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Summer born children starting school

Starting school is a big step for both you and your child - and your anxieties may be amplified if you have a summer-born child. However, there are options which could help to ease your child into full-time education

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A school place will be available for your child in the September following their fourth birthday, and most parents are happy for their child to start school at this time. However, all children develop at different rates – particularly in the early years.

If you are concerned that your child may not be ready for school in the September after their fourth birthday, talk to the schools you are thinking of applying for about what life will be like for your child in the reception class and about how they will support the individual needs of all the children in the class. You may also wish to find out more about the early years curriculum – which your child will receive in any early years setting they attend and will continue to receive during the reception year at school.

If, having spoken to the school, you think your child will not be ready to attend school full time in the September after their fourth birthday, there are options available. They can:

  • Attend reception part time for all or part of the year until they reach compulsory school age (after their fifth birthday)
  • Join reception at a later date in the academic year at any point until they reach compulsory school age (such as the start of spring or summer term)

Talk to the school about the pattern of attendance that will best suit your child’s needs whilst still enabling the school to provide them with a coherent experience.

The admissions authority will be the local authority for community/voluntary controlled schools. For foundation and voluntary aided schools, it's the governing body, and for academies and free schools it's the academy trust. (Department for Education)

Summer born children (for admissions purposes this is those born between April and August) don’t reach compulsory age until a year after they could have first started school – the point at which their peers are moving from reception to year 1. If they wish, parents of summer born children may choose not to send their child to school until this point. However, if you would like your summer born child to join the reception class – instead of year 1 - in the September following their fifth birthday you will need to make a request to the admission authority* of the school you would like your child to attend.

Ultimately, each school's admissions authority will decide at what stage your child should start school. You'll need to present a case to the school authority, explaining your child's circumstances and why you believe a certain option would best suit them (this can include a statement of special educational needs). The authority should then consider what's in the child's best interest (in terms of education and wellbeing) for both the short and long term.

The Department for Education says:

"The admissions authority will consider a number of things when looking into your request:

  • whether your child was born prematurely

  • whether he or she has delayed social, emotional or physical development

  • whether they are in circumstances that mean they are not ready for school

They need to consider the circumstances of each child when parents make requests. Discuss with the schools that you've applied for as early as possible. Make it clear that you want your child to start reception a year later than they could have started."

What happens if your child's application for deferred or delayed entry is accepted:

"If you do agree that your child's place will be deferred, they will still be entitled to the 15 hours' free early education a week for 38 weeks of the year. As far as tests such as SATS are concerned, your child will take them at the end of each key stage with the rest of their class – they aren't dependent on age. If your child does start school later, they will of course finish primary school out of their normal age group too. It's up to the admission authority for the secondary school then to decide whether they are willing to accept that child to begin year 7 (in most authorities) at age 12 rather than the normal age 11."

And if your child's application for deferred entry is denied:

"If the school and admissions authority refuse your request, but offer you a place at the school in an alternative year group, you cannot appeal – but you can make a complaint which the school must consider. If you are refused a place at the school altogether, you can appeal.

"Be reassured, if your child is starting school as one of the youngest, teachers are highly skilled in supporting children who have widely ranging abilities. They're well trained in helping children who are younger to settle in to a new environment. Reception is a good basis for the rest of primary."

The reality...

Many parents find that they are refused the option to delay their child's entry into reception until the year after, unless they can prove 'exceptional circumstances' - even though this reasoning is not defined by the DfE guidelines. So while flexibility does indeed exist, the reality is the final decision rests with the authorities.

Several parenting groups feel that summer-born children are being 'forced' into formal education too early. Many schools do not allow delayed entry and therefore children are having to start earlier than their parents would like, or lose out on a year of education ahead of starting year 1.

The Department for Education says:

"We are often asked about the issue of children born in the summer having to start school long before they are five. We understand the concerns that parents may feel when their child is starting school – let alone if they are starting school almost a year younger than some of the others in their class. But there is flexibility in the system."

Recently, a number of parenting groups have asked for the admissions code to be re-written so that options available to parents are more clearly defined, and authorities given reason to consider these options in more cases. The hope is that parents will have more influence on the decision, based on what they believe is best for their child.

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Last updated: over 1 year ago