But what if the child can’t get a place because he or she has not been baptised?
That is the situation that faces one family in the Republic of Ireland, where the Catholic church controls 90% of schools.
Nikki Murphy is sitting in the front-room of her house in Terenure in south Dublin playing with her four-year-old son Reuben.
His toy helicopter and trucks are scattered on the floor.
She said she has applied without success to 15 local schools – Catholic, Church of Ireland, Methodist and Jewish – for a place for Reuben.
Why? Because he is not baptised and not a member of any religion in a state where the churches control 96% of all schools and give preference to their members rather than to local children.
She said: “Parents shouldn’t really have to work this hard to get a school place for their child.
“These are state-funded schools, so, we’re frustrated and very angry.
“There’s a lot of stress, anxiety and sleepless nights. We’re desperate at the moment.”
Nikki knows that the state must offer Reuben a school place, but it could be several miles away.
She said that might mean him having to stay overnight with her parents from Monday to Friday, given her and her husband’s work commitments and Dublin’s traffic.
Paddy Monahan’s seven-month old son, Cormac, is also unbaptised.
And he is also at risk of not getting a local school place.