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As someone in the teaching profession, are you supportive of summerborns being able to start reception a year later?

(67 Posts)
tushywush Sat 17-Dec-16 08:54:02

Are you aware of the summerborn campaign? Do you support it? Does your school support it?

It seems to be such a postcode lottery as to whether summerborns (1st April to 1st August) are being allowed to start in reception the term after they turn 5, rather than the term after they turn 4. Scotland seem to get it so right and have very clear rules for deferring/delaying entry, so I really don't get why England can't do the same, consistently (Herefordshire are more willing, others aren't at all). I think it's all a huge concern, and it also seems that some grammar schools are refusing to accept "over-age" 11+ entrants and other secondaries demanding that a child goes into the "correct cohort" and straight into y8 rather than y7! So in theory you could get a primary school to accept a later start into receipting but then a secondary school may trash that supposed good start.

Anyway really keen to hear the thoughts of teachers and heads on this point. Not so keen to hear anecdotal stories of how someone's August born ended up going to Oxbridge and it's never been an issue

For me, my end of July daughter will probably be ready for school at just turned 4 but I'm still concerned about the longer term impact it may have on her academic attainment and also self-esteem. We are also in a grammar area with awful non-grammar schools so I'd like to give my DD the best chance to get into a grammar (if that kind of school does suit her of course).

Trills Sat 17-Dec-16 09:13:17

Moving the cutoff from September to April just changes which children are disadvantaged.

If you have to apply to defer entry, this will further disadvantage children from families who are not good at filling in forms for various reasons, or who cannot afford a further year of childcare. (these children are already likely to be at a disadvantage academically)

tushywush Sat 17-Dec-16 09:17:49

It's not necessarily moving the cutoff, it's providing a bit of flexibility. And being nearly 4 and a half (i.e. End of March birthday) is, IMO, still better than starting at just 4. And it's not about being the youngest....

DustyOwl Sat 17-Dec-16 09:19:36

I agree, moving the date doesn't solve the problem, just changed the month. I do think children born in the summer months should go part time to start with, maybe the first term. I think there should be subsidised childcare for afternoons for those who need it. (With the afternoons being a much more relaxed environment.)

My summer boy was not ready for full days, same as for many of my class. It has put him off school as he was just too tired in the afternoon and he saw the day stretching ahead of him.

claraschu Sat 17-Dec-16 09:22:35

I am not a teacher, but I think that flexibility is good. Where I grew up, there was a lot more flexibility about what year group a child should be in, and it didn't seem to cause any problems. There was just a slightly wider range of ages in a room, and possibly a slightly less-wide range of abilities. I don't remember it being an issue as it was quite common, and people didn't really talk about it (weren't particularly concerned about exact ages).

Sweetwater Sat 17-Dec-16 09:25:02

I've lived (and taught and had children) in a country where this was already an option. At first I thought it was a great idea. But I have seen parents agonise over the decision and continue to worry about whether they had done the right thing for years. A thing which other people will have an opinion on and be ready to judge you on. One mother who chose to send her April born child 'early' as she needed to go back to work was gossiped about. She had put her child in the correct year group of course but he floundered as the other children were held back so he was younger.

And I have seen children who were a full two years older than their classmates, coast through school as they were so much ahead of the game.

Another issue further on was children at sixteen being friends with those turning eighteen and getting involved with drinking and going off in cars.

MiladyThesaurus Sat 17-Dec-16 09:28:46

I'm not a teacher (but I do regularly teach about it).

Allowing flexibility around school year ages sounds like a wonderful idea in principle but I actually think it has serious and problematic consequences because it exacerbates existing inequalities rather than mitigates them.

Preschool childcare is very expensive (even if one parent stays at home, you are still foregoing a salary). So deciding to delay starting school for a year has serious financial implications. That means that it's likely to be the more affluent families that elect to do it, because they can afford to buy some advantage for their child.

So all you really achieve is to produce a 15 or 16 month age gap between the oldest and youngest in the class, with the youngest children disproportionately more likely to have parents who either couldn't afford to delay starting school or don't care about the educational consequences. That's the opposite of fairness.

As a result I see it as a policy idea that really appeals to the middle classes because it's appears very superficially 'fair' but actually works to further entrench existing advantage.

(Note: DS2 has an end of August birthday, so it's not that I don't have personal experience of summer born children starting school).

Moomaloo Sat 17-Dec-16 09:29:02

Why do you say 1st August? Do you mean 31st? I am an early years teacher and my third child will be a late august birthday starting school in September (age 4 years and a week). With my older children I have seen the benefits of being the oldest in a year, but don't see the need to delay entry except in extreme circumstances e.g. Premature babies. Children catch up very quickly, and I can't see any need for an April baby to defer entry.

Moomaloo Sat 17-Dec-16 09:30:11

Spot on milady!

MiladyThesaurus Sat 17-Dec-16 09:31:20

Changing the school starting date would make a difference because developmentally the 12 months make more of a difference between 4 and 5 than they do between say 6 and 7. The earlier you insist on school starting the bigger the discrepancy you create between the eldest and the youngest in the class.

foamybananasweets Sat 17-Dec-16 09:32:07

I live in England, my family live in Scotland, My cousin's boy was able to delay starting school and is therefore in the same school year as my daughter (he is a January birthday!) despite being 18 months older than her. My daughter is an August born.

She has autism, physical disabilities and is very immature, but even with SN we couldn't move her down a year because of the area we live in.

My nephew has no SN, but was a bit immature and yet could defer easily.

The campaign isn't about picking a different arbitrary cut off date, but should be about allowing parents to do what's best for their kids

I also think if September borns are very mature and able they should be allowed to start earlier. My friends child is 4 weeks younger than my daughter and would have benefitted hugely from starting school in her place .

rollonthesummer Sat 17-Dec-16 09:32:32

Is it not 1st April to 31th August?

Trills Sat 17-Dec-16 09:33:17

Thanks Milady - you've written what I wanted to say much more clearly than I could.

MiladyThesaurus Sat 17-Dec-16 09:37:20

Foamy: the inflexibility around disability is a different kind of equality issue than parents of typically developing 4 year olds who don't like the fact that their children won't automatically be at an advantage over other children.

There are very good arguments to be made for having flexibility as a 'reasonable adjustment' for children with atypical development. That would actually be fairer for everyone.

But flexibility on the whim (and dependent on the financial circumstances) of parents is not fairness.

LovingLola Sat 17-Dec-16 09:40:30

I don't live in the UK. My June born daughter started school at the age of 5 and 3 months. She was the oldest in her class by 10 days. About 15 of the children in the class turned 5 before the Christmas of their first year in school. The youngest child turned 5 the following July.

MiladyThesaurus Sat 17-Dec-16 10:03:43

Actually Trills I think you made the really important point that there are families who would care but actually don't have the knowledge or skills to take advantage of something.

The more complex you make the system and the more get outs and special circumstances you allow, the more likely it is that people will miss out because they didn't know they were eligible or they couldn't fill in the forms or something else.

So again it's just a case of those creating a system in which those who least need a leg up benefit most. But, crucially, doing it with a veneer of fairness do as to perpetuate social inequality through insidious means.

The problem is that the people campaigning on this kind of thing are really only thinking in an individualistic way: individual parents should be enabled to maximise the chances for their child. But education policy needs to consider society as a whole, not least because failing to do so will cause problems for everyone.

mamadoc Sat 17-Dec-16 10:06:16

I'm not a teacher but am a school governor and I would not support it in our school because of the reasons Milady gives ie that it would entrench disadvantage.

We have a very mixed catchment with high levels of deprivation, SEN and EAL and many parents struggle to apply for a school place at the 'right' time let alone to add a further complication. For many of these children another year at home is the last thing they need for their education and development. That's why the government is funding Early Years Education for 2 yr olds from deprived backgrounds.

Surely a good Early Years setting will be providing differentiated learning with a lot of learning through play in reception and children's different needs can be met that way. I'd be happier to support a flexible timetable than starting in the next year.

My son is summer born and he wasn't at the same level my spring born daughter had been by the end of reception but he was never unhappy and he made progress. I don't worry about any permanent disadvantage. If I'd had the choice I would probably still send him but I would have worried over it and felt guilty.

I have had personal experience both ways because my birthday is 1st Sept. My parents somehow managed to put me in the year above for primary (i.e. I was the youngest). Academically it was fine (they did it because I was bright and had taught myself to read already so they thought I needed to go). Socially at the upper end of primary it was hard. I was always last pick for sports and not as developed as others.

I then had to repeat a year because secondary wouldn't take me in the 'wrong year' which was a bit humiliating (seeing friends move on without you) and boring.

In secondary I was the eldest in the year and that is definitely a lot easier than being youngest. It gives you more confidence. Still it's not a situation I'd engineer for my child.

mineallmine Sat 17-Dec-16 10:19:14

I'm a teacher in Ireland where the rules are different. Here children can start school at 4 but most schools have a cut off date of children who turned 4 by the end of May or June. Then they have to be in school in the year in which they turn 6.

My dd is October born so would generally have started at 4 turning 5 but she didn't start until she was 5 turning 6 as she just wasn't ready. Had she gone to school last year she would have really struggled (she'll always have a struggle academically anyway) so I would have hated to have not had the flexibility to decide when she was ready myself. It means she's a full year to a year and a half older than her classmates and she fits in perfectly.

IMO, SOME children will thrive in school at 4 and a bit but others will struggle. Children's development, emotionally and socially, doesn't follow a defined path so it make sense to be able to deal with the child in front of you, not a date of birth.

smilingsarahb Sat 17-Dec-16 10:39:06

I work in a school but don't teach. We have one child taught out of year as they were born late August and were premature and their current class is a great fit for them. I'd say the LA authority area actively discourages it and you have to build a case supported by the head to get it approved. The LA also says at each key stage you have to prove it is still necessary, which makes those transition years between infants and juniors and secondary a bit stressful as you don't want your child suddenly having to go up to their correct cohort. I think you need to consider the child and school very carefully before going down that road. Even odd things like my August child has always been the tallest in his class despite being the youngest, if he'd been the eldest in the year below instead he'd have dwarfed everyone. He's also twice ended up being taught with the year below anyway as he's been in mixed year groups classes and currently is taught with the year above. I am more for reforms that make the early years and KS1 curriculum fit for purpose. Currently most reception classes in my area are just like nursery and 4 year olds are fine - some schools even mix nursery and reception together. It all ends up very serious by year 2 and it's not right for any of the children.

ellanutella8 Sat 17-Dec-16 18:04:04

I agree with Sarah Summer born children (boys especially) can do fine in reception but when they hit year 1 they can struggle massively. I teach year one and I am desperately sad for a boy in my class. He really needs another year in reception and our school is really keen on continuous provision so it's not like it's too formal for him.

The ability range is massive and I fully support the idea of a range of ages rather than a range of abilities.

tushywush Sat 17-Dec-16 19:07:02

Sorry yes typo I mean 31st aug

user1469567950 Sat 17-Dec-16 22:34:03

Here in Ireland school starting is typically 4.5 to 5.5 with mandatory starting age of 6. There are issues with a wider spread of ages (maybe 15 -18 months) in the class but if works ok and facilitates choice. We also have one less year of formal schooling than you and an optional transition year at 15/16 which is like a gap year where they have no exam pressure, do work experience and lots of extra curricular before 2 year state exam cycle.

In my view the very young mandatory school starting age is a bigger issue for NI/England than lack of flexibility.

hazeyjane Sat 17-Dec-16 22:43:44

I think all children should start school a little later than they do, and spend longer in a 'preschool' setting.

I think delaying for a year can be beneficial to some children with special needs, but otherwise I am not in favour of parental choice for when children start.

DeviTheGaelet Sat 17-Dec-16 22:49:47

I think there are two things here.
milady makes an excellent point about entrenching inequality.
But I think just turned 4 is just too young to be capable of lots that's expected in reception. My LO couldn't even hold a pencil when they started at 4 years and 1 month and yet we were told they'd need to read and spell all tricky words by the end of the year shock
The Scottish system is better imo because school starts when children are aged 4 1/2 to 5 1/2 so the very youngest have that extra six months maturity and it makes a lot of difference.
I don't believe that children starting at 5 1/2 are held back, children aren't robots, if they are ready to learn they will learn quicker when they start is all.

Snazarooney Sat 17-Dec-16 22:50:34

I think it is great that parents now have that option. Ten years ago, children only went into Reception during the term in which they turned 5.

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