2022.
    KG 2 from Sep 2022 to Jun 2023.
    Grade 1 will start in Sep 2023.

    Scenario 2 (Since there is no good IB school closer to my home but a good Indian school within walking distance)
    I enroll him with an Indian School.
    He does Pre KG (Apr 2021 to Mar 2022)
    KG 1 (Apr 2022 to Mar 2023)
    and then I apply for a transfer to an IB School.

    My Query is .. “can he join KG 2 Term 3 directly in Apr 2023 and then promoted to Grade 1 in Sep 2023”. or
    if he does KG 2 Term 1 only Indian school from Apr 2023 to Jun 2023, can he join Grade 1 in Sep 2023.

    Nitin Gugnani

    • March 20, 2021 at 2:20 pm

      Dear Nitin,

      Thank you for your message which raises an interesting question. Since the KHDA has confirmed that children may start school in term 3 for the first time this academic year – something which usually only applies to students coming to Dubai from overseas – the option to place him in pre-KG at this point would seem to be a good one at first sight as you will be able to get him into the curriculum of your choice from the outset.

      I do not believe that your second option is possible. The reason for this is that I believe the option to join in term 3 is an exceptional one, granted by the KHDA this year due to the implementation of the change in cut off dates. The option of doing KG2 term 1 in April 2023 and then joining Grade 1 in September should not be an issue, since he will be age appropriate. I would, however, confirm this with the Admissions team of the IB school that you are considering to ensure that they would place him Grade 1, given that they will be aware that he has only completed one term of KG2.

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