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General support thread in relation to school starting age

(84 Posts)
lingle Fri 19-Sep-08 11:15:33

A general thread with the aim of gathering and sharing information on the options available re school starting age in the UK.

I'm hoping that parents of summer-borns can exchange useful information on their options here and that parents who have deferred or not deferred as the case may be will report back on how things have gone for their children.

To kick things off, here is the background to the debate.


Madsometimes Fri 19-Sep-08 12:16:39

I have two summer born children (Aug and July). dd1 was not ready for school at 4 years old. Fortunately, she had an excellent reception teacher who let her progress at her own pace and her reception year was very smooth. She faced big problems in year one though. She was not confident with writing her letters and numbers and got left behind. She did not want to go to school because she could not do the work and felt stupid and worthless. I could not sit back and let this happen, so I paid for extra help. She is now in year 4 and has caught up but still hates being the youngest in her class. Even though she is not struggling, I would move her back a year if offered. I hate the thought of her going to secondary school at just 11, because she is immature in many ways.

dd2 is in year one now and is flying. I taught her how to read at home in the Autumn term (we have Jan start in reception for summer borns). I did not want her to be behind the others who had started in September. It helped me that she was an eager and quick learner. I would not hold her back if I had the choice. Second children seem to grow up faster.

There is a little boy in the dd's year one class who is struggling, not summer born but February I think. I feel so sorry for him, the teacher always says "not a good day" to his mum or gran at collection time. He is a sweet little boy, but not made for sitting at a desk all day. I know his mum would put him back if given the choice. He really needs more learning through play. Birthday is not the only factor in readiness for school. The whole child should be taken into account.

Well done Scotland for doing this already smile
Could do better England/Wales/NI sad

alfiemama Fri 19-Sep-08 13:55:06

Sorry Lingle I tried to have a look at the info, but it just said page couldn't be found.

Anyway, this is something that I feel most strongly about.

My ds was 4 in June and has just started in reception. Now my son only went to nursery two half days from when he was 3 which I feel I am being singled out (or should I say he is) the reception teacher told me that he seems to be overwhelmed and not taking it in as much and that its because he hasn't been to nursery much. Now forgive me here but I never thought it would be frowned upon me not sending him for more and if the case is that they prefer them to go for more, then the government should give you more than the 12 hours free.

My little one is struggling not academically or socially (and he is enjoying his time there) but I think he just struggles to make himself heard over all the other children.

When I ask them how is he doing, they don't tell me about reading or numbers, but that he wont open a door or peel and orange (he hates oranges).

Sorry if I am rambling now, but it really does infuriate me, had I known that legally they didn't have to start until 5, I would have held him back and believe me if it comes to the point where he becomes withdrawn or upset, I will pull him out.

Surely there is enough pressure on parents when their child starts school that to send a child that is not ready just seems cruel

paddingtonbear1 Fri 19-Sep-08 14:08:22

lingle I will gladly join this thread.
dd is a July birthday, and is immature for her age. She wasn't ready for school at 4, but went anyway as we didn't have the option of deferring (if we had, she would have gone straight into yr 1). Her reception teacher was great though and really understood her. Now she's in yr 1 and struggling. She has no confidence and seems to have gone backwards.
I am seeing the teacher about this later, to see what she suggests, but we may have to do what you've done madsometimes and pay for extra help. Did your dd mind doing this out of school? dd resists most school work outside school, she would rather play - and mostly I let her! But obviously I don't want her to get left behind.
I do feel strongly that in this country they force kids into formal education too young, whether they are ready or not. I accept some kids are ready, but a lot aren't!

Madsometimes Fri 19-Sep-08 14:27:08

Yes, dd1 does mind doing extra work. However, I have a long memory and remember how sad she was when she was behind the others. I feel a lot less guilty giving her extra work now that she is in year 4 and is 8, than I did when she was 5.

littlestrawberry Fri 19-Sep-08 14:52:11

DS2 is a July baby and just started reception. the reason for not deferring him is that he would have had to join the reception children later when they were more settled and confident about school or go straight into Y1. I really think the option should be there to stay back a year, which I seriously would have considered.

Saying all that though, DS2 is actually settling in very well. Academically I'm not sure yet, he's picked up alot form DS1 who's one of the oldest in Y1 but its hard gauge his abilities at this stage. Only time will tell if he begins to struggle.

I know I worried alot less about DS1 as he was one of the eldest but in fact it was Ds1 who struggled more than DS2 settling in to school.

lingle Sat 20-Sep-08 15:02:05

ok let's try again

I'm mum to DS2, turned 3 at the end of August and a very late talker. We hope he's developing on the same trajectory as DS1, (speech indistinct at 4, clear by 4.6, started reception at 4.9,).
I've always known that I wanted to defer for DS2. I wonder whether it is legal to force children into Year 1 (Education Act says they must start at 5 and Human Rights Act says they have a right to an education, so surely they have a right to start in the class where you are taught to read, not the class where you bring spellings home?)

Bradford currently allows year-deferred children into Reception and my close friend has just taken advantage of this. Leeds apparently does the same. In spring, Bradford threatened to go the "force them into Year 1" route. It consulted with heads and five objected - as did I, most vehemently. It postponed the decision pending Sir Jim Rose's report on the primary school system so I'm hoping I can defer safely.

I will try to post the most passionate objection letter from one of the heads - will see if I can still find a link.

lingle Sat 20-Sep-08 15:22:15

This is what a Bradford head wrote on 8 February 2008 when consulted about the idea of forcing year-deferred children into Year 1. Excuse the typos and sorry I can't get the link up right now....

" I am writing to raise an objection in the strongest possible terms, to the proposals to discourage, and indeed prevent deferred entry for summer born children from 2010.
In this climate of "Every Child Matters" and "Personalising Learning", it seems that these agendas and principles do not matter if the needs of a very small number of very young and vulnerable children might cause a little increase in administration. The only impact of deferring entry is the addition of a note on the pupil census to explain why there appear to be additional children in infant class.
In my many years as a teacher and a head, I have always tried to make decisions in the best interests of individual children. Summer born children, particularly those with mid to late August birthdays, are at a distinct disadvantage in our educational system, particularly as children in this country start formal school far too early at the age of 4+ in any case. As a reception class teacher and for many years as a Head Teacher, I have encouraged parents to make their own decision based upon their superior knowledge of their children, and I have always undertaken to support them fully in that decision.
Young children who are forced into formal education too soon suffer from lack of confidence and self-esteem, and this impacts on their personal well-being as well as progress and attainment. For many children, the impact stays with them until GCSE and later life. Conversely, those who defer entry come to school confident and mature. They do well both personally and academically. Surely this should be the priority!

We are not talking about huge numbers of children. I currently have 2 children in my 2-form entry school whose entry was deferred by agreement to meet their needs. A further child will enter in September 2008. All the children concerned remain in good quality nursery settings, accessing appropriate provision and environment until the term after they are 5, which is, after all, their legal entitlement. They remain with their admission cohort throughout the school and leave with them in Y6.


The proposals outlined clearly remove the option of deferred entry from parents, as you quite rightly point out that Year 1 classes will be full. To suggest or require that children should be placed directly into Y1 and miss the last year of the foundation stage is outrageous. Anyone with any understanding of the needs of young children should know this.

I note that a study reported nationally this morning has highlighted the issue of admission age in England, and found that English children do not benefit from starting school so young. Having recently visited schools in Europe and experienced the success and confidence of hcildren who start school at 6 or 7 years old, folowing universal Kindergarten provision, I would go further and say that our current system disadvantages even 5 year old children. To impose formal schooling on children who have just had their 4th birthday is cruel and inappropriate.

I would like to have sight of the rationale that led to this proposal. As it is, I cannot identify one advantage of this proposal to children. If every child really does matter to Bradford, then this proposal should be rejected."

PaintingRainbows Sat 20-Sep-08 20:20:53 smile

PaintingRainbows Sat 20-Sep-08 20:34:48

My dd (July b/day) is more than ready and has just started year R. However, in line with school policy for summer borns, she only gets two mornings at school (5 mornings from half term and full time in January) and so has to stay in nursery on other days as I work. Autumn born children in her school year are already full time. All her nursery friends have gone to school full time and she misses them sad.

Annoyingly, her school is also claiming the childcare vouchers so we have to pay full nursery costs hmm.
Could dd's nursery actually claim for the 3 sessions which the school does not provide? For half a term? Is anyone else splitting vouchers between a school and nursery / pre-school setting? TIA

lingle Sun 21-Sep-08 12:33:56

sorry don't know the answer but it's interesting that the many children who are indeed ready have problems too....
If only the LEAs would treat children as individuals as they do in Scotland.....

powpow Mon 22-Sep-08 12:00:29

"had I known that legally they didn't have to start until 5, I would have held him back and believe me if it comes to the point where he becomes withdrawn or upset, I will pull him out."

legally they don't have to start at all.
you do not have to put your child into school at 4, 5 or 6 or any age if you so choose.
you DO have to educate them though.

My dd was NOT ready to enter school so we chose to home educate her. England has loads of kids being taught at home for this very reason.
you can do this for a year or whatever time frame you choose and then put them in.
AND the benefit of it is that if your choice of school is oversubscribed and you don't get in, chances are the next year they will have a place in the class.

lingle Tue 23-Sep-08 11:17:22

How long did you home educate powpow?

fircone Tue 23-Sep-08 11:28:27

I think I'll move to Bradford.

Dd was born on 30 August, and started Reception last year. Fortunately I was bold and insisted she did mornings only all year. But she was still far too little. She should have been at playschool. She has just started year 1 and it's still not going well sad.

That said, all children are different. Ds also has an August birthday, and he has always done incredibly well at school. But I still wish he could have been in the year below!

GobbledigookisThrifty Tue 23-Sep-08 11:43:21

What a fabulous letter from the Bradford headteacher - I totally agree with her.

Ds3 started reception on 5th Sept - he was 4 on 19th August. So far so good for him - he is doing well, and is happy and confident.

However I think this is because:

1)He went to the school nursery - the classroom for which is right next to the 2 reception classes so throughout nursery he went to infant assemblies, had story time in the reception classes, played in the main playground etc. Therefore the transition has been easy.

2)He has two older brothers (only in yr 1 and yr 3 now) - this has helped in two ways. Firstly he is familiar with the school and knows all the infant teachers already (further helped by the fact that I'm on PTA committee so he has been to lots of events etc where teachers are present). Secondly, academically he is not behind and, in fact, is probably ahead of most in his class.

It will be interesting though to see how he fares as the year goes on because obviously it's early days yet.

I wholeheartedly agree though that if 'every child matters' then deferred entry should not be considered a problem and actually be a serious consideration for some July/Aug born children (particularly boys probably).

Will be really interested to keep up with this thread.

GobbledigookisThrifty Tue 23-Sep-08 11:43:50

He was 4 on 29th August - sorry, not 19th!!

Buda Tue 23-Sep-08 11:45:50

DS is an August boy. He is now in Year 3 and although he is a mature child he struggles a bit academically. And he knows it which impacts his confidence. All his buddies are 3 or 4 reading stages ahead of him. He doesn't get that actually he is on the same stage as a friend's DS who is in Year 2 - happened to be lucky enough to be born on 1st Sept! He is bang on for THAT age group. Not the one 6 months older.

We are very fortunate in that we will be putting DS in an independant school on our return to the UK and we have already told them of our intention to hold him back a year at that point. Barring a complete transformation in the meantime and him ending up top of the class they have agreed.

Ireland is much more relaxed about school entry. You can start at 4 but you don't have to start legally until the term after you turn 5 - and you START then. You start in Junior Infants. None of this stupid nonsense of jumping a year. What bright spark thought that one up then? That makes me so cross!

Sanctuary Tue 23-Sep-08 11:49:10

Ds was a July baby and started reception a year later than others of the same age .It was the best thing for him if he had gone when he should of he would of ended repeating the year .There was no way he would of sat still for more than 2 mins

singersgirl Tue 23-Sep-08 12:58:01

Just signing in as mother of 2 August-born boys. DS2 is August 31st, so really is on the cusp.

Both of them are lucky (and as a result so am I) because they're bright. DS1 (Y6)in particular though would have benefited from being the eldest in the year below. He's physically small, not very sporty, had distractibility and fidgetiness issues until last year, has poor handwriting etc etc. If he were just starting Y5 his handwriting would be average, his height would be average and he would be academically very strong indeed.

I'm not sure with DS2 (Y3), who seems to be particularly able and is also not as physically small. We have the handwriting stuff again though - his only target on last year's report was to improve presentation. With some very bright autumn-born children in his class (including one probably gifted September-born child) he is challenged and kept engaged.

But I still think we should have had a choice. I've read the link Lingle posted before, and the differences in educational outcomes for summmer-borns are shocking. A couple of years ago I found a table showing percentages of boys attaining level 3s in KS1 by month of birth, and it was something like 5% of August-born boys compared to something like nearly 30% of September-born boys (it had girls too, but I was interested in boy data). I've been unable to find it again, despite Googling, so numbers might not be right.

singersgirl Tue 23-Sep-08 14:23:10

Will also add this link to a similar NFER research document on persistence of effect of month of birth.

lingle Tue 23-Sep-08 14:46:24

Sanctuary - great to "meet" someone who's actually taken the plunge with good results - may I ask what's your LEA? So far I've identified Bradford and Leeds who allow year-deferment then entry to reception so it would be interesting to know if you're in a different one.

I think it can be helpful to distinguish between "bright" and "early to reach milestones". smile Though I completely see the point that it's not just a question of academic but also social readiness.

Sanctuary Tue 23-Sep-08 16:17:33

linge We live abroad

Ds went to the local school but it did`nt work out so after the first year we changed him to the english school .

The headmistress wanted him to go into reception as he was only just 5 to get the basics in english.Instead of going straight into year 1hmm

He is 1 of 4 kids that are a year below for whatever reason

At schools here they don`t go full time till they are 6.Then they are sat behind a desk and taught .Before then its relaxed and play

singersgirl Tue 23-Sep-08 16:43:26

Yes, I agree about the 'early to reach milestones' thing. In fact I wasn't at all worried about DS1 because he had always been quite early with talking, counting etc and it took me a little while to realise that that wasn't necessarily enough.

It's only in the last couple of years (ages 8 and 9) that I've felt he's even begun to work at his level, and I'm sure the age of starting has a lot to do with it. He was just too young to want to do any of it.

DS2 has been a bit more mature, comparatively, but, as his very experienced Y2 teacher said at the start of last year, "Because he's so young, sometimes he just won't do a task if he doesn't want to, and that's something that the older ones don't have a problem with."

lingle Wed 24-Sep-08 18:10:32

I saw DS2 today at a party with his real peers - children born in September 2005 who will go to school in 2010. It was wonderful. Instead of tailing around after them as he does with the 2009 entry year, he played like an equal.

I plucked up the courage and phoned Bradford LEA to seek confirmation that if I defer for a year he can go into reception the following year (a close friend has already done this). I got the confirmation. Yippee! Nearly there... just a few more months of watching them to make sure they don't sneakily try to change those rules again...

stealthsquiggle Wed 24-Sep-08 18:19:20

Can I just point out that any flexibility should really cut both ways? As the parent of a November-born DS and an October-born DD the view from the 'other side' of this artificial barrier is not that much better. DS has ended up a year ahead but only because he is in an independent school - he looks as 'wrong' with his so-called proper year group as Lingle describes her DS looking with his 'proper' year group. DD is not quite 2 but I can see her going the same way - when all DS's friends left nursery to go into reception he would have been left behind for a whole year if we had not moved and would have been bored and probably disruptive.

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