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Deferring reception for a year has transformed DS2's life chances.

(9 Posts)
linglette Fri 23-Oct-09 10:16:52

I make no apologies for the baldness of that statement, nor for the strength of my views on this subject.

DS2 (4.2, August-born) is in his second nursery year. Last year he had a severe language delay, including very serious problems understanding language. He simply could not access the curriculum. Most frighteningly, he withdrew from the other children and would retreat to the computer or engage in perseverative activites like repeatedly flushing the toilet. He was due to enter reception and Bradford LEA recommended applying for a Statement of Special Needs with a view to getting one-to-one support.

Instead, we opted to defer his entry to reception until the statutory school starting age of 5.0 - so he will start reception next September - the oldest child by a couple of weeks (other than a little girl with down's syndrome who will be 6.0 and has been given a similar chance).

After researching the issue, it was a non-choice for us, and our headmistresses supported us all the way. The nursery staff spent last year working with him to overcome his challenges and his language development started to accelerate. I devoted a lot of afternoons to working with him on his language and playskills which also started to accelerate.

Last night was nursery parents' evening. Ds2 is, according to the same nursery teacher, now "a chatterbox" who "is socialising all the time" and "will go into reception with friends". Who "can put his hand up and answer questions". A boy "who has been given a second chance". A boy "whose language is now not noticeable different from his peers". A boy "who tells the others what they need to do" and whose laughter draws other children to him. He is experiencing social success and growing in confidence all the time. He is also a child "who still would struggle to access the curriculum in reception" - who cannot yet ask or answer "why?" questions and who would always just be "tagging along" if he were in reception now.

All the one-to-one support in the world (not that he would get that much) in reception couldn't substitute for simply being with a peer group that was too advanced for a child with delays. He would be mothered, yes - the other children would be impressed by certain "hard" academic skills that he has picked up quite early, yes - he would retreat to more socially acceptable activities like playing a piano and concentrating on reading and writing, yes - but he wouldn't have those experiences of social success of the same quality that he's having now.

Deferred entry is not the answer for most children. It is not usually the answer for children with moderate to severe special needs. Nor is it probably necessary for August-borns with age-appropriate social skills (though it would be nice....) But it would the answer for many children. And yet the Government is going to follow Sir Jim Rose's advice and make it hard, if not impossible, to year-defer. Instead they will force parents who choose to have their child start school at the statutory school starting age to place their children directly into Year 1 sad.

If you suspect your summer-born child will struggle starting school at 4.0 because of his or her individual profile, I suggest you read up, and consider contacting Ed Balls' shadow to ask the Conservatives to commit to allowing year-deferral for summer-borns and for all children whose doctors and speech therapists recommend it (as mine both did).

Ignore those who say "Johny's bright so he'll be ok". It's not a question of intelligence.

Clarabel22 Fri 23-Oct-09 11:44:14

You are very lucky to have had this opportunity and have definitely done the right thing in fighting for it. My DS2 had glue ear and as a result language delays, on top of that he is an August born child. I got fed up with well meaning people saying "oh he'll be fine", "they all catch up in the end" (er, actually they don't).
He had speech therapy, group therapy for preparing him to start reception this year. But all he needs is TIME to develop these skills. The NHS spent plenty of money on trying to get my child to fit in to the system, when the system should have yielded to his needs.

We were not given the option to defer him properly, only the option of waiting until he was 5 before starting school. But to join school in Y1 would be very traumatic for any child without the gentle lead in that reception offers.

Our solution: we were forced to find a place for him in private school. He is in Kindergarten/Transition, so effectively being kept back a year, but the school's early years unit is from nursery to yr 1 and has a very flexible approach moving them up when it is right for them. Our hopes are for him to catch up in the next couple of years then join his brother in state school.

I know we have made the right decision, but not everyone has the ability or confidence to do what we've done. The current system stinks.

BTW we were lucky with the school we chose as most private schools we visited were not interested in back yearing him, and were quite pushy. They are all very different!

Madsometimes Fri 23-Oct-09 11:47:51

I'm so pleased that your ds2 is thriving in nursery. I have posted on these threads before and feel very angry about the inflexible system we have in England. I thought that Rose was very arrogant to ignore the fact that our inflexible system is out of step with education in most of the rest of the world.

I noticed that Carole Vorderman is doing a review of teaching of maths for the Conservatives. I did email her about how flexible start dates could improve children's learning, but perhaps this issue is beyond her remit. I will also try Michal Gove.

My August born dd1 is well into the system now that she is in Y5. She is a child who has been OK with being the youngest in the class. Of course she would have thrived if she was not, but I do understand that someone has to be ...

Roll on secondary school at just 11.0, GCSEs at 15 and A Levels at 17. Raising the school leaving age has scuppered my plan of getting her to take a gap year after GCSE so she could be 18 for her A'Levels.

colditz Fri 23-Oct-09 11:54:07

mad, you could enrol her at a college doing something very non academic for a year, such as painting or textiles, or even something like animal husbandry.

Noty technically 'useful' but wouuld give her a damn good excuse to take a break from a levels without having to withdraw from school.

exexpat Fri 23-Oct-09 12:12:37

We were lucky enough to be living overseas when DS (August born) reached school age, so I was able to delay sending him to school until after he turned 5.

DS is highly intelligent but has been slower to develop motor skills, so at four could not hold a pencil properly/draw anything recognisable/form letters. He would have hated school at 4, and I think have been turned off education for a while. Instead, he started the month after he turned five and thrived: he was absolutely ready to learn, and within 18 months was reading Harry Potter by himself...

We returned to the UK when he was 8, and joined a yr4 class. He was one of the youngest in the class, and had had one whole year less schooling than all of them, and it didn't make the slightest bit of difference.

My DD (October born) on the other hand would have been ready to start soon after she turned four, but we had to wait until the month before her fifth birthday... I really wish there was more flexibility in the British system, as the cut-off dates are so arbitrary. But I can't see politicians from any party allowing widespread flexibility as it would make school admissions/numbers planning so much harder.

Madsometimes Fri 23-Oct-09 13:38:02

Just emailed Michael Gove. I think they are going to peg me down as some kind of a nutter.

I like colditz's idea about doing something arty for a year. Of course, by the time dd1 is nearly 16, she will have her own ideas about what she wants to do with her life. Back yearing early is so much easier!

sallyjaygorce Fri 23-Oct-09 13:53:44

I agree. My experience is very different but think a deferral should absolutely be allowed based on the individual. I was reluctant to let DS start this term (turned 4 in August) but we had moved to a village where there are only 7 other children in his class and in the afternoon he is in a class with his older sister (Year 1 and Year 2 in together). The school were very understanding about my concerns and said his doing part time until 5 would be possible - or deferring if I chose that route. I decided to let him have a taster for the first week - and he loves it. Can't wait to go every morning and is brimming with enthusiasm. Has become extremely sociable and confident - in a charming not a boisterous way. His teacher says he is a delight and always willing to share and look after the nursery children (he has a younger sister too and is very protective of her). I was sure he wasn't ready for full time school and was ready to fight the system if need be.

I was completely wrong about my son who is clearly more mature than I realised. Maybe it was me who wasn't ready. Or maybe we have been very lucky with the relaxed attitude of the school - and its very small, family feel. Parents are welcome there too - I have been there all morning for an open day and was amazed to see him take part with such maturity and enjoyment. Am off again now for a special assembly.

The school is very much focussed on early years education being about enjoyment of learning - and playing - not driven by academic result for their own sake. Another, school with more pressure on numbers, teacher time and resources might have led to a different story. Understanding the school and the child in context is crucial. One size doesn't fit all and in most cases informed parents need to be part of the entry decision.

PurpleEgluggedblood Fri 23-Oct-09 14:01:33

I am so glad that I live in Scotland and this needn't have been an issue for us.

DS1 has an August birthday. THe way the Scottish system works he got two full years of nursery and started school just after his 5th birthday. Had we been living in England he would have been starting just after his 4th birthday and I know he wouldn't have been ready.

He matured so much in that second year of nursery, he really needed it to be ready for proper sit down learning.

I have a friend who is a primary teacher in England and whe is really annoyed by the inflexibility of the English system and believes it sohuld be more like the Scottish system.

ICANDOTHAT Fri 23-Oct-09 14:38:31

Linglette Amazing ! I'm so happy for your boy and you .... Only wish the same was applied elsewhere. I know my August boy would be happier and more confident if only sad

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