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Summer-born children starting school. Latest parliamentary research briefings.

(147 Posts)
Gruach Mon 03-Aug-15 16:24:35

I have no personal interest in this - not even an informed opinion.

But this research briefing just appeared in my email inbox so I thought I'd share it.

Apologies if it's been done to death already.

ReallyTired Tue 04-Aug-15 00:13:46

If summer borns are allowed to defer then may/April borns with be disadvantaged instead. I feel that deferral should only be available if an educational psychologist/ community padiatrian think it will help long term. Little Tommy mother objecting to her son being bottom of the class is not a good enough reason to defer. If a child had a significant disablity/ delay then delaying school might not be their best interests. A child with learning difficulties will sink to the bottom of a younger class.

DeeWe Tue 04-Aug-15 09:31:07

I agree with ReallyTired. Speaking as a dm whose ds would have been better starting a year later too.

I don't think parents are always the best judge, plus what seems right for a child at 4yo may show to be the wrong decision by 7yo.

Also I suspect it will produce a competitive aspect. "well you see little Jonny is so advanced he had to start a year early"

When summer borns were part time for the first term, there were always a couple of parents pushing for full time because "they were so bright they needed to be in school".
And I've heard frequently parents of summer borns stating "they're a year younger". No actually they're not. They might be nearly a year younger than a couple in the form, but generally it is fairly evenly spread.

carriebrody Tue 04-Aug-15 09:35:33

Some summer born children, often boys, just aren't ready for school at just 4. They lack the concentration, social skills and gross and fine motor skills, and a year more development would make a huge difference. I would like to see admissions on a case by case basis with younger children assessed for school readiness.

Saying that I have an August born boy who was absolutely ready for school and who did fine.

hazeyjane Tue 04-Aug-15 09:40:19

Ii think there are some children who would benefit from spending a little longer in a preschool environment, building up to starting school - but I don't think that necessarily equates to starting school a year later.

tortoisesarefab Tue 04-Aug-15 09:50:10

Flexi schooling is getting more popular for younger ones here. They go to nursery part of the week and school part of the week, gradually building up school until they are full time. I think it's mandatory for schools to consider it but I am not sure how funding works for pre school. I have a friend whose ds was due in oct but was very prem so was actually born in august so not only was he the youngest in the class he was also months behind due to his prematurity. I think in that situation you should be able to defer

tiggytape Tue 04-Aug-15 09:51:23

If summer borns are allowed to defer then may/April borns with be disadvantaged instead.
Actually the term "summer born" covers all babies born from April to August so it would be the March ones who would have no choice and who would be the youngest by default in some classes.

There is also the consideration that basing it purely on parental choice will make the gap between the wealthier and poorer children even wider than it is now:

Many August borns who may benefit from being held back one year won't be held back because their family needs to work or won't insist on this.

Whereas wealthier pushier families would opt to do it just for pure advantage not for genuine need i.e. they want their child to be the tallest and most advanced in a class the year below rather than dead average in the "correct" class.
They want their child to take the 11+ aged 12
And take GCSEs aged 17
And take A Levels aged 19.
It wouldn't be because their child was born 3 months prematurely on August 29th. It would be because their bright child born on April 15th will appear even brighter in the year below.

The added disadvantage for the ones not held back would be classes comprised of children 16 or 17 months apart in age instead of 11 months apart. So the youngest in those new classes would be very much younger than the oldest (the August ones who don't delay will be 16 or 17 months younger than the April ones from the year above who did).

I feel that deferral should only be available if an educational psychologist/ community padiatrian think it will help long term.
This is the current situation and how it should work in theory. It isn't perfect because a lot of councils have had to be reminded that they mustn't just say no to these requests automatically. They must actually weigh up all the evidence. Some are better than others but hopefully it will become more uniform.

There are a small number of children who really need to be held back a year and with professional evidence they can be.
But there is also a perception that a normal "young for their age" 4 year old isn't catered for in reception class which just isn't the case. Parents worry that an immature child who just turned 4 will sink whereas in fact, reception class isn't full of Sept born genius children. Most have one third summer borns and in addition, children with speech delays, undiagnosed dyslexia, dyspraxia and other conditions. Many childrn in reception need a lot of support. That is expected and offered.

Finally, in an age of academies which run their own admissions and people moving areas for work, the long-term impact of being held back for reception should be considered however it comes about. Some schools will not take a child into Year 7 if they are of Year 8 age. So some children have to skip Year 6 and go straight to secondary school. This can be far worse for them than having to start reception when they've just turned 4.

hazeyjane Tue 04-Aug-15 10:04:03

Agree with what Tiggy says in her post.

Re my post, I think what would be beneficial for some (most?) children would be a good years worth of consistent pt preschool education, before they start school at whatever age.

catkind Tue 04-Aug-15 13:07:18

I don't agree that parents would automatically defer if they could. I think a bit of flexibility and listening to both parents and preschools would be a good thing. By any measure Dd is more ready for school at 3.5 than DS was at 4.5. Socially, physically, academically. Given a choice I'd put them with whichever cohort they fitted in with better, possibly a year younger for DS and older for dd.

It's not so much that DS sinks as he's just emotionally younger. He's been scared by stories the teacher reads. He wasn't ready for starting writing, he couldn't even draw. He doesn't really get the social stuff. The other boy who shares his birthday was fine with all those things as were the younger children in the class (DS is only may so not that young calendar wise).

The follow on for starting secondary school clearly needs to be dealt with. I don't know how anyone can argue it's in a child's best interest to skip year 7 (except in exceptional circs maybe), but maybe it will take more explicit guidance from the government for authorities to acknowledge that.

slicedfinger Tue 04-Aug-15 13:10:48

Parents already have this as an option in Scotland, and it's probably about 50:50 with who defers and who doesn't. No agonising and no big deal either way.

LibrariesGaveUsPower Tue 04-Aug-15 14:30:18

I agree totally with tiggy.

Interesting you say that Sliced. I have family in Scotland whose view is much more in line with tiggy. The rich defer and the poor/disadvantaged don't and the gulf is wider (they have two April children who are amongst the oldest non deferred )

ReallyTired Tue 04-Aug-15 15:30:43

It seems daft to think of an April born as being summer born. My April born daughter has as much in common socially with the children in the year above her as the year below. I think there would have been zero benefit in deferring her starting school.

In my experience through gymnastics, swimming and Sunday school lesson children can mix happily with children who are up to a year older or a year younger. My daughter as in a swimming class with much older children and it was an unhappy experience. I imagine that it would be similar in a school situation.

Maybe 5% of children would be better in the year below or the year above at most.

roamer2 Tue 04-Aug-15 15:36:13

There will always be someone who is youngest but 4 is too young to be in formal education. Boys have a huge surge of testosterone age 4 and should not be sitting still. Also teachers have to deal with children in nappies etc. Ideally wait until 5 years before starting

mrz Tue 04-Aug-15 15:42:48

The point is that reception isn't "formal education" (whatever that means) ...reception is EYFS with the same curriculum as pre school/ nursery/ day care

LatinForTelly Tue 04-Aug-15 15:54:16

I think the Scottish system has it about right. Here, the youngest in a class can defer if they want. For the very youngest, the decision is completely in the hands of the parents. For those at the younger end <technical>, there has to be a case made that the child would benefit from deferred entry.

Although there are still some difficult decisions to be made, I think it's a good balance.

mrz Tue 04-Aug-15 16:06:14

evidencebasedparent.blogspot.co.uk/2014/07/the-myth-of-toddler-testosterone-surge.html

Gruach Tue 04-Aug-15 16:10:54

Mmm ... I was born into a world where you started "big" school in the term following your fifth birthday. I still struggle to understand the reasons for the change and have no recollection of the arguments adduced to support it. Surely the difference between winter and summer born children would be marginally less pronounced given another year to mature?

Are children scurried of to school at 4 now for the perceived good of the child or the increased employability of the parent?

museumum Tue 04-Aug-15 16:12:31

You don't even need to speculate on what may or may not happen. Just look at Scotland. Parents of children in the youngest two months have automatic right to wait till the following year and children in the 2-3mo before that can defer with reason.
Not all parents do, many children are ready for school despite being youngest. Year groups are more mixed in age but intakes more even in maturity at starting.
As far as I'm aware there are no documented downsides.

Gruach Tue 04-Aug-15 16:13:06

"off" ...

hinkyhonk Tue 04-Aug-15 16:21:27

I do think that the current system is too rigid though. There is no allowance made for children who were born prematurely at the end of August as my son was. We were advised that we had little to no chance of delaying his entry to the year of his corrected birth. The only thing we could do is defer his start date until the beginning of year 1 when he was legally required to attend school. We felt that this would put him in an even worse position as he would miss out on the formative year of reception.

He is doing ok but finds it tough and has only taken off at the end of year 1. It is clear he would have been better to delay a year but we couldn't risk the potential of him having to skip a year on entry to secondary school. The system seems overly rigid for the fear of it being abused. Surely there should be some middle ground?

eddiemairswife Tue 04-Aug-15 16:23:37

In the days when children started in the term after they were 5, people came to realise that summer-born children only had 2 years in infant school. Then they introduced 2 intakes a year..... Sept and Jan. A few years ago that was changed to 1 intake in Sept.

LibrariesGaveUsPower Tue 04-Aug-15 16:26:22

Have there been any studies on Scotland ' s deferral and social impact?

LibrariesGaveUsPower Tue 04-Aug-15 16:33:59

hinky - I do agree there should be a straightforward system to let premature babies/ children attend in the year they would have been in (not those who are born term but early, pre 37 weeks).

tiggytape Tue 04-Aug-15 16:36:56

You don't even need to speculate on what may or may not happen. Just look at Scotland.
But Scotland is very different because even the youngest child there cannot start at just turned 4. The overall age is higher even without the option to defer. And there is the worry even in Scotland that the rich families defer to gain advantage and poorer parents don't defer even if technically their child is more in need of that than others.

I do think that the current system is too rigid though. There is no allowance made for children who were born prematurely at the end of August as my son was.
There is allowance. If prematurity means that a child is going to really struggle in reception class at just turned 4, you can delay with medical recommendation.

It's not so much that DS sinks as he's just emotionally younger. He's been scared by stories the teacher reads. He wasn't ready for starting writing, he couldn't even draw. He doesn't really get the social stuff.
This isn't always an age thing though or even mainly an age thing. There will be October children in reception who are just the same.
There will be November children who remain 2 or 3 years delayed in literacy or who have speech problems that make socialisation hard until well into primary years.
There will be children born in December who have ADHD and who cannot concentrate very well.
There will be children born in January who have never been left with an adult who isn't their mum and who will cry every day until Year 1.
In reception class there will be many fidgety, vulnerable, immature children and many with additional learning needs. The idea is that they are all supported and move at their own pace regardless of month of birth.

LibrariesGaveUsPower Tue 04-Aug-15 16:42:10

tiggy- the big problem with medical deferrals currently is the fact they won't promise to honour them into senior school isn't it? A friend had that issue.

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