Gibb fails to resolve summer-born admissions despite promises

Schools minister Nick Gibb is under fire for “failing to act” nearly two years after promising to stop the “postcode lottery” of unfair admissions for summer-born children.

Gibb (pictured) launched a review in July 2015 to investigate the admission rules for summer-born children, which he said was an issue “repeatedly raised on the doorstep” during campaigning for the 2015 general election.

Currently, pupils born between April 1 and August 31 can start school when they have turned five, but are typically placed straight into year 1, rather than reception.

Gibb said it was “important children do not miss the vital teaching that takes place in the reception class”. The schools minister then announced in September 2015 the government would amend the admissions code so schools had to admit summer-born five-year-olds into reception classes.

However, a consultation over the plans has still not been launched, with the snap general election expected to delay the changes further. Any changes to the ministerial line-up at the Department for Education (DfE) could also threaten the policy proposal.

Pauline Hull, co-founder of the Summer Born Campaign group, said children were “being forced to start school early or miss a whole year of school”.

“Two years after Nick Gibb’s promise to stop the postcode lottery and unfair admissions process for summer-born children, the Department for Education has again failed to act.”

Hull said summer-borns left to miss a whole year of school also contradicted Gibbs’ views on pupil absence through term-time holidays.

Gibb had previously said parents shouldn’t be able to take their children on holiday during term time because “abundant academic evidence” showed time spent in school was “one of the single strongest determinants of academic success”.

The government funded the Isle of Wight council to fight a legal challenge over a fine issued to Jon Platt, who took his daughter out of school to go to Florida in April 2015.

Platt argued his daughter still had a 90 per cent attendance record, but judges ruled that regular attendance had to follow the rules set by schools.

The delay in summer-born changes was also raised by Helen Hayes, Labour MP for Dulwich and West Norwood, in April.

She submitted a parliamentary question on when the proposed consultation over admissions changes would be launched.

But Gibb said it was not possible to respond “in the time available” before prorogation (the end of parliament) after Theresa May announced the snap general election.

The DfE could not respond to a request for comment because of purdah rules.

But Gibb told parliament in October last year the government needed “more information and data” before it could make a call on admissions.

Concerns over the financial impact on the policy, which could affect both early years and post-16 providers, appear to have delayed a final decision.

Gibb launched the review after DfE figures showed children born in August were far more likely to be labelled as having special educational needs (SEN) by the end of primary school.

Hull said savings in reduced SEN diagnosis alone could counter any cost concerns.

Gibb said in October he understood parents’ “frustration” as they waited for the change, but said it was “important” to consider how to implement the policy.

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  1. Melanie

    The lack of progress with this review is having a negative impact on those it is meant to benefit. As a parent of a summer born boy we thought we would exploit the amazing opportunity to delay our son to start school in reception when he was 5, as we felt this would only benefit him. However the lack of progress with this review results in all the risk being on parents, you either decide to take the opportunity for your child and risk the worst possible outcome of you child going straight into year one, or decide not to take the opportunity and start them in reception when they are four. Local councils need clear direction on how to proceed as it is leaving parents, and ultimately their children, exposed. The current lack of direction must surely be having major financial implications as there is no clear policy.

  2. Julie Thomson

    My August born son started school aged 5 in September 2013. It was a long, stressful process to get the go ahead for this. When Nick Gibb announced a consultation to change the admissions code I felt hugely relieved as the fear of my son being forced to skip a year or that we would have to go through the same stress applying for secondary school always weighs heavy on my mind. So you can imagine my disppoinyment that almost 2 years later we’re no further forward. Parents of children who weren’t even born when we began our process, are still having to jump through the same hoops we had to jump through 4/5 years ago!

    • It’s totally unacceptable that parents have had to wait so long for these proposed changes. It’s totally unfair that it’s a postcode lottery and that LA’s such as Lancashire are digging their heels stubbornly and not forward thinking on allowing parental choice for summerborns who deserve longer at home if needed or wanted. The government needs to hurry and deliver a nationwide change for summerborns fast! Summerborns should be able to go to Reception the term after they turn 5 so they can thrive and in turn teachers and schools benefit.

  3. Sarah Foote

    Due to apply for a school place for my late August born son soon and think it will definitely be in his best interests emotionally and academically to defer and apply for him to start reception at age 5. I can’t believe however that there has been so little progress on amending the admissions code and I am so daunted by hearing the stresses and struggles of people around the country who have been trying to do the same. I also feel concerned for the many parents who may not feel at all confident or able in dealing with the system and the complexities around the process and who may be put off or be forced to give up trying to secure their child the best start to their education. There needs to be far more clarity regarding the school admissions process for summerborn children asap to end this confusion and make it fair for everyone, no matter on where they live/which schools they are applying for.

  4. J Cole

    The promises Nick Gibb made led me to fight to start my August born son in reception this year, when he is compulsory school age. At the time I started the process I was confident that the admissions code would be changed so that my son wouldn’t have to miss a year of school later. Now, I don’t know. It was hugely stressful securing a reception start when some schools say that a child should miss a year of education if their parent feels they are not ready to start just after they turn 4. As it stands, he could still be made to miss a year of school because he was born 10 days before the 1 Sept cut off.

  5. Kelly

    Local authorities across the UK are making decisions by interpreting the admissions code incorrectly or in some cases making their own policies! There needs to be specific guidelines so that this ends and gives the parents the right to decide what is in their own childs best interest. A parent being threatened by their local authority that their child may miss a year of school is totally unacceptable. Parents with children who have secured for their child to start at CS age in reception now have a real fear that their child could be forced to skip a school year at secondary. Parents are fighting for their children and it’s about time the minister did the same.

  6. Caroline

    I am currently fighting to get Lancashire LA to adhere to the current code. They refuse to determine which year group it is in my son’s best interests to be placed when he begins school at compulsory school age. They have simply decided that if I want him to experience the reception year I have to send him BEFORE compulsory school age. Which is NOT THEIR CHOICE. And it is my fault if he misses reception. #Shambles #postcodelottery #summerborn

  7. “Gibb told parliament in October last year the government needed “more information and data” before it could make a call on admissions.”

    OK, I can see that one needs to look at the costs. Starting a child in school a year later will push up the demand for pre-school places by about 7.5% (based on US data), whilst somewhat reducing demand in the VI Form. The saved SEN costs will have to be estimated (looks like about half of one term’s worth, i.e. 1/6 of total SEN provision across years 1-13).

    Getting a figure within the bounds of accuracy could plausibly take a competent civil service analyst several hours with a spreadsheet. NOT two years.

    The truth is this is nothing to do with data. It’s just vacillation by Nick Gibb and his various bosses over the last two years. The Department for Education is in chaos because it is run by incompetents. Anyone wanting the votes of the parents of summerborns at the next election had better demonstrate that they have new ministers lined up, and those ministers have a track record of delivering results.

  8. Rowan

    How much time is needed? Surely two years is procrastination. There are a lot of anxious parents out there who deserve to have a decision on this.

  9. The law on this absolutely has to be changed and quickly. I am currently battling in Lancashire for a Reception Year place at CSA for my summer born daughter. Our application is currently getting onsidered for the third time due to the admitted failings of the Council and I have sought legal advice. Too many Admissions Authorities wilfully or otherwise misinterpret the Code to put barriers in front of parents.

  10. Laura Herron

    I think it’s disgraceful that parents have to go through a broken process, which appears to be fundamentally different depending on the county you live in. You can’t adopt one rule for one person and another rule for another person. It is an unfair system that causes stress and anguish, with schools unaware of the guidance and LEA’s giving incorrect info. Please make a decision on this once and for all and let parents decide if their child is ‘school ready’ at 4 years old.

  11. Jennie

    This is an absolutely awful situation for parents, children and schools. The lack of clarity and leadership from the government is appalling and leaves children and their families to “fight” where none should be needed.

  12. I think the delay is disgraceful. It is obvious that if a child is not ready for school, then their academic success will be reduced, the knock on effect to this means extra staff time and resources. Primary education law already states that compulsory school starting age is the term after a child turns 5. Why can secondary education not be brought into line with this? After a stressful process twice(!) we have/will be sending our two summer born girls to school at CSA. However, as they have no year group protection we constantly stress and worry they could be forced to miss an ENTIRE year, at any point. There is no excuse for this delay. There is plenty of money for brexit, for an election, for grammar schools etc. Our childrens future, is the future of this country. It really is not rocket science!

  13. Victoria Randall

    Nick Gibb needs to stop prevaricating and get on with this. Parents like myself spend every day of our lives either fighting for their child’s future or worrying about the fight yet to come. WE SHOULD NOT HAVE TO DO THIS.

  14. Alexandra Lewis

    A government who does not make CSA reception school start a right for all children does not care about children.

    I am Chair of Governors at a primary school. I know there are many children who would benefit from a CSA start. Children whose start in life could be much improved.

    My summerborn daughter was lucky enough to win the postcode lottery and start school in reception at CSA. My two older summerborns weren’t so lucky. The difference in their educational experience so far is amazing. She is happy, relaxed, confident and enthusiastic to learn. We thank the summerborn campaign every day for this.

  15. I have a summer born child and I would like for him to start his reception year at compulsory school age. In order to do this, I have to convince my admissions authority, find a headteacher who agrees, hope that he is given a place at a school where they have agreed it. No guarantees of anything, so it is impossible to plan ahead, and there is lots of worry and uncertainty.
    It is a shambles. DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!!! If it were his child it would be a different story.

  16. Kate Hughes

    It is an absoloute disgrace that nothing further has been done about this issue. The postcode lottery situation is unacceptable. Why are some parents being forced to send their child to school before they are ready – or being forced to put their child straight from home or nursery into Year 1 and miss a year of schooling. They do not have our children’s best interests at heart. Why should children be discriminated against by being made to miss reception, just by starting school at the legal compulsory age? And based on where they live? It’s ridiculously unfair. Parents know their children best and for the small number of summer born children who are not ready for school aged 4, their parents should be able to make the decision to send them at compulsory age without the worry of them missing this vital year. Punitive action is being taken against parents who take their child out of school for a day or a week, because ‘missing even a day of school is detrimental to their education’ …. yet they are forcing some children to miss a whole year. It needs to stop.

  17. Julia

    There is no good reason to delay making a CSA reception start a right for all summer borns. The research showing a later start as beneficial for all children is overwhelming. There are no down sides to improving the educational outcomes for these children and would potentially provide economic benefits when those children grow and are more able to contribute to our society. Education is the backbone of a successful economy and Nick Gibbs is showing an alarming lack of understanding about how such a simple change could benefit the country as a whole. Get on with it!

  18. Alsion

    Why should it depend where you live if this accepted or not? Children are all individuals and the parents know the child best and should have the ability to choose what is best for their children. As summer born struggle so much why do we do this to them? I am ready for fight for my summer born next year to allow her to start in reception at CSA but a blanket policy for the country is required asap.

  19. Kelly m

    I never thought in a million years I’d have to fight for my son being able to start school at the correct age.
    I’m pretty much being blackmailed and bullied into a choice I know is not right for him.
    Will Mr gibb take full responsibility to any damage it may cause our summer borns?