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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


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

Isabella1123 Tue 16-Feb-21 15:56:37

Yeah, I am totally agree with you because I realize this thing for my child "A later start can be the best thing for many children". Thanks for sharing 😊

Mediaemily Sat 21-Dec-19 12:21:02

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Aurthom Tue 20-Aug-19 19:21:19

@helix1244, children need more time to be children not homework at an earlier age! One of the biggest indicators of success in academics and later life, is the amount of free play children have with no adult intervention or direction. Trying to get them to learn how to be grownup at younger and younger ages is counter productive. So many studies back this up. They also show that homework makes no different to results in the short term or long term. Let’s let our kids be kids ❤️

Aurthom Tue 20-Aug-19 19:13:52

I have to disagree with this point. Having children 17 months older is a VW efit not a disadvantage to their youngest claaamates. What is incredibly difficult on all is if there are too many who are close to 4 as many need so much more individual attention and help. Having more older children in a reception class who can dress themselves without help, who are independent and don’t need the teachers help for most things, means that more individual attention can be given to the youngest children who need the extra help.

JaneLaw Wed 29-May-19 04:25:51

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Helix1244 Sat 25-May-19 19:25:03

If the diasadvantaged despite going to preschool from 2 are still not achieving then that policy is not working.
Maybe preschool homework for kids/parents might help to direct them towards what might help to work towards including school readiness.
Say today/week we are working on putting socks on or coat/getting dressed.

Mambazo123 Sat 25-May-19 10:23:45

@Elisheva that sounds great, none of those interventions or options were available to me! What government policy the delay in teaching phonics you state so that all children across the country can benefit from those things you describe?

My daughters induction is at the end of June, 3 days to settle in to school before starting in September when the start teaching phonics. If we hadn’t delayed she would be having her induction to school at 3!!

Mambazo123 Sat 25-May-19 10:19:40

This article is where those quotes came from:

I can not access the primary literature (I came across this when looking for the articles you shared). I am unable to access the primary data to identify the reliability of this information as stated above.
No doubt it is riddled with the same assumptions/inaccuracies and limitations of extrapolation in the studies that show there is a negative impact on others.

It also fails to consider individuals and the unique set of circumstances that may or may not apply.

Perhaps a cautionary ‘There are likely to be positive and negative indirect impacts to others that warrant further study, consideration and monitoring’?

Elisheva Sat 25-May-19 10:16:16

Several of the schools that I work in have made steps towards this:
One school doesn’t start teaching phonics (or anything) until after half term, one doesn’t start until after Christmas.
One school repeats a lot of the preschool programmes as standard e.g. Letters and Sounds Phase 1.
One of them has a differentiated start to the day for some children - they start in a small room with a TA, they have a drink and a biscuit together and go into class when it has settled down.
One has an intensive ‘school readiness’ intervention which works on things like toilet training, dressing/under dressing, fine motor skills and social skills.
One school funds two TAs per reception class, so the ratio is 1:10.

So much can easily be done.
The summerborn policy is questionable at best, may help a few, might not, might disadvantage a few, and it is distracting attention away from things that really can make a difference.

Mambazo123 Sat 25-May-19 10:06:15

Let’s take steps to make the environment ready for the child rather than trying to make the child ready for the environment.

I would agree with that too, if Reception was still play based and did not start teaching phonics from the autumn term it would be more akin to preschool (although teacher pupil ratio still not ideal) but there might be more flexibility in part time/federal then.

Sadly this would also go against current governmental drives sad

I’ll get the links to the research

Elisheva Sat 25-May-19 09:24:19

Many researchers agree the summerborn policy will positively impact other children Could you cite the research you are extrapolating from please.
No amount of teacher awareness will make my child more ready for school I assume that they are at some sort of preschool setting?

Let’s take steps to make the environment ready for the child rather than trying to make the child ready for the environment.

Mambazo123 Sat 25-May-19 09:21:17

But one implication is that if a handful of families in a school decide to redshirt their children, they may be doing the other families a favor by improving the children’s peer group.

Mambazo123 Sat 25-May-19 09:20:15

I’m not sure on the reliability of this research, but it goes directly against what you have suggested to say

‘Consistent with this evidence, the research on relative age indicates that being among the youngest in the class has benefits, in both the short and long term. Why? Because older classmates tend to be higher achieving and better behaved.‘

Mambazo123 Sat 25-May-19 09:18:57

A quote to show the potential benefit to others
‘As the research literature confirms, the peer composition of a classroom is very important: not surprisingly, children benefit from being in a class with well-behaved, high-achieving children, and are harmed by the presence of poorly behaved classmates.
One recent study by Scott Carrell, Mark Hoekstra, and Elira Kuka was able to measure the lasting detrimental impact of being in class with a disruptive peer in elementary school, suggesting that the presence of just one disruptive student out of 25 reduces the earnings of other students in young adulthood by a modest but measurable 3 to 4 percent’

Mambazo123 Sat 25-May-19 09:16:01

I have reflected a little more. Government policies actually did benefit me and my family, moreso as I got older. Free school meals, The EMA, student loans, subsidised university fees. But the primary drivers for change (luck/innate ability/mother) were not changed by these.

I agree with your additions to the summary. There needs to be a drive to make the process easier and actively promote delay for the particularly disadvantaged/vulnerable summerborns that might not delay.
If you add ‘many researchers agree the summerborn policy will negatively impact other children, you also need to add, many researchers agree the summerborn policy will positively impact other children’ (I have extrapolated that from research showing detriment of disruptive/immature individuals in a class and benefits of older more mature individuals in a class-not an ideal extrapolation but given the detrimental impact is largely associated with relative age effects it is important to consider both.)

I do not agree regarding your ‘easiest solution’ as stated before no amount of teacher awareness will make my child more ready for school, delay will.

Elisheva Sat 25-May-19 08:44:59

I don’t agree with the school readiness score. My point was that if we are going to assess children for school readiness then all children have to be included in this, not just a few. And your comment that some children would never be ‘ready’ for school is exactly my point.
The only things I would add to your summary are:
Many researchers believe that the summerborn policy will negatively impact other children. As Snazzygoldfish said, particularly the vulnerable and disadvantaged, and especially the summerborn children who don’t delay.
Research suggests that delaying summerborn children may not always be beneficial and in some cases may even be detrimental.

The easiest solution, and one that can be implemented immediately, is to improve teacher awareness of the summerborn effect and its implications and education in how to counter the effect.
who knew a middle class mum could actually have any idea of the sort of kids you are talking about
Indeed, seeing as nothing you have said indicates that you are concerned about them in any way.

Mambazo123 Sat 25-May-19 08:36:23

Ok I generalised my experience to all (sorry some might care about it) I’ll stop writing in haste and anger now.

Mambazo123 Sat 25-May-19 08:34:02

My response was written in haste, also with anger. I honestly think some people do not have a clue what really matters to the deprived. Why not ask them what would help? You may have ‘worked with the them’ but try living it. The reality is soooo far removed from the summer born policy and its implications that seriously it does not matter to them!

Mambazo123 Sat 25-May-19 08:15:09

@Elisheva I was highlighting how your suggestion actually might further disadvantage those you are suggesting will benefit.
Your concern is not misplaced. But your suggested solutions are (re the school readiness score). All children matter. I come from a place where my family was one of those you speak of...funnily enough no government policy made and iota of difference to my family life and ability to get out of deprivation (curveball there hey, who knew a middle class mum could actually have any idea of the sort of children you are talking about). Unless you find a policy to give kids supportive mothers/ innate intellect/ and a whiooole lot of luck I really don’t think you have helped them. That is not to say we shouldn’t try, I just think depriving summerborns isn’t going solve they issues you are concerned with.

Snazzygoldfish Sat 25-May-19 07:55:41

Elisheva, thank you for your thoughtful, well constructed and reasoned arguments on this thread. I hope Nick Gibb and others with the responsibility for this policy have the opportunity to read this thread prior to making any decisions. I have worked with the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children in society and share your anger at the above comments and also earlier in the thread at the demands for summerborns to snatch the other precious few resources ringfenced for these groups (2 year old funding, 30 hours limited to summerborns only, pupil premium and sports funding) to name a few. I can clearly see how the most vulnerable and disadvantaged would be affected if this policy became common practice and hope the ministers responsible find an alternative way to meet the needs of summerborns that doesn't impact so negatively on other children.

Elisheva Sat 25-May-19 07:29:25

See I was with you and agreeing with much of your post until I got to this comment: those children you are sooo concerned about which has made me unspeakably angry.
Are you suggesting that my concern is misplaced? That these children do not exist? Or perhaps do not matter?

Mambazo123 Sat 25-May-19 07:20:28

@Elisheva thank you much appreciated. How strange that directly contradicts the evidence you suggested about being older giving an academic advantage. Perhaps delaying summerborns actually gives those super disadvantaged you speak of an academic advantage then if it is detrimental to those middle class delayed summerborn individuals and makes them do worse overall? Other potential negatives (feeling inferior- asking why when she was older/kept behind) were considered and are why MANY parents chose not to delay. That makes sense I wonder how they actually measured that impact?

On balance, as very well put above by Shnazembach a multifaceted approach is required and ultimately it is a judgement call based on potential costs and benefits for that child.

If you accept the above as evidence that delaying summerborns [or any child] until they are considered ready is a bad thing then why did you suggest earlier that you would support delaying ALL children to start school at 5? And why would you suggest that ALL children should be assessed by some (almost impossible) school readiness score (delaying many?)

I put it to you that you do not actually accept that evidence as a good enough argument against delaying summerborns

I put it to you that actually we all agree on many things.

Summary of what I have learnt from this discussion
- Most people agree and some evidence suggests:
- There are benefits of delay for summerborns [any child?] that are not considered ready for school.
- Summerborns [any child] should not be forced to miss Reception
- Missing any reception is detrimental
- Forcing immature children into full time education is hugely detrimental to both themselves and their peers in that class
- The school system needs some significant improvements (not addressed by the summerborn policy)
- The ‘order effect/relative age effect’ is not addressed by delaying summerborns

Potential solutions available to solve the school readiness for issue MANY within current legislation:
- the summerborn policy, which allows flexibility to address many (not all) school readiness issues.
- ?? Any others on the table within current legislation that I am unaware of??

Potential solutions available involving significant changes to legislation:
- raise the school starting age for all (most people agree with this)
- Creating some sort of school readiness assessment (which could actully disadvantage SEN and those children you are sooo concerned about with huge life challenges that will not be overcome in a single government policy more, what if they are never ‘ready’ are they never allowed to go to school? Then some go to school at 4,5, 10? It is complicated?

Thank you agian for the interesting discussion. I would be interested in anything that you would add to the summary above before?

Dana28 Sat 25-May-19 02:21:00

But research surely cannot differentiate between those summerborns who are ready and those who were not, so is meaningless.

Elisheva Fri 24-May-19 22:30:43

A summary, as demanded.

Little evidence supports the perception that children who have been allowed to mature for another year will benefit more from their schooling.
Not only is there a preponderance of evidence that there is no academic benefit from retention in its many forms, but there also appear to be threats to the social-emotional development of the child subjected to such practices.
Maturationists predict that children whose kindergarten entry is delayed will fare better in school. However, research does not substantiate the predicted beneficial effects on achievement, self-concept, or social development

Children who have been delayed are more likely to receive special education services later.

Some children who are redshirted worry that they have failed and develop poor attitudes toward school.

Children who are redshirted tend to have a higher prevalence of behavioral issues over time.

On average, delaying kindergarten entry has no long-term effect on academic achievement. By about third grade, any early differences disappear.

First grade students who were young for their year showed more progress in reading and math than kindergartners who were too old for their grade

A large cross-sectional survey of more than nine thousand children at different ages shows that by adolescence, the overage children had higher rates of parent-reported behavior problems, such as bullying, trouble getting along with others, depression, losing temper, feeling inferior; and after age twelve, hanging out with kids who get in trouble — even though these children had low scores for being at risk when they were younger

Byrd, Weitzman, & Auinger (1997); Deming, D. & Dynarski, S. (2008)
Wang and Aamodt; NAECS/SDE (2000):Graue (1993b); Shepard & Smith (1989); Graue & DiPerna (2000).

Helix1244 Fri 24-May-19 21:29:12

My data also showed 40% not meeting of summerborns. So the deprived sre then not substantially worse off 3% in meeting the target. They may be failing on different aspects though.
Or the same as the effect not capable of reading/writing at that age is the same as not being supported by parents (and eyfs does rely on parents really doing all thevreading with them).
But is could be speech/understanding etc

I don t see how getting them into school earlier helps. As they would definitely be part of the 40% not meeting summer borns? And if all kids are going to preschool now virtually and some getting it from 2yo.

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