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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.

Dozer Thu 15-Nov-12 23:28:11

Hawthers, a dilemma re private school could be that should you need to return to the state system for any reason, the local authority may well make your DS skip a year to go back into the "correct" year.

Are there any all-through or primary academy schools in the area? They are their own admissions authority and local authorities can't tell them what to do.

Dozer Thu 15-Nov-12 23:24:36

Good luck whistlingwoman. It is unacceptable that schools and local authorities won't be flexible - or even civil, how rude of the head to not meet and seek to fob you off for so long -in these kinds of circumstances.

Some amazing, difficult stories on this thread.

awhistlingwoman Thu 15-Nov-12 22:52:24

Yes my daughter isn't that baby anymore either.

She is still, however, an untoilet trained, incomprehensible four year old. And I lay those both at the door of her premature birth.

But hey, it's actually not that big of a deal that her teacher doesn't understand a word she says or that she still has to wear nappies confused

Year 2 is looking to be the problem for us as the headteacher at our (long awaited meeting) thinks that she won't make that transition without questioning so we're looking at either attempting to obtain a statement or repeating Year R.

I told she wasn't ready. What a game played slowly ;)

BTW - if you are in Hampshire I'm hoping to get the situation clarified with the LEA shortly. . . long story but although my daughter isn't eligible for delay or deferral, I am going to pursue this so that I can post the results to interested parties.

hawthers Thu 15-Nov-12 16:24:31

It does seem to be the issue that year 6 is a problem for most people and si we've agreed with our current school that he will fi into reception in Sept unless we all have major concerns about how he will cope in the summer. At the end of reception we'll review again and decide whether he is ready to go to year 1 or needs to redo reception.

He is in a private primary currently just so that we could chose the year more easily than the state system allows and they appear to he more flexible at finding a solution that works for DS1 rather than blindly putting him into the upper year.

The issue is complicated as we intend to move at some point in the next 4 years but we're not too sure where to. So we can't really get any assurances from any other schools.

But yes totally agree Michael Gove = tosser

PropositionJoe Thu 15-Nov-12 14:58:53

The problem is, however much advice you get now about how to do it, you are very likely to come unstuck in year 6, which may well be worse than dealing with the "acceleration" now. That's why people are talking about whether to do it rather than how to do it, I think. Also, the old hands among us know how much we worried about the start of reception and how it wasn't actually that big a deal. You may be understandably over anxious given the difficulties you have had and your feeling of guilt - but he isn't that baby any more.

confuddledDOTcom Thu 15-Nov-12 14:29:15

"but he laughed off my question and said if he made excuses for one group of children, everyone would want an excuse to delay admission for their child too (what a tosser)."

Which groups might those be, FellowshipOfFestiveFellows? Other than children who are not ready due to medical needs (prematurity, learning difficulties etc) I can't see that he would have to argue that with others "My religion says I shouldn't send my children to school until they're 7 and they should join in at reception level"? You can keep your children at home as long as you want but you'd have a problem arguing to put them in a different year if it wasn't for a genuine reason. I have to agree with your assessment wink

One thing that I was always aware of expecting a September baby was how easy it was for her to be born into either year. She could have been technically term and still gone up a year. I did worry about her when she was born (in the myriad of things that goes through your head!) being in the year above but I think the fact that it could have so easily happened anyway without her being premature helped me to deal with it. My other two were premature but they stayed in the right year, I'm probably more concerned about my January baby going to school next September than I was my eldest.

ditherers Wed 14-Nov-12 20:39:27

Yes but in Scotland remember we have no reception. Preschool is age 4 - 5 and is only a short half day 9-11.30ish. It is just learning through play, not phonic or anything like that. The March kids are nearly 5.5yrs when they start school (P1) in August, so worst case scenario is that your Dec child will be 4yrs 8mths when they start school.

In England is seems like kids do full days at reception when they are practically babies must be long and tiring day.

Anyway - sorry off topic from thread

Surrealistrhinoceros Wed 14-Nov-12 20:38:03

Just thinking - my DCs school has composite classes and a joint nursery/reception foundation unit. So kids spend two years in nursery/reception, then two years in Y1/Y2, etc. hope I'm making sense.

Would it be worth looking at schools with an arrangement like this, as a way of squaring the circle? Then your DS wouldn't be the oldest or youngest in the group and the staff could more easily group him with the kids he fitted best with whether younger or older. I have a lad wih some SN and a late May birthday and I wouldn't mind putting him back a year to be honest! I think the composite class arrangement has been very helpful to him.

confuddledDOTcom Wed 14-Nov-12 20:24:52

Not read the whole thread, but about to smile I had a little girl due in September who came in July, she's now in Y2. Her nursery teacher (the actual teacher) said she would not have coped with another year at nursery she was the brightest child in the class. She's done brilliantly at school, she's keeping up with the others, getting levels that are expected, reading books aimed at 7 year olds... There are things when you look at her that you'd know she was premature (she's not very tall and has the big eyes/ high cheek bones of an ex-prem) but in general she's acting like she should be there.

You don't have to send them to school in September, it's not a requirement until the term after their 5th birthday which means ex-premature babies don't need to start until Y1 but I think what they miss out weighs any benefits of waiting.

Goldenjubilee10 Wed 14-Nov-12 20:05:26

No, a child due to be born in February who was born in November could defer. You can defer if your child is not 5 by the time school starts in August. Some councils only allow jan and feb children automatic deferral whilst others let you defer regardless. Any child with a good reason could defer. My ds's friend is October and is out of year with no problems.

Dozer Wed 14-Nov-12 19:35:21

fellowship Michael Gove! shock angry

tiggytape Wed 14-Nov-12 19:18:24

A 2 month grace period still creates a knife edge though.

For example wouldn't a child in Scotland, who was due to be born in February but arrived prematurely on November 30th, still have the same trouble as English babies born in August but due in October?

They'd lose the right to delay which they would have got if they'd been born on their due date.
In terms of development they might still be much like a February baby with the added disadvantage that other 'true' February babies (the ones born in Feb not just due in Feb) will have opted to start a year later making this November child seem even younger in the year.

Anytime you have a cut off - whether that is December 1st or February 28th or August 31st - you create people who fall either side of that cut-off and even with a grace period there is still a cut-off for this. It isn't an open grace period with total parental discretion - there is still a deadline that people can be born the wrong side of.

ditherers Wed 14-Nov-12 18:26:09

This seems so backwards. In Scotland March 1st is the cut off date - so March kids are the oldest. The decisions are placed with parents. Jan and Feb birthdays get to defer no questions asked. It has become the norm, especially for boys, for parents to defer. It is only Dec birthdays where things get tricky and you need support of school. The 2 month grace period is to be applauded - such a knife edge cut off is not to the individual child's benefit

butterfingerz Wed 14-Nov-12 17:44:51

My daughter was prem by 6 weeks, she was born very end of August but was due 10th October. She's is reception year now. However, she was fine when she was born, no medical or development issues.... if anything, shes developed really well and is very sociable. She could be a bit more mature emotionally but overall is enjoying school. She's just started learning to read, and is amazing both me and her teacher.

Funnily enough, though her preschool was an absolutely lovely place with fantastic staff, she enjoys school far more than preschool. Maybe theres more stimulation, more potential friends (year group of 60) and she particularly likes having a year 6 'buddy'.

It depends on both your child and the school. Her school has an unusually enriching curriculum, she does french, dance + drama with a local theatre school, music, they go to church weekly... compared to another local school that focuses mainly on the three r's in reception.

Your DD was much more prem than mine, and has perhaps been affected far more... even I was really apprehensive about my DD starting school, having that 'prematurity' factor does add so much more worry to that starting school period, when it should be something to be excited about.

awhistlingwoman Tue 13-Nov-12 18:25:47

grin fatfingers there won't be sufficient demand for all the 6ft tall brain surgeons / captains of the rugby team / university professors that we are going to raise!

Reading your description of your little girl just made my heart ache, she sounds so similar to my little girl (another born at 23 weeks no?) It really isn't the same as just having a summer birthday is it? I tried to explain to the school that they wouldn't exactly be opening the flood gates as there just aren't a vast number of children surviving at each early gestations. And that she wasn't going great guns learning to roll over and so on because she arrived early. She isn't 'ahead' - sadly. She spent the first three months of her life in intensive care! Then more hospital! Then more attached to gas cylinders. She wasn't sitting independently at one. She wasn't speaking at two and a half.

Like your daughter, I'm hopeful that she will make progress and get there in the end. But I so worried that she will lose her confidence along the way. I try and bolster her up when she says 'I can't do it" and things like that but it is so hard when they are always desperately trying to catch up.

celtic it made me see red! The problem is that she will run around and around until she's coughing and then she throws up. Even my best strategic buggy parking doesn't always cover it up and then we get sent back home again confused

fellowship Michael Gove angry and I'll probably also end up in court at this rate.

fatfingers Tue 13-Nov-12 16:54:55

No advice really Hawthers but I just wanted to say I understand exactly what you are saying.

My dd2 was born 17 weeks early in July instead of October so she had to start school a year before she should have. This is not the same as being a summer birthday and it annoys me when people compare. I considered holding her back but everyone put me off, saying she was ok, LA would not agree it, etc.

She HAS struggled to fit into a system that makes little provision for children who are not emotionally ready to be in the year group they are pushed into. She was only just toilet trained when she started reception, she receives support at school because she couldn't even hold a pencil properly when she started, couldn't identify letters or numbers. She should have been a child starting nursery, not reception. She is making progress and the school are very good with her to be fair but she lacks confidence, which I do not believe is helped by always having to "catch up" and do things 6 months before she is really ready.

I wish you the best of luck if you decide to apply to the LA. Whatever the outcome, I am sure that your dc will be fine but I do understand where you are coming from, especially re the "so and so was born at 12 weeks weighing 2 oz and is now 6ft and a brain surgeon" analogies.

CelticPromise Tue 13-Nov-12 16:32:24

whistling your situation with attendance sounds ridiculous! How frustrating.

I agree with you about socialising, I really don't want my son to spend two years in reception no matter how much like a nursery it is, because he'll have to start again with relationships and that will be hard for him. I don't want special treatment for him, I just want him to be with kids that are truly his own age. Surely it is in the interests of the school too- if he goes a year later he will need less support.

CelticPromise Tue 13-Nov-12 16:26:17

hawthers as we are going through the same process would you like to support/share experiences? Have you chosen a preferred school yet?

teacherwith2kids Tue 13-Nov-12 15:58:21

A practical point:

I don't know what school options are available to you locally? One setting that might work particularly well for you would be a small school with mixed age classes including a Nursery / Reception mixed class. I know of several such schools, and they might work well for you for the following reasons:
- A mixed Nursery / Reception class would enable your son to have the 'Nursery' education that you feel he needs even when technically in the Reception class (he need not join it until he is eligable for Reception, but he would have that environment available to him for a further year IYSWIM).
- Schools with mixed-age classes are used to dealing with a more extreme range in ability and age.
- More children have the experience of being oldest / middle / youngest rather than 'always being the youngest' - so on first arriving in a Yr 1 / 2 class, even the oldest in Year 1 is only 'in the middle', and when moving into Year 2, the youngest child in that year will have the experience of being 'in the middle' in their turn.

I would also say that if forced to start school at the 'right' time for his actual day of birth, then you might want to look for a school with significant SEN experience. I work in a school where we have nearly 1/3 of children on the SEN register at any time, and where extreme ability ranges are the norm (I currently have a single year class, but the ability span covers from 'typical for a 3 year old' to 'typical of a 9 year old', so 6 years' worth of developmental stages in 1 classroom). My children's school is very different - SEN is rare and there is a much more 'compact' range of abilities in each class. It is likely that your child's specific needs - should he have them by the time he starts school - would be much better met where he is not at the extremes of the overall range but well within it IYSWIM, and where issues and problems would be very proactively and sensitively dealt with.

Yes, my son was born at 28 weeks in August 2008, he was due to be born by C-Section on 3rd November 2008, and spent 4 months in SCBU. He is still having out patient consultant appointments and has Chronic Lung Disease and Restrictive Airway Syndrome.

He would have started school this September with the rest of his nursery class, however, due to time off from illness, the school and I have decided to let him start in January after the Christmas Holidays.

The first thing you have to do is peak to the Head of the school where you want them to attend. You should find that they will be helpful. The issue is, I suppose, that there is nothing really in place by Government legislation for prem children. I asked Michael Gove MP through Bliss to explain why there is no mention of premature children and their corrected ages, and what is and isn't acceptable within school admissions- I always feel there is leeway for other reasons but the premmies get forgotten- but he laughed off my question and said if he made excuses for one group of children, everyone would want an excuse to delay admission for their child too (what a tosser).

Its your child, and you know whether or not they could reasonably "handle" a ful school day and everything that would entail. My school (my dd is already in year 1 and ds (the premmie) is at nursery there too) allow children with SEN or health needs to start off on half days. They do expect to Statement my Child though. Purely because the head worries I could end up in court for him having bad attendance otherwise.

The other issue is whether the school will be willing to read up a bit on your child's illness so they know what to look out for. I'm lucky again in that the Heads two dds have similar health issues. The thing is, with my ds, you'd look at him and think he was a-ok, he doesn't look ill unless he is very bad, but you'd not look at him and think "that child has ongoing health problems" at all.

Its all about talking things through. That's my advice.

tiggytape Tue 13-Nov-12 14:32:11

hawthers - I think the advice you have received so far about getting medical opinion in writing that this is a necessary move not just something you as parents prefer is important. As is the advice to be cautious about the knock-on effect for secondary transfer and the dangers of being forced to skip Year 6 and the need to make sure any agreement will last her whole education.

As you probably know, it is considered on a case by case basis but some LAs are so reluctant to allow it that in practice, they won’t approve this no matter how much of a case the parents present. A friend's DD is at private school because our LA is one that seemingly has a blanket ban. She was 10 weeks prem and due September so her edd and birthday also cross that September 1st divide. She has associated delays and difficulties as a result but her parents had no success in getting the council to shift. The LA maintain her needs, all needs due to this issue in fact, can be met in the correct year group for her age with extra help offered as required.

The private school allowed her to go into the year of her edd not the year of her birth date but the problem her parents now face is private secondary school fees are astronomical compared to prep school and they'd like to be able to apply for good state options but cannot get around the fact that the state schools won't accept her in her current year group and will make her skip a year. I think they are preparing to try again since it will be an issue very soon but they feel resigned to trying to find the money to stay private which is a big burden.

All the other people I know in the same situation didn’t go private, didn’t succeed in getting held back a year (those that wanted to – not everyone did) and accepted their allocated year even if they weren't happy initially. You've probably had a lot of reassurance that things will be O.K not because people are questioning your decision but because, it isn’t your decision to make and the chances are you may not be allowed to do this They are trying to be reassuring that it isn’t the end of the world if you get turned down because, in most areas, this is the likely outcome. That’s not to say give up though. Present your case with as much backing as you can and even if you fail, you can definitely insist they meet each of her needs once at school no matter what year group she's in.

BarbecuedBillygoats Tue 13-Nov-12 14:28:20

I have a dd who was due after the new school year but was born at the beginning of August

I went through this whole debate at the time (she's now 6). There are posts on here (and I think bliss though they've revamped) In the end we decided to send her with her actual age group

A decision I regret

Ill try and post more when I'm not on my phone

awhistlingwoman Tue 13-Nov-12 14:23:49

She's been unavailable. Not in available!

awhistlingwoman Tue 13-Nov-12 14:21:51

Hello Hawthers,

My DD2 was one of twins born at 23+4 on the 26th of August. Sadly we lost her sister at three days old to complications of prematurity.

I attempted to get my daughter delayed. I did NOT want a deferral or staggered entry as one of the major areas of concern is socialising and I didn't feel she would benefit from being a late arrival to a class who already knew one another or from missing out of her reception year. I had the full backing of her paediatrician, she has never been discharged from neonatology as yet and a letter was written to the school stating the facts of the case.

I was not successful so she went to school in September. Obviously I can't predict the future so perhaps all of her issues will 'come out in the wash' but I would say that they are currently trying to teach a child who is still in nappies and whose speech they cannot understand to write a cursive hand. The whole set up strikes me as bizarre.

I would definitely echo those who have advised you to contact Bliss. I would also advise you to read the admissions policy very closely (this is where I went wrong!) as provision has most likely been made for cases of wanting to educate outside of year of birth but the school may either not know, or neglect to inform you, of this. DON'T let them tell you they can't go over the PAN and that accepting your son will mean they need to employ another teacher or that you will need a statement of SEN first. Check against policy!

Meet with the head teacher as soon as you can as it seems that it is often their decision. The head teacher of my daughter's smallish infant school has been in available to me for nearly a year now. In fact, I am supposed to be having my first meeting with her this evening! Won't hold my breath though!

Also - minor aside but something I never thought of doing, if your little bit has reactive airways and vomits as a result of coughing you might need to get a doctor's note. A lot of school's have 48 hour no return policies and, if your little one chucks up in the playground, you will have to take them home again even if not contagious. And you may then get served with a RED attendance warning as I just have been.

Apologies for the long rant. I do think that the consequences of extreme prematurity and the brain damage that frequently results from it are not yet thoroughly understood. I understand that somebody has to be the oldest and the youngest but my daughter should have been born on the 19th of December and, biologically, she is no older than if she had been. You don't do a great deal of developing when you can't breathe or feed on your own, when you have sepsis and brain bleeds and your kidneys are packing up. Funny that.

As I see it, I'm not trying to delay her a year, the school system are trying to ACCELERATE her by a year. And I can think of better candidates than my gorgeous DD2 who has been forced to do everything in her whole little life before she is ready and is often physically incapable of achieving what is asked of her.

Good luck and pm me if I can help in anyway smile

gelo Tue 13-Nov-12 13:50:07

Well dd was 1 month prem and born in Aug not Sept. She was privately educated in the younger year group and with hindsight while some aspects have worked out well for her others haven't and I don't think I'd choose the same path again, though you can never tell how things would have been if you'd done the other. That said she wasn't ever very behind developmentally and could have been OK in either year. I think the amount of support given at home far outweighs any advantage/disadvantage of being old/young in the school year.

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