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MumsnetGuestPosts (MNHQ) Wed 15-May-19 15:52:28

Guest post: “A later start can be the best thing for many children.”

Four years ago Rosie wrote about her fight to delay her summer-born daughter’s school entry. Now she is a spokesperson for the Summer Born Campaign.

Rosie Dutton

Mum in the moment

Posted on: Wed 15-May-19 15:52:28

(505 comments )

Lead photo

“Some summer-born children will enjoy school from age four and do very well, while others won’t.“

My summer-born daughter Olivia is the oldest child in her school year.

Nearly four years ago I told Mumsnet all about our ‘fight’ to start her in reception at age five.

Olivia is now in Year 3 and enjoying school.

But other parents up and down the country are still fighting for the same right, with their children being made to start at age 4 or enter Year 1 at age 5.

This is despite assurances from the Schools Minister Nick Gibb in 2015, that ‘summer-born children can be admitted to the reception class at the age of five if it is in line with their parents’ wishes’, and the promise ‘to ensure that those children are able to remain with that cohort as they progress through school, including through to secondary school.’

A later start can be the best thing for many children. Olivia enjoyed her reception year, but the jump to Year 1 was a bit of a shock and she found some of Year 2 hard. I’m so glad she had that extra year of development behind her to face those challenges.

No one could pick Olivia out in a crowd; she fits in perfectly well with her class cohort and is thriving in Year 3.

Despite all the warnings that she’d be ‘on the wrong register’, be ‘the odd one out’ or ‘have to take her SATs a year early’, we haven’t encountered any problems along the way (although she did receive a birthday card with the wrong age on one year, but that’s about as tricky as it’s got!).

Olivia even thanks me for what I did.

Every time I read about the summer-born issue it ends in confused debate, so I wanted to finish by debunking a few myths and ensuring everyone knows the facts.


I have always talked about it openly (and proudly) and explained my reasons to her. She tells me that she couldn’t imagine being in Year 4 right now. ‘I’m right where I belong, mummy,’ she says.

The truth is, Olivia knows more about the law than some staff who work in admission departments, and even some school heads. She often corrects adults who tell her she ‘should’ be in Year 4, saying, ‘I could be in Year 4, not should.’

Of course, every child is different. That’s why choice and flexibility is so important (but only if it’s fair for all). Some summer-born children will enjoy school from age four and do very well, while others won’t. Whatever choice parents make should be without judgement.

Every time I read about the summer-born issue it ends in confused debate, so I wanted to finish by debunking a few myths and ensuring everyone knows the facts.

What is the law? Do you know your rights?

The School Admissions Code requires councils to provide schooling for all children in the September following their fourth birthday, but a child does not reach compulsory school age until the term following their fifth birthday.

So, for a summer-born child (defined as born April 1st - August 31st), that’s a whole year later than when they could first enter school.

Here’s where it gets tricky. Summer-born children are still the only group of children who don’t have automatic right of access to reception at that point (compulsory school age); parents can only request that their child starts in reception.

Some admission authorities have a policy of automatically agreeing all requests while others will only consider requests if parents present very strong evidence of special educational needs or developmental delay.

It’s important to know that it’s your decision when your child starts school, whether prior to compulsory school age or at compulsory school age.

The admission authority for the school has to make a year group decision based on the best interests of your child at that point (i.e. compulsory school age). The discussion should not be about ‘school readiness’ or how they can meet your child’s needs at age four.

The question an admission authority must answer is: ‘What is in this child’s best interests at compulsory school age, reception or Year 1?’ It must then clearly explain the reasons for its decision.

Incredibly, it has been nearly four years since Nick Gibb’s assurances and promises, and in that time many children have been forced to miss reception or start school before their parents wanted them to.

There needs to be a consistent approach across the country, and soon.

For further information regarding the admission of summer-born children, please see the Summer Born Campaign website and join its Facebook group.

Rosie will be returning to the post on Wednesday 22nd May to answer some user questions

By Rosie Dutton

Twitter: @muminthemoment

Mummy0ftwo12 Wed 15-May-19 19:42:56

I have a summer born language delayed ds and asked our local Grammar school this recently, the response i got was that they wouldn't allow 11+ to be taken out of year. I also asked our Paediatrician who wasn't in favour because she thought that the child might not get the extra help if needed.

I am still on the fence but looking for a mid year start.

Procrastination4 Wed 15-May-19 19:43:19

In Ireland children can start at 4, but a lot of them start at 5-especially if born April-September. The flexibility is much better, I think.

Snazzygoldfish Wed 15-May-19 19:44:15

But why should only parents of summerborns have that choice? Playing devils advocate here but why can't a September-December born child start as soon as they turn four for example...and then what about the Jan-march gang-what choice do they get? Why can't everyone's parents decide when their child goes to school? The reason is that it would be chaos with massive age ranges and abilities in every class. I think there needs to be one rule for everyone and the older that is the better.

Procrastination4 Wed 15-May-19 19:44:43

And thankfully they can ONLY start in September (my teacher cap in here!). I’d hate a system where the children started at various times during the year.

Sunshine6 Wed 15-May-19 19:48:06

arethereanyleftatall But for all you know that ‘poor bugger’ could be a highly advanced extremely intelligent 4 year old. That’s the whole point, every child is completely different and develops differently so having that option to delay is good. Too many kids are being written off as failures, labelled as disruptive and behind their peers at such a young age when in fact it’s due to being in the school environment when they were too immature to cope with it. That April child may be 17 months older than one born at the end of August but is only 5 months older than a September born. Just because they older doesn’t automatically make them brighter or more mature.

Snazzygoldfish Wed 15-May-19 20:01:02

But why can't the parents of an extremely premature march born child hVe the same option as the parents of a full term April born child?

Sunshine6 Wed 15-May-19 20:07:51

I could be wrong but I believe they can request it if a child is premature.

OwlinaTree Wed 15-May-19 20:09:37

Would a deferred child still be entitled to nursery provision?

WindsweptEgret Wed 15-May-19 20:10:44

But for all you know that ‘poor bugger’ could be a highly advanced extremely intelligent 4 year old.
I had a highly intelligent, fiercely independent, summer born 4 year old boy. I'm so glad that now at 13 his year group has only a 12 month range of ages, rather than him being with children over a year older than him. I don't think it would fair for parents of children like mine to have to choose between sending a child at 4 into a class with some children who will turn 6 before their child turns 5, or delaying entry when their child is ready for school.

BottomleyPottsSpots2 Wed 15-May-19 20:34:15

My son was born prematurely on 29th August some years back. I do not feel remotely guilty about deferring his start for a year so he started with the cohort he 'should' have been with, had he been born at term. He is the oldest in the year ... by 3 days! I don't think we've bought him any insurmountable advantages here but definitely mitigated disadvantage. When he should have started school, he wasn't even tall enough to sit on a child-sized toilet without a step! He still looks short compared to his peers but it's much less obvious and he can hold his own. In situations such as ours, I can't understand why a LA would say no but clearly some are doing!

cuppycups Wed 15-May-19 20:36:56

the response i got was that they wouldn't allow 11+ to be taken out of year.

@Mummy0ftwo12 you were given false information. A summer born can take the 11+ at the same time as their adopted cohort.

Sunshine6 Wed 15-May-19 20:37:24

WindsweptEgret My son turns 6 next month and some of his friends aren’t 5 yet but it’s not an issue at all. He still doesn’t really understand he’s the eldest and a lot of those younger ones still seem more mature than him. They are his peers that he will stay with all through school so that’s all he will know. We have an older June born who was fine starting at 4 but every child is different and they don’t all cope with the one size fits all that our schools have now with all the tests & targets that they have to achieve well in.

cuppycups Wed 15-May-19 20:38:49

@Snazzygoldfish but then why is it fair that the summer borns are disadvantaged? Why does it have to be them?

TotHappy Wed 15-May-19 20:47:58

My daughter's just turned three. My thinking at the moment is to home school her till she's seven (so through infant school) and then enter her. I have no idea how easy this will be though. She's a summer born, May. I wonder what anyone's thoughts are about integrating into school life at an older age than most?

Snazzygoldfish Wed 15-May-19 20:57:05

cuppycups, why does it have to be any child?

To me, the best way to end this madness would be changing the cut off date to 31 march and ensuring that ALL children are allowed to start at any point during that reception year with all remaining in the correct cohort. Otherwise how is it fair that children 17 months apart in age take the same exam to get into the best grammar school purely because the parents of the summerborn have taken advantage of this policy?

Ahsjaj Wed 15-May-19 21:00:33

@arethereanyleftatall

You clearly don't get the point of this campaign. The purpose of this campaign is to highlight and inform people of their legal right.
Campaigns like this get rid of the jargon and confusion around the topic, in turn helping sharp elbowed and flat elbowed people alike.

It should help people stop deflecting into this stupid mentally of, us vs them, me vs you. Because we would all have the same information to decide what is best for our children

Ps I'm dyslexic so not sure how well that read, my brain hurts now

WindsweptEgret Wed 15-May-19 21:02:22

Sunshine6 My DS spent his most of his primary years as one of the youngest with some classmates over 12 months older than him, and the age difference was more apparent in later primary, 9 with classmates turning 11 for example. A 12 month age range has been much easier for him.

arethereanyleftatall Wed 15-May-19 21:09:12

In response to the question above about sport and 11+, I've just checked a couple of things out in my own counties website;
They won't allow 'overage' pupils to do the 11+ test with their new cohort, unless there is 'exceptional circumstances.' Not sure what they might be. So, if you are to take this option for your child, the door might close for them to get in to a grammar school.
Sport - you have to compete with your own age. So 1/9/X to 31/8/X+1. So, they'd have to go 'up' a year to compete in sport.

pastaparadise Wed 15-May-19 21:10:15

i have a July born ds who is due to start in Sept in reception at CSA. We deliberated a lot about this - i have no doubt he will do better going a year later, last year he was still pooing in nappies, often napped in the day etc. He's still very shy but i think he'll cope better overall. However I'm worried about the future and whether he will a) feel.socially embarrassed about it b) at some point he'll be forced to skip a year. It doesnt feel like a perfect solution.

However, summer borns are currently disadvantaged, in that they start too young and are comparatively the youngest. They are more likely to be (mis)diagnosed with ADHD, least likely to excel in sports etc. I personally would like all children to start a year or even 2 later, then, even though someone has got to be the youngest, they're all at least ready for school when they start.

For people arguing I'm sharp elbowed middle class and want to put other kids down, I'd happily have exams take age into account (i think 11+ already do this is some way), so ds is not 'unfairly advantaged '.

pastaparadise Wed 15-May-19 21:15:36

arethereanyleftatall you're right about sport, although i think some sports eg swimming use different cut off dates in the year anyway. There also seems to be a lot of discrepant information about grammar schools.

As i said, although we have taken this option for our son, it's not problem free and there's a lot of drawbacks. however it seemed the better option than sending him way before he was ready. I think the postcode lottery is awful though- the same standards should apply to everyone

LisaSimpsonsbff Wed 15-May-19 21:23:38

In at least some areas grammar schools weight the results by month of birth, which would solve the problem - you'd effectively get a load of points knocked off if you were a delayed summerborn (or you'd gain them if you were a summerborn who hadn't been delayed, depending on how you look at it)

hmmmm01 Wed 15-May-19 21:23:53

My summer born (28 Aug 2012) is currently getting on amazingly well having started in Reception at CSA. Luckily our school is an academy and the head supported us in this, it is so unfair that despite assurances from Nick Gibb, many are not so fortunate.
For my daughter it is absolutely the best thing we could have done for her. At 4 and 4 days, she was NOT ready for school. She couldn't cope. We pulled her out the day before her 2 week induction period finished.
Starting a year later, at CSA, was the right thing for her. She is doing incredibly well, has loads of friends in her year, and loves school (on the whole).
Parents should have the right to choose what is best for their child, including whether starting at CSA, or up to a year early, would be better... we know our children best!

BiBabbles Wed 15-May-19 22:43:37

Out of year admissions on a case-by-case basis have always happened for kids of all birthdays. Maybe the parents with the pointer elbows are more likely to have fought for them -- but maybe, much like with Scotland and many other places - having a different cut off and the option clearly spelled out either as a choice or what is needed for those parents for one of the most likely groups (summer born, particularly those who were born premature and/or were ill a lot at an early age) rather than hidden in the fine print or only for those with the knowledge and energy to fight for it.

Elisheva Wed 15-May-19 23:03:31

The problem is that research, including the government’s own review, has shown that delaying summer born children does not work as a strategy to address the age related inequality in education. Neither does starting all children later. In Norway, where they start at 7, the summer born children still do worse than their older peers.
What does work is teacher awareness and education, effective differentiation and weighting assessments to take account of age.

riverislands Wed 15-May-19 23:13:19

I used to know someone whose child started in England at 4, did badly, was poorly behaved apparently. He moved to Sweden aged 7, and started again in reception alongside the other new starters-all 7. He went from bottom of the class to the top, and stayed there. It can just be that the system is wrong, not the child.

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