Mother wins delayed reception place for summer-born daughter

A mother has won a delayed reception place for her daughter born in August, putting further pressure on other admissions authorities to allow children to enter school later.

Last week, Staffordshire County Council relented and, after media reports of the case, allowed four-year-old Olivia Dutton to take a place in a reception class rather than making her go straight into year 1 at the start of the next academic year.

Olivia’s mother, Rosie, used her legal right to delay Olivia’s school start, arguing that she was not ready for school having only turned four a few weeks before the school year started.

However, while some reports have called this a “landmark case”, campaigners say national change is needed.

Children born between April 1 and August 31 are classified as “summer-born”. Compulsory school age is the day after a child reaches his or her fifth birthday.

The School Admissions Code states that parents can choose not to send a summer-born child to school until the September after their fifth birthday and that they can be admitted out of their year group. It adds that decisions by admissions authorities must be made in the best interests of the child.

However, the ruling is inconsistently applied with some schools allowing children to begin in reception and others requiring that they begin in year 1.

Pauline Hull (pictured), co-founder of the Campaign for Flexible School Admissions for Summer Born Children, which supported Ms Dutton, argues that these decisions are a postcode lottery for parents.

“Rosie is just one example of many parents who are having to fight their admissions authority,” she said. “The truth is we still have many more parents who are being forced to put their children straight into year 1.

“As parents we know what is best for our children . . . and many of them are just not ready to go into reception, or straight into year 1, as they are not developed enough.

“If they are not ready for school just after they turn four then they are going to be more disadvantaged by going into an already-established year group.”

The decision as to whether a child who has started a year “late” is moved up a school year to be in their “chronological” age group is at the discretion of the school or local authority.

Ms Hull added: “I have heard of cases where a child is put straight into year 8 when they go to secondary school. And children are left at the whim of headteachers who might decide later on in their school career to put them up a year.

“More and more often when this is happening, the children concerned are then labelled as having special educational needs because they are behind their classmates.”

The education select committee held a one-off evidence session into summer-born children last month. During the hearing, committee member Neil Carmichael said children born in August were 90 per cent more likely to be put on the SEN register than autumn-born children.

Young people who have not been “bumped” up a year face further challenges when they turn 18.

Students who start the school year at the age of 18, are funded at 18.5 per cent less than 16 and 17-year-olds.

When cross-examined at the select committee session, school reform minister Nick Gibb agreed that headteachers and local authorities ought to take into account the best needs of the child, but ruled out any increase in the compulsory school age.

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  1. Samantha McCormick

    Since compulsory school age is the term after a child turns five it makes no sense that they are unable to start school at this time at the beginning of school. #summerborn children are at a huge disadvantage and they have the right to the best education available to them, as is every child. There needs to be flexibility in the system to allow #summerborn children the choice to start at the time that suits them best. It’s not for everyone; some #summerborn children will manage well starting at just turned four. As a parent YOU are best placed to decided which start will best suit your own child. NOT an admissions manager at a LA who has never even met your child!

  2. Emma Barnett

    We’re in the middle of requesting the same thing for our 3 year old and it’s definitely a postcode lottery. The admissions code is so subjective that admissions authorities are making up their own rules when it comes to parents making a request like this. Rules which are not fair and do not reflect on what the Department of Education was trying to achieve by introducing the recent summer born guidance! Change is needed so that our summer borns aren’t even more disadvantaged by being forced straight into Year 1!

  3. My son only turns 4 a week before he starts school.
    He isn’t ready for school as he is young for his actual age. Pre school and their SENCo agree. However we are finding it unbelievably difficult to secure a Year R place for 2016 rather than 2015.

    The schools in our local area don’t support ‘deceleration’ for any child, even those with special educational needs. They believe they are differentiate teaching for each pupil. I have taught Year R for 7 years and Year 1 for 2, and, with the best will in the world, when you have 30 children and only 2 adults (and only 1 in some Year 1 classes), this can be quite a challenge without setting up ‘intervention’ groups. Teachers have targets to meet and meeting these are reflected in pay. The Government now have higher expectations concerning attainment. There is huge pressure for teachers to push pupils to achieve, and this includes pushing those that just aren’t ready. This only produces a larger gap in attainment and knocks the confidence of those not ready. It has also resulted in schools, who have previously supported play based learning also in Year 1, changing their approach and teaching becoming more formal.

  4. Rachel Birch

    Although children are not required to start school until CSA trying to achieve this is a different matter. No one is saying all children should start reception at CSA just that parents should have the right to choose. However at present this decision is made by others who do not know the child in question. Parents are being made to jump through hoops in order to have their request granted. We were told we could not start our son at CSA because there were not ‘enough personal reasons’ in other words he did not have any additional needs. Another parent was told that some parents were perceived to be trying to gain an advantage for their child. Yes in a way we are, but not an academic advantage, just that they are advantaged emotional and socially and more ready to cope with the demands of formal education.

  5. Summer born children should be allowed to access YrR when they reach compulsory school age, and not pushed into sending them a year early out of fear that they will go straight into Yr1 if they waited until compulsory school age.
    The Code should also ensure that they stay with this new cohort for the rest of their education.

  6. The recent changes to the Admissions Code are positive for those who live in a supportive Admissions Authority and who have the time and resources to write an application as to why starting at Compulsory School Age is in their child’s best interests. But this doesn’t apply to many many families. Not only that, under section 2.16, the Code changes gave children born up until 1st April the absolute right to start school at their Compulsory School Age within the year, while summer borns can only request it as it crosses the cohort cut off. How grossly unfair to disadvantage still further the very group of kids who are likely to need the support the most.

  7. When will the government wake up and legislate so this becomes a CHOICE for the parent. Most parents wish to send their children EARLY and that is their right, it would just be so wonderful if you could send your summerborn ON TIME by making an informed decision as you know your child best without having to jump through 2 years of hoops in some counties, while in others it is just accepted without a fight.