Rules on when to start school

(19 Posts)
Lastofthepodpeople Tue 03-Sep-13 14:02:08

DS is 3 (birthday in June) which means I believe he would be eligible for school in September 2014. I am not English and this seems very young to me but I've been assured by colleagues that this is correct.

I've had a look on the local authority website and they want applications in by January 2014 for preferred schools.

The only rules I can find on when they have to start school is that it seems they need to start in the September following their fifth birthday rather than fourth.

I would prefer to start DS later firstly because I think four is very young, but also because we are half way through the immigration process for Australia and are hoping to leave Christmas time next year, so I wouldn't want him to go to school for a few months then change countries where he'd start school later.

I'm going to email the local authority and ask for clarification but does anyone know what the rules are, or started their children a little later than four?

LIZS Tue 03-Sep-13 14:08:24

Your dc is entitled to start Reception between September 1st after they are 4 and following the Summer term , in order to keep the place you applied for. If you wait until September after 5 they go straight into Year1 and you will have to take a place at whatever school has a vacancy which may differ to the original one . So yes you could wait until you are sure about your move but you may want to apply for a preference of schools as a back up plan .

Unless you are in Northern Ireland. Nursery in the September of the school year in which DS is 3. And p1 at 4.

So, your DS is three already. In NI he would start nursery now, and school next year.

TheContrastofWhiteonWhite Tue 03-Sep-13 14:14:50

What LizS said.

Children have to be in school (or home educated) by the term after they are five. As he is a June birthday, you have lots of flexibility.

If you apply and have a place, you can decide not to send him until later in the year (or not at all if your immigration all works out).

People pretty rarely start their children later than the September TBH. They miss out on all the settling in and gentle first term stuff and have to go right into a settled group where they are likely to be the only new arrival. Plus most childcare, etc isn't keen to have them once they reach school age. That obviously isn't an issue if you don't think he'll join the English school system at all. (I've assumed you are in England by the way, Scottish rules are very different).

Weegiemum Tue 03-Sep-13 14:23:28

If you are in Scotland then they don't start until the August of the year in which they turn 5, and those with Nov-Feb birthdays don't have to start (can but don't have to) until they are 5+ - eg my dd1 was born in Feb 2000, started school in August 2005 aged 5y6m and went to secondary school in August 2012 aged 12y6m. I have friends in England with children 17m younger than her who started school a whole year earlier!

Have you thought about just not sending him? Could you home educate until you leave. He doesn't have to start school in England until the sept after his 5th birthday but he would skip reception. I think if I were you I'd just plan on settling him in when you get to Australia, but I suppose that hangs on how likely you are to get the visas!

givemeaboost Tue 03-Sep-13 14:28:39

If they are currently at nursery, (2yr old gov funded) can they stay on at nursery if they don't go straight off to school?

My dd also due to start at 4.1 next yr, wont be sending I don't think, still has 2hr naps and still not 100% potty trained!!

Lastofthepodpeople Tue 03-Sep-13 14:35:43

My first instinct is to just leave him at home until we leave but I was slightly worried about getting into trouble about not sending him to school when he's due.
I think we're likely to get our visa but the Australian immigration system is notoriously lengthy and occasionally fickle so I don't want to keep him out and then we get turned down.
He's currently at pre-school that takes up to age six but I've just changed jobs and am moving him because the old one was by my old work. I'm not sure what the new one does. I'll look into it.
There are just so many different aspects to consider. I guess I need to get as much information in before I decide what decision to make.
I'm aware that when we moved house six months ago, he struggled to settle so a move between countries will likely be even more hard on him. I just want it to be as least disruptive as possible.

Lastofthepodpeople Tue 03-Sep-13 14:36:21

Thanks for all your posts. Definitely had a bit of light shed on my options grin

Mutley77 Tue 03-Sep-13 14:42:34

It depends where you are going in Australia but it is likely he would start Feb 2015 here and IME the pre-primary year (equivalent of reception) has higher expectations than reception and therefore if I were you I would let him go to Reception for a term as this will get him into the swing of school before he gets there. Although I base that on the experiences of my own kids who are fairly confident and have coped well with changing schools and making new friends - if he is going to hate every minute of reception then don't bother as it isn't compulsory.

Saracen Tue 03-Sep-13 19:52:14

"My first instinct is to just leave him at home until we leave but I was slightly worried about getting into trouble about not sending him to school when he's due."

Oh no, that would be completely fine if that is what you want to do. You won't get into any trouble!

Are you in England?

If the LA is aware of your son's existence, they may get in touch with you if you don't apply for a school place this year for him to start next year, in order to make sure you haven't overlooked it. At that point you can just tell them that you aren't planning to send him to a state school the year he is four - there is no legal requirement for four year olds to be educated at all. But if they never contact you, you don't have to inform anyone. (The only requirement to inform anyone about home ed is if the child is already enrolled at a school, in which case you must submit a properly-worded letter to withdraw him.)

If you are still in this country in the term after your son's fifth birthday (autumn 2015), then you are required by law to ensure he is educated. But the requirements for home education are easy to meet and there is great flexibility in choosing how to go about it. You could do unstructured learning through play, for example, as I do. You'll want to familiarise yourself with the law when the time comes. Here's a site which covers the basics, and you can post on the Mumsnet home ed board or some other forum if you have any questions.

Saracen Tue 03-Sep-13 19:53:05

Oops, here's the site I meant: http://www.educationotherwise.net/

Lastofthepodpeople Wed 04-Sep-13 12:51:49

Yes, I'm in London. Thanks Saracen, that's very helpful.

I started out looking at timing for the school and then panicking because it suddenly looked as if I had to put down preferred schools in the next few months!

I'm worrying quite a bit less now. grin

titchy Wed 04-Sep-13 13:02:30

You DO have to put down preferred schools in the next few months!

Irrespective of when in the reception year you decide to send him, if at all, you still need to apply for a place by this January.

scaevola Wed 04-Sep-13 13:04:58

If you think you might want him to start at any point in the Reception year, you will need to apply on time as if for a September start. You then have the right to defer the place until January or after Easter (school might not like this, but cannot prevent you fom exercising this right).

If you apply late for reception, or wait until the following September (when he would have to join year 1 - for though it's not illegal to place children out of year group, you have no right to this) you will have to take a place at whatever school has a vacancy and this will sharply limit your preferences.

Saracen Wed 04-Sep-13 23:44:49

Just to expand a bit on what scaevola said: in England, "deferring" school start refers to your right to apply for and accept a school place and then send your child later in the academic year, without risk of losing the place to someone else. This is useful if you plan to send your child later than the autumn after his fourth birthday without harming his chances of getting into a school you like.

The latest date to which school start can be deferred depends on the child's birthdate. In the case of a summer-born child like yours, it is the end of the Reception year.

This is separate to the question of how long you can legally wait before sending your child to school.

Sometimes this catches people out, because if you ask the school or the LA a question such as "how long can I wait before my child has to start school?" then they may assume you are talking about deferral when you meant to ask when education is compulsory... or vice versa!

Pizzahutlover Thu 05-Sep-13 07:28:31

If your unsure that you will be getting the visa you should apply for your sons school as if you apply later then the deadline of january 2014 you are most likely to get a school that may be miles away or a local bad school that nobody wants and will have to go on waiting lists to get into your prefered school. Do not leave it to chance because if you dont get the visa then what. Your left with a child with no school place and to get a place in year 1 is very difficult ive heard. This only counts by the way if your in london dont know about outside london but you need to check. I think you should send him reception, is still under the early years foundation stage that all nurseries follow so not much different and at least if you dont get the visas your child still has a school to go to. Most good schools in london have no places so you may end up in a bad school if you dont apply and visa does not work out. Anyway good luck and hope all goes well but think you really need to think about this properly as may affect him starting school and settling in to school as he would have missed the reception year which is important. Good luck

bananasontoast Mon 09-Sep-13 23:27:35

Here's some advice from the Department for Education on summer borns starting school in England:
media.education.gov.uk/assets/files/pdf/a/advice_summer_born_children.pdf

Here is some info on a debate that recently took place in Parliament about this issue:
summerbornchildren.org/

noramum Tue 10-Sep-13 08:18:37

I agree, do the application as if he would start in September 2014. As he is Summer born you can then defer his place if really necessary.

But: Reception is very much about fun and child-led learning. Yes, they do learn basic maths, reading and writing but also lots of playing like he does in pre-school.

Check how school starts in Australia. Depending on their system you may want him to have some basic knowledge and not be totally behind.

I have a July-born girl and I was worried a bit at first, I come from Germany where they don't start until they are 6. But she took it like a duck to water and absolutely loves it.

pyrrah Tue 10-Sep-13 10:03:05

Think very, very carefully before deciding not to fill in the application forms.

- If you don't apply for this year, you will then be an in-year application for Year 1. The LA have to find you a school place - but in any school with a vacancy. This could be up to an hour away and in a school that nobody wants. There is no right to a school that is close to you or that you actually want. There are strict rules on the number of children allowed in the class so there are no exceptions except for extreme circumstances (statements, child in care, witness protection etc).

- Deferral only means that your child starts later than everyone else, not that they start the curriculum later. So a deferred child may be at a personal advantage in terms of being a bit more mature but at a disadvantage in the sense of having to play catch-up and make friends.

- Moving down a year is nigh-on impossible. Even parents with children with serious learning difficulties and special needs often can't get an out-of-year place. LAs are v reluctant to place children outside their peer group.

- Reception is very play-based. If you don't apply and then don't go to Oz and you stay in the UK, not only would you end up with no choice of school, but your child will be going straight into Y1. Friendship groups will have been established and there won't be the very gentle 'welcome to school' weeks that they have at the start of Reception, plus the academic work ramps up considerably from what is taught and the way it is taught in Reception.

- Many nurseries don't take school-age children. Even if they do, you may well find that he is the only child in his age-group in the nursery.

My DD has just started Reception. Last year she attended the nursery class at a local Primary School full-time (9-3.15) - it was basically Reception Lite... they learnt a bit of phonics, simple maths, how to write their own name, all the social skills needed at that age, lots of singing, dancing and role play. How to eat in a group, use the loo, put their own coat on and do their buttons up.

All 25 of them coped brilliantly even though they were only 3 - the staff gave lots of cuddles, changed them when they had accidents etc and really made school enjoyable and a fun place to be.

Personally I would apply in the usual round so that you have a school allocated. If you want to defer then I would start them in the Spring or Summer term so that they aren't going straight into Y1.

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