Twice as many par­ents ask for sum­mer-born chil­dren to start school a year later

Daily Mail - - One Day To Go ... - By Eleanor Hard­ing Ed­u­ca­tion Cor­re­spon­dent

THE num­ber of par­ents ask­ing for their sum­mer­born chil­dren to de­lay start­ing school has al­most dou­bled in just one year.

New Gov­ern­ment sta­tis­tics show ap­pli­ca­tions to de­fer school en­try for four-yearolds rose by 84 per cent – sug­gest­ing the prac­tice could soon be­come com­mon­place.

It comes af­ter min­is­ters urged lo­cal au­thor­i­ties to stop block­ing par­ents from hold­ing their child back a year un­less there is a very good rea­son.

The of­fi­cial ad­mis­sions code was re­cently changed so that par­ents’ wishes must be taken into ac­count when de­ci­sions on the is­sue are made.

Data from the Depart­ment for Ed­u­ca­tion was based on a sur­vey of 92 coun­cils which found that there were 1,750 re­quests to de­lay start­ing re­cep­tion class until Septem­ber 2017.

This was up from 916 the pre­vi­ous year, the fig­ures showed. In both years, 75 per cent of re­quests were granted.

Paul White­man, gen­eral sec­re­tary of the Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Head Teach­ers, said that the is­sue of flex­i­ble ad­mis­sions for sum­mer-born chil­dren was now much bet­ter un­der­stood.

He said: ‘Schools are re­quired to pro­vide a place for all chil­dren in the Septem­ber af­ter their fourth birth­day but that start date clearly isn’t right for ev­ery child. In cases where fam­i­lies make a re­quest for their child to start in re­cep­tion the fol­low­ing year, it’s about tak­ing a sen­si­ble and hu­man ap­proach based on the in­di­vid­ual needs of the child in ques­tion. The flex­i­bil­ity re­quired in or­der to ac­com­mo­date the needs of some chil­dren born be­tween April and Au­gust each year can cause some or­gan­i­sa­tional and fi­nan­cial issues for schools, but they are not in­sur­mount­able. The im­por­tant thing is that each child is ready to start school, what­ever that day might be.’

The rise in­di­cates that moth­ers and fathers, par­tic­u­larly wealth­ier par­ents, are be­com­ing more aware of their rights on school ad­mis­sions, the re­port said. Un­der the cur­rent sys­tem, chil­dren in Eng­land usu­ally start school in the au­tumn af­ter they turn four, but par­ents of those born be­tween April and Au­gust are al­lowed to ask to de­lay en­try for a year.

The study pointed out that ‘par­ents with higher in­comes were sig­nif­i­cantly more likely to de­lay their sum­mer-born child’s ad­mis­sion to re­cep­tion’. This may be be­cause they are more able to af­ford to have one par­ent off work to look af­ter the child.

Most of those chil­dren who did de­lay ad­mis­sion were born in the later sum­mer months – 22 per cent in July and 53 per cent in Au­gust.

How­ever, some coun­cils ap­peared more ready to ac­cept re­quests than oth­ers. Around one in ten – 11 per cent – of the coun­cils sur­veyed said they agreed all re­quests for sum­mer­born chil­dren to start re­cep­tion a year later. Mean­while 63 per cent said they do not ap­prove all re­quests, but are more will­ing to al­low this than pre­vi­ously.

And 26 per cent said they only let those with a very strong case de­lay en­try. A sep­a­rate smallscale poll of 161 par­ents who ap­plied found that nearly half had an­nual house­hold in­comes of £50,000 or more.

The most com­mon rea­son for de­lay­ing was that they felt their child was not ready for school.

Cam­paign­ers have ar­gued that some sum­mer-born chil­dren are not nec­es­sar­ily pre­pared to start school when they have just turned four, while pre­vi­ous re­search has in­di­cated that those born in the sum­mer months may per­form worse in as­sess­ments than their older, au­tumn-born class­mates.

There have also been con­cerns raised that some coun­cils al­low chil­dren to wait a year be­fore start­ing school, but then are told they must join Year 1, miss­ing out re­cep­tion.

In 2014, the DfE amended the code to re­quire ad­mis­sions bod­ies to make de­ci­sions on whether to de­lay start­ing re­cep­tion in the child’s best in­ter­ests, in­clud­ing tak­ing into ac­count fac­tors such as par­ents’ views.

The fol­low­ing year, schools min­is­ter Nick Gibb wrote to coun­cils say­ing that chil­dren should not be forced to join Year 1 if they wait to start school when they turn five.

He ar­gued that ad­mis­sions rules needed to be changed to give sum­mer-born youngsters the right to start in re­cep­tion if they joined at this point.

‘It’s im­por­tant that each child is ready’

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