DfE ditches 7-year plan to legislate on summer-born admissions

Ministers have been promising a law change on the issue since 2015, but say they will no longer pursue it

Ministers have been promising a law change on the issue since 2015, but say they will no longer pursue it

The government has abandoned plans to legislate to improve admissions arrangements for summer-born pupils, something it has promised to do for seven years.

Former schools minister Nick Gibb pledged in 2015 to legislate to allow children born between April and August to automatically be admitted to reception at the age of five if that is what their parents want.

At the moment, schools and councils can decide whether to admit them in reception or start them in year 1, leading to what campaigners have described as a “postcode lottery”.

The government also planned to change the law to allow pupils to remain in the same cohort they started in throughout their education, whereas at the moment they have to re-apply to be educated outside their normal year group when they start secondary school.

But academies minister Baroness Barran announced today that she would stop pushing for a law change.

“I am reassured that good progress has been made on this issue and that these improvements suggest the system is now working well.

“Taking all of this into account, I do not intend to continue to pursue legislation on this issue at this time, but will keep this position under review if the situation changes.”

Decision a ‘travesty’, say campaigners

The move is a blow for families which campaigned for a law change to make it easier for their children to be admitted to a year group picked up their parents or carers.

They have warned of a “postcode lottery” under the current system, with some schools and councils more sympathetic than others.

A spokesperson for the summer-born campaign said: “After seven years of empty promises, the government has committed to inequities for summer born children indefinitely.”

They said survey data was “based on responses from a minority of admissions authorities, and do not align with the experiences in our group of almost 19,000 parents”.

“The DfE provides no circumstance in which it is in a child’s best interests to miss a year of school, yet allows headteachers and councils to implement this against parents’ wishes. This latest development is a travesty.

“One simple sentence in the 2014 or 2021 school admission code legislation would have protected the right to a full education for all summer born children, but instead, broken promises mean the postcode and birth lotteries of luck and privilege will be exacerbated.”

Data ‘suggests system is better’, says minister

A survey in 2020 revealed that 22 per cent of councils had a policy of agreeing to all requests to admit five-year-old summer-born children to reception, up from 9 per cent in 2019.

Data from councils also suggested that 88 per cent of applications for delayed entry were accepted in 2020, up from 81 per cent in 2016.

Barran said that data “suggests that the system for summer-born admissions is now working much better than it was in 2015”, and thanked councils, trusts and governors for “both their continuing work on this and their understanding”.

She added that it could “seldom be in a child’s best interests to miss the essential numeracy and early literacy that takes place in the reception year”.

“Our latest research survey report shows that the majority of requests for delayed entry to reception are now approved, with almost 9 in 10 approved annually. This data reflects the clearer understanding admission authorities now have of their duties under the code.”

Barran: Keep summer-born kids in the same cohort

Barran also pointed to the requirement for parents to apply again for delayed entry to secondary school, adding it can “rarely be in the best interests of a child to miss a year of school”.

She said guidance for councils and admission authorities “asks them to take into account the fact that the child has been educated in a different year group until that point”.

“Unless there are sound educational reasons to do otherwise, the assumption should be that they will remain outside of their normal year group. Children educated out of their year group should not be disadvantaged at secondary transition.”

She added that the government continued to “support the right of parents to decide whether to send their child to school before they reach compulsory school age”.

“I am grateful to the sector for their co-operation in ensuring that decisions on the admission of summer-born children continue to be taken in the best interests of those children.”

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  1. An appalling decision.

    Many parents request a delayed entry as they feel this is the only option. When talking to schools they understand more how the school can meet their child’s needs and the benefits of being with their academic peer group.

    Refining our admissions processes is essential to support vulnerable students and families who ‘could’ be cognitively, two terms behind.

    • We need legislation to protect our CSA Summerborns who are constantly at risk of the injustice of being forced to skip an entire National Curriculum year further on in their schooling. Our CSA Summerborns need guaranteed equal access to a full education which they are entitled to. Too many headteachers and panels are making children miss an entire year of school (either primary or secondary level and not just reception – Year 3/4/5/6/7 are all at risk) with no sound educational reasons. My two CSA Summerborns are in a 3-tier system and I’ve had to continuously fight, beg and plead to, firstly, admit my children into Reception after their fifth birthdays and then to keep them educated sequentially when transferring to the next phase of education (Year 3, 5 and 9). We need the promised legislation.

  2. This is devastating. Sufficient progress has not been made at all. Parents are still fighting tooth and nail for this and facing ignorance from schools and local authorities about their children’s rights. Complete bloody betrayal by this government again! This would be so simple to promulgate and make the lives of thousands of parents easier, with no impact on schools whatsoever, but no!

  3. Caroline

    I can’t believe how out of touch this MP is its a lottery if school admissions accept summer born some will some won’t some have never heard of it. As a parent off a child who has a SEN wgo was 30th Aug I had to go prove so much, if my child had gone at CSA they couldn’t speak and was on nappies, a year they had ment they could say some words and use the toilet emotionally in a different place. And even if a child does not have a SEN children develop at different stages the cut off line August 31st is ridiculous a child could be 4 on the 31st then start school the day after. They should be flexibility without a fight.