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.

cansu Fri 09-Nov-12 20:19:01

I have a friend who did this. She wrote directly to the head of the council enclosing her supporting statements from consultants etc and it was agreed. I think if you start from the position of negotiating with individual heads you may struggle as the lea really don't like this and will avoid at all costs. I managed to get dd to repeat reception due to her sen and I am sure it was the right decision for her. It wasn't easy and there were lots of rumblings about how it was against policy but it was eventually agreed, mainly I think to get me to shut up and go away !

Dozer Fri 09-Nov-12 20:23:01

Hawthers, if you have support from doctors etc it may work out! In your shoes I would ask for the local authority's written policy on entry out of age group (they will have one, just usually not published) and use a freedom-of-information request to ask how many children have been admitted out of age group in the authority in the each of the last 10 years. Then submit a written request for deferred admission, with written support from everyone you can get!

Or find a local school that is its own admissions authority and get an appointment with the head.

(but I'm pushy).

Mandy21 Fri 09-Nov-12 20:26:33

Hope you get the answers you want. I know you said you've already made up your mind, but just wanted to flag another point - my DS does lots of sport and the teams are always "the Under 7s" or "under 8s" - and if they're playing in tournaments etc, there is no budging from those rules. I know extra-cirriculum activities are a minor issue compared with education etc, but I think if it were my son, he would question why he wasn't allowed to be with his classmates. Just a consideration, I'm sure you've considered all aspects of the decision.

My twins were 12+ weeks early - born 21st April but weren't due until 15 July, so it didn't affect their school year. My experience and I know its only hearsay - age is only one factor in how settled / how well children do in reception. Its to do with confidence, personality, familiarity with the school / other children, confidence of the parents etc.

anniebunny Fri 09-Nov-12 20:28:35

A friend's son was in this situation this year- born end of Aug so should have started Reception this Septempber. The head teacher agreed with his mother's wishes and he is staying in nursery for another year, then joining the reception/year 1 class next September then the year 1/2 class the year after. After that they plan to re-integrate him into the year he 'should' be in by this birthdate (so he will go into year 3 with the rest of the current reception class). This only works due to the nursery being part of the school (not run by another company as with every other nursery locally), the mixed year group classes that the school has AND that the reception class was undersubscribed this year for the first time in over ten years. Also school is an acadamy to more free to do as it wishes.

I have mixed feelings about it- my twins were born in June but are/were very young for their age and weren't at all ready for reception. At the time they would have been much better staying in nursery for another year. HOWEVER I really struggle to think how they would have rejoined 'their' year group later (only just catching up now and are year 6) and I'm not sure what would happen with the change to secondary if they remain in the 'wrong' year group. And they have caught up, but it has taken a long time. I also think about my DD who is year 2 now and and how she would have coped (as a bright, mature member of her class) if she had had to suddenly be part of the class above- she would have struggled, how much more would a child who was behind to start with?

Not very helpful probably but just to say that clearly it is possible for a child to stay in nursery for an extra year!

hawthers Fri 09-Nov-12 21:44:55

Sorry again to the lovely posters giving positive stories. Just had DMIL and DM and other assorted relatives and any other random nosey twat who finds out about DS1's birth saying DS1 is fine, on loop for 3 years giving all sorts of anecdotal evidence of acrobats, neuro scientists, Nobel laureates, Olympic champions who were 1g when born etc etc etc.

As his mum I deeply feel that he shouldn't need to struggle and catch up. V emotive as I feel its my fault.

DH reckons we should just lie about hid birth date... hmm that won't work, will it?

NigellaTufnel Fri 09-Nov-12 22:10:38

Of course it's not your fault! Please don't beat yourself up.

Your natural reaction is to defer. But please consider the move to senior school. It could be a source of seven years of worry

NigellaTufnel Fri 09-Nov-12 22:11:12

And no, lying won't work!

homebythesea Fri 09-Nov-12 22:15:06

But the point is there is no struggle to catch up- none at all (again with the proviso of no additional health issues). Your DC will catch up naturally. Yes it may mean the first year is a bit more difficult but really you should take comfort from all our stories that by the time they are settled in at school the prem babies really are fine and as others have said the system is inflexible when it comes to dropping back a year.

EyeoftheStorm Fri 09-Nov-12 22:29:45

It's not your fault - definitely not your fault.

I know how irritating well-meaning relatives can be and I felt exactly the same when people sent me newspaper cuttings about amazing prem babies who'd gone on to sporting triumph or academic achievement.

But the thing is we've walked in your shoes, we know what it's like. I waited 2 years for DC3 to start walking and talking. It's all a bonus from there.

Fight for that delayed start if that's what you think is the best thing for your child. From other posters, it sounds like it could be a real possibility.

EyeoftheStorm Fri 09-Nov-12 22:38:40

Just realised most people wait 2 years for their DCs to walk and talk - should have said we thought he had brain damage from grade 3 IVH. Makes more sense.

hawthers Sat 10-Nov-12 09:46:49

home why do you say there is no struggle to catch up? From what I can see there is.

DS1 was the size of a 26 week old baby at 31 weeks and spent four months in intensive care. I know everything is a bonus after that but why should he have more to deal with than he needs to.

Re posters saying about sport and exam tables, he would only be 5 days older than the oldest possible child in the younger year so surely those children wouldn't be excluded from sport or warp exam results. I don't understand how that would be a consideration.

DoverBeach Sat 10-Nov-12 10:08:58

I am absolutely with you hawthers and I wish you the best of luck with this process. The Bliss website has some good advice to help you.

EBDTeacher Sat 10-Nov-12 10:15:30

If you can find a way to afford it I think a small 3-18 private school that is in need of bums on seats would be an answer. No need to worry then about secondary transfer. My DS is late Aug and I was going to do this if I didn't think he would be ok in his year actually I think he will be because he's a massive great bruiser.

NigellaTufnel Sat 10-Nov-12 10:29:59

The 5-18 school is a great idea.

The exam point is that although your DS would only be 5 days older the cut off for exam boards will be 1st September. So if the school is concerned with league tables, or is just inflexible, they will bump your DS up a year at 11.
It won't be your decision.
It will be whoever is in charge of the school at that time.
So I would talk to the secondary to see what its position is now. It may change though

Saracen Sat 10-Nov-12 10:38:41

@survival: "I work for our LA and their stand is that children have to start school in the 'correct' year group."

Then I'm afraid your LA is breaking the law in having such a policy. See the School Admission Code:

"2.17 Admission of children outside their normal age group - Parents of
gifted and talented children, or those who have experienced problems or
missed part of a year, for example due to ill health, can seek places outside
their normal age group. Admission authorities must make decisions on the
basis of the circumstances of each case, informing parents of their statutory
right to appeal."

The word "must" (emphasis in original document) means this is a statutory requirement, not just a recommendation to Local Authorities.

Unfortunately I think that the reiquirement to treat each case on its individual merits is rather hollow in practice. Try pointing out this requirement to an LA and they may say, in effect, "Er. Right. We'll consider this case individually then... (pause) No, we've decided your child belongs with his age peers." An argument could always be made that this decision is correct. An LA which is fundamentally opposed to placing children outside of their year group is likely to push that agenda, and to succeed most of the time.

Kewcumber Sat 10-Nov-12 10:48:31

How old is DS Hawthers?

My DS was a 26 week premmie (less than a kilo) and he didn't reach appropriate milestones until he was 4 so you may find that you want to wait a year or so before deciding whether to try the unequal struggle to defer him.

FWIW DS was just fine starting school (now in yr 2) and apart form some minor language delay is doing fine. Mind you, he had an earlier EDD than your DS so maybe that makes a difference.

I think its worth a try provided you accept that its not likely you will get him placed outside his year group. It is however possible and I do know a child who (for differnt reasons) successfully moved to a different year group. However they managed to convince local authority, head teacher and governors.

Kewcumber Sat 10-Nov-12 10:51:15

Just had DMIL and DM and other assorted relatives and any other random nosey twat who finds out about DS1's birth saying DS1 is fine, on loop for 3 years giving all sorts of anecdotal evidence of acrobats, neuro scientists, Nobel laureates, Olympic champions who were 1g when born etc etc etc.

grin yup been there! Particularly annoying that he has now caught up (and may yet be an Olympic champion if you believe him)

LeBFG Sat 10-Nov-12 11:43:41

OP, you don't seem to be worried about any specific delay. It seems to me that the main issue is age?

I've no experience of primary schools but many of my friends say there is huge variation in reception and Y1 - in terms of accomplishments (reading/writing) as well as maturity. Lump in the fact there will almost certainly be term-born children with SEN issues, it isn't a given that your DS will in any way suffer because of his age.

I have no recollection at all of being aware of my age relative to others in my year group. Do DC compare each other like that?

Obviously, if it's very important to you, the 5-18 school idea is a great suggestion. But clearly, if you fight to get DS into a state primary, the secondary transistion might be a bomb waiting to happen. Tred very carefully. Be very clear about what you want to achieve and why.

If your DS really does catch up, he will be very old (in terms of maturity and accomplishments) for his year group. This might pose other problems wrt fitting in?

tiggytape Sat 10-Nov-12 11:56:58

On the basis of age alone you are very, very unlikely to succeed. If you ask for him to be kept back a year based only on the fact that he was born in August but due in October, no state school is going to agree to this (many private schools are very flexible on this issue though).

If you have a body of evidence outlining special needs and medical support stating that he should be kept back a year, you may have more of a chance. The evidence would need to be very convincing and the medical opinion explicit in saying that additional support wouldn't be enough, he needs to be held back. Whether you could get a specialist to be this specific depends on the nature of any delay and their opinion on how the school could help.

And as others have said, if you do succeed in getting medical backing and winning your case with the school or LA, you will want to get reassurance about future school transfers so that he is not forced to skip Year 6 and go straight to secondary school which would be a disaster. This may mean commiting yourself to staying in one area for the rest of his education since if you move the assurances might not apply elsewhere.

On the positive side though, schools do offer in year support for children of wildly different developmental and academic stages. They will support him at his level wherever that may be when he starts and although he will be a year younger than the oldest in the class, he won't be the only Summer baby there and probably not the only premature baby either. Teaching children of that level takes into account they can differ in levels by much more than 12 months.

homebythesea Sat 10-Nov-12 13:38:27

Hawthers- it was not a STRUGGLE. She did stuff late but at 4 she was to all intents and purposes the same as her classmates in every way except size. At no point was anything more difficult for her to achieve- just later and the lateness got less noticeable as time went by. So for example she didn't walk until nearly 2, potty training till she was 3, fine motor eg holding a pencil was a bit trickier. But as others have said there will, statistically, be full term babies with similar if not worse issues when starting Reception and each issue will be identified and dealt with appropriately. I think at some stage you do need to kind if forget the fact the child was born in difficult circumstances and accept that whilst things may come more slowly, they will come. At 11 you would have no idea my daughter weighed 2lb at birth- no idea at all.

And private schools are not necessarily more relaxed about out of year kids- it's to do with league tables whic matter to the private sector as well. Socially it could be disastrous for your child to be jumped a year later so this should be a massive issue for you.

Kewcumber Sat 10-Nov-12 13:52:55

On the positive side though, schools do offer in year support for children of wildly different developmental and academic stages

This too and how good the reception teacher is. Our reception class had children with birthdays on 1 Sept and 31 August, DS who was a 26 week premmie with institutional delays on top and a couple of other children who had additional needs more significant than DS's. Excellent teacher = no significant problems for any of them in starting school and learning in line with expectations.

teacherwith2kids Sat 10-Nov-12 14:23:59

I have in my current class a child who is educated 'out of year' (his age puts him in the year above).

He has been 'properly' (ie officially with the LEA) moved into my class, so would transfer to the next school still out of year.

HOWEVER, this child has very, very significant additional needs, to the extent that his move will not be to the next school but to a special school. We are talking physical and sensory impairments, plus very significnt additional learning needs (educationally, they function most like a pre-school child, so 5 years below chronological age, and making very small amounts of progress each year so falling further and further behind as they grow older).

Even with this level of need, we had to work very hard for the LEA to officially hold this child down for a year. For a child without such significant impairment this would not happen (the other statemented child in my class has ASD and works 3+ years below chronological age but would not be considered for being educated outside his normal year group, the statementing process and the full-time support given within it is regarded as sufficient to retain him in the normal age group).

I would say that if you genuinely believe that your child will struggle and needs to be kept down a year, then you need to go down the 'significant SEN' route, not the 'age' route. You should also remember that the difference in age becomes proportionately less important as the years go by - what seems a HUGE gap at 3 - 1/3 of a child's life - and still large at 5 - 1/5 of the child's life - is often completely unobservable (and overtaken by other factors such as SEN, parental support, natural aptitude) at 8 or 10.

SmoothOperandus Sat 10-Nov-12 16:31:42

DS was born 13 weeks prematurely and he's in Y4 now. He would have been in the year below had he not been premature. He has been top of the class ever since nursery, no academic problems whatsoever. Keep a close eye on your ds but don't assume there will be any issues because of his prematurity. I think that if you delay entry, things could get messy at secondary level if at state school. Good luck!

crazymum53 Sun 11-Nov-12 20:13:33

I do know a family who deferred school entry for their dd who was born late August with severe SEN (but not premature). They had statement of SEN and agreement with both the school and LEA. Secondary transfer not an issue here as she moved to a special school.
I would apply at the normal time though and obtain another assessment in the Summer to make sure that the doctors still agree that this is appropriate. There is also information on the Bliss website about how premature birth affects school.
My dd was born 13 weeks early (did not affect school year group) and she made loads of progress between the ages of 3 and 4 years going from below age-group level to above average at pre-school.
Am afraid I don't agree with your statement "it seems barmy to push him along in the wrong school year where he will always struggle." Yes it was a struggle for dd at a young age, but dd did reach expected levels across all development areas from age 5 onwards and now (aged 13) there is no indication that she was premature at all.

Dozer Sun 11-Nov-12 20:39:02

The Institute of Fiscal Studies published some research on this. It doesn't bear out the "it'll all be fine, stop worrying" argument, it suggests that being young in the year is offen a significant disadvantage, even when parents and schools compensate with extra support. And that is looking at NT DC.

IMO people just say not to worry because their own DC have (so far) been OK and done well (which is obviously good, but doesn't mean it will be the same for others, in fact the evidence suggests not); or because they really want it to be OK (because admitting it isn't would make them feel bad/guilty) ; or think it'll be too stressful/futile to challenge the status quo (which is v v hard to do).

It is easier for them to try to get you to shut up (and portray you as over-anxious, pushy or whatever) than deal with the risks facing their DC and the inflexible state system.

saracen my understanding is that the right of appeal mentioned is only to the LA, not an independent authority, eg the schools adjudicator?

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