Premature birth and delaying school start

(105 Posts)
hawthers Fri 09-Nov-12 14:44:25

My DS1 was born at the end of August but should have been born in late October. He spent quite a long time in the NICU and has had extensive follow up by his consultant and a developmental specialist. Amazingly he is fine health wise although small for his age. He does not have any major developmental delay aside from the overall general delay if that makes sense.

Anyway, I was wondering if anyone has any experience of delaying primary school entry for their child? I'm gathering there is not a whole lot of guidance on how to do it and it is very much at the discretion of individual headteachers but many of them are not keen to step outside the standard procedure.

My DS1 does not appear to have any SEN but i guess it may be too early to tell right now (he is 3). It is clear though that he is just younger than all the other kids in his preschool and it seems barmy to push him along in the wrong school year where he will always struggle. His consultant and the developmental specialist have both said that they will support a delayed entry.

Would be really grateful to hear any experiences.

tethersend Fri 09-Nov-12 15:06:26

Watching with interest- I really think provision needs to be written into the admissions code for premature babies to take their EDD as their DOB. This issue comes up more frequently as better medical care happily means that more premature babies reach school age- I think school admissions legislation needs to catch up.

RedZombie Fri 09-Nov-12 15:13:37

Fortunately my prem DTs were born beginning of September (due in October) so they went to school as the oldest. I don't think they would have been ready to go a year earlier which would have been the case if they had been born a couple of weeks earlier.
I don't think there's any leeway, but would be interested to see from someone who knows,

NigellaTufnel Fri 09-Nov-12 15:20:19

In a perfect world you probably would defer entry. The difference being the oldest or the youngest in the year is massive. (I speak from not quite bitter experience of having a summer boy.)

But, and it's an enormous but. You have to consider senior school. In the independent sector some schools will refuse to put children in the wrong year. Suddenly everyone will want it.
And state can be even trickier as they may not want children to sit exams a year 'late' as it may screw up whatever league tables will be operating.

So you could be faced with your child being told they should miss the first year of high school to catch up.

Obviously this should not happen, but there are no guarantees.

DoverBeach Fri 09-Nov-12 15:21:33

You might find some advice on this from the Bliss website here .

hawthers Fri 09-Nov-12 16:47:50

nigella that is exactly what I'm worried about as that would put him in the worst possible position.

diver thanks for the link will look into that.

Bigwheel Fri 09-Nov-12 17:23:54

I always thought you could delay them starting school until they are 5, so the sept after they turn 5 in your case, but they would then have to go into their age appropriate year group which in your case would be year 1, meaning they would miss the whole of the reception year. I'm not sure if tis is how it works thoughout the whole of the uk though. Perhaps contact your local councils education department?

littlemiss06 Fri 09-Nov-12 17:36:42

I have twins born two months premature on 31st august but I didn't delay school and they have done fantastic, its had no effect at all on their education and along with their prematurity they also have suffered with bad asthma, one of them had glue ear/grommits, they both have Tourettes yet they have just finished high school and gone on to college with 20 GCSEs and two BTECs between them, personally I wouldn't delay starting school.

hawthers Fri 09-Nov-12 17:52:50

big I'm pretty sure you can defer entry to later in the year but it is putting him on a whole different school year that I'm hoping to do.

little I'm glad to hear your twins are doing well.

I've heard loads of stories of genius, rugby playing, 6ft tall premmies but I feel quite strongly that if he went in his birth year he would struggle and if I can help avoid that then I think I should

EyeoftheStorm Fri 09-Nov-12 18:07:58

I am in a similar position. DS2 was born in July, should have been September. He had bleeds on the brain which led to hydrocephalus but after having a VP shunt put in, everything has gone very well. He has hit his milestones and has no obvious developmental delays at 3.

I think that the difference between us (not sure if you have an older DC) is that DS2 is DC3 and my older children are summer babies too.

They both got off to a slow start but are absolutely fine now and there is no difference between DS1(8) and the older children in his class.

So I can use that experience to make decisions about DS2. In a perfect world I would want him to be in the school year of his EDD. I feel that he and I have been robbed of that extra year.

But I also think he will be ok. I will not delay his start but I will be watching for problems. Once he's in school, I might ask for half days for a term if he's enormously tired. I will be watching him carefully and get help from the school if necessary.

homebythesea Fri 09-Nov-12 18:13:35

My DD 8 weeks early, no other issues except being petite and started school as normal. I think that by age 4 a prem baby will have generally caught up with their peers (unless of course there are other health issues which thankfully we did not have). I would go with the flow and accept that your wee one may fall asleep in the book corner from time to time grin

cathpip Fri 09-Nov-12 18:14:13

My sisters little girl was due end of Oct but arrived on the 22nd Aug, she started school last year without delaying the start (my sister was also very worried about this) and she has been absolutely fine, a little tired but most reception children are. I would just speak to the ht and the reception teacher and voice your concerns, working together with them you can keep a good eye on your DS.

littlemiss06 Fri 09-Nov-12 18:32:17

I do really understand your concerns but as ive said with my twins they did really well yet my April born child is struggling tremendously, working at the level of a reception child and shes in year 2, I just feel delaying when they start also has an effect as the children in his year will already be forming strong bonds and friendships, they will learn a lot in those early days in school and to be honest a lot of reception is play based so they have fun while learning.

hawthers Fri 09-Nov-12 18:36:18

Hi all hope this doesn't come across as arsey but I'm not asking if he should delay or not. I'm asking how to do it and if anyone has any experience.

Sorry its been a loooong week, now where is the wine

EyeoftheStorm Fri 09-Nov-12 18:38:37

Ah then I think the Bliss website will have more information on that. I think there are several threads following a fight to delay starting school and also some mums even give phone numbers so you can have a chat about what they did. I think how difficult it is depends on what county you are in.

anicesitdown Fri 09-Nov-12 18:58:46

I did this with my DS, who has an August birthday.

We had an informal chat with the headteacher, who was supportive. His nusery teacher was also supportive. Both agreed to start him in Reception, when he was 5, and stood their ground with the local education department.

The headteacher's support will be crucial. We now have a new headteacher, who is totally opposed to holding children back; however, another parent was able to do this for her son as she discussed it with his paedeatrician (he may or may not have AS), who wrote a strong letter of support.

I have never regretted my decision. DS has flourished as the eldest in his class. He is small amongst his year group, but this has not affected his confidence as 'he's the oldest'. Go with your gut instinct - you do hear of cases where kids have done well despite being the youngest; you never hear of cases where a child was disadvantaged by being the oldest in the class.

I'm guessing that your application has to be in by Jan? If so, I'd ring the LEA to get their stance, then ring round the schools you are interested in to discuss with the headteacher. Then ask your health professionals to put in writing their recommendation that he does not start formal education until he turns 5, and at that point, he should be placed in a Reception class. Then do not put in an application until next year, as it will be better to apply fresh at that point rather than now, and defer entry (it's much cleaner administratively - LEAs like that). You could then ask for follow up letter from the paed. etc.

HTH - good luck.

DoverBeach Fri 09-Nov-12 19:04:45

I don't have experience of doing it - but I wish that I had. I was in a very similar situation to you and my dd really struggled in reception. A lot of it depends on your child, my dd was already naturally inclined to be anxious and sensitive so being a youngest in her year exacerbated her anxiety. She was overwhelmed by school and really needed another year in pre-school. A more robust or extrovert child might have been fine.

I have heard a lot about her 'catching up' and (minor rant), it really annoys me. Why should she have to catch up with older children? Are the September born children having to catch up with the children in the year above?

SurvivalOfTheUnfittest Fri 09-Nov-12 19:15:09

I work for our LA and their stand is that children have to start school in the 'correct' year group. This has applied to pupils who have been born prematurely and who sometimes have significant learning difficulties, as well as health needs, as a result. I believe there has recently been a query about this and possibly some sort of interaction with the Government (I'm sure I read it on here!) If your DS is only 3 then any outcomes from that may happen in time for him to start a year later anyway. I believe the request was to give the parents the choice - as on here, some will have 'caught up' and some would benefit from the time at home. An advanced serach on here might find the info for you. Your LA should be able to tell you the current policy for your area and some Heads will be happy to work with you on it. Others, less so. Good luck!

hazeyjane Fri 09-Nov-12 19:29:42

That is very interesting, Survival. I would like to know more about that!

Ds wasn't premature, but has a possible genetic condition, part of which is global developmental delay. He is about a 14 months behind with gross motor skills and about 20 months behind with speech. He is only 2.4, but we have been looking at the local schools, and starting the statementing process. I cannot imagine he will be ready to start reception in 2014, he is a July birthday, so will be young in his year as well.

It all depends so much on the child how they will cope with the start of school, but it seems that something has to be done for children who just aren't ready.

Ghoulelocks Fri 09-Nov-12 19:34:34

A word of warning:

I was once involved in a case of agreeing to a child starting in the year below (for a different reason, SEN). It turned into an awful awful mess as although it worked throughout primary the LEA made the decision that for insurance reasons he could not remain in primary beyond age 11 and corrected his class for secondary entry, so jumped from yr 5 to yr 7 with awful fall out. This was largely due to new rules and new leaders/ legislation in the interim period which couldn't have been predicted. Even if that didn't happen there is the risk that high school would insist that they sit exams at the correct age, so as not to impact on their results negatively.

Even if you get your way because one head is supportive it doesn't mean the problem is solved. Take a lot of advice on this and don't just think of now, but the future.

Ghoulelocks Fri 09-Nov-12 19:37:11

hazeyjane, a good school will make sure THEY are ready for your child, not the other way round. Every year there are children that fit into this category, whilst it would be ideal for EDD to be used for very prem babies don't worry too much if the rules don't change. Your child can be both happy and achieve over the course of their school career.

dixiechick1975 Fri 09-Nov-12 19:59:07

One poster on here Lingle did manage to defer her son in Bradford I think.

I know there is one child out of year (Aug birthday) in DD's class - this is a private school though think they are able to be more flexible.

Dozer Fri 09-Nov-12 20:07:31

There is no legal reason why children can't start in the year group below their chronological year group, the decision is down to schools / local authorities (since maintained community schools have little say), but most are against it, obviously totally different in Scotland. Some have published policies, eg to do it requires advice fron paediatrician / SEN statement.

I would like dd2 to start reception later in this way but doubt it will be possible in the state system. Private schools are fine with it, but could be major problems if (as is likely) she goes back into state sector at 7 or 11.

Dozer Fri 09-Nov-12 20:08:32

dfe in england will presumably say it's down to local discretion. In scotland the government direct schools to allow families to do this.

hawthers Fri 09-Nov-12 20:15:27

Ahh fuck it, I'm moving to the outer hebrides grin

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