When the letter arrived to tell me my summer-born daughter was due to start school that year, she was only three-and-a-half; so small, she was still wearing clothes for babies aged 18 to 24 months. How, I wondered, could Madison possibly be old enough to graduate from her two days a week spent at nursery to five full days at school that same year? Jessica Heslop, a qualified primary teacher writes in The Telegraph.
I knew she wasn’t ready, so I decided to exercise my legal right to wait another year until she reached compulsory school age. I’m not alone, either. Mid-month, a Government report found the number of families choosing to delay their summer-born child starting school had almost doubled in just a year.
In 2015, there were 916 requests to defer the start of school until the following year, while in 2016 the number of such requests jumped to 1,750. About three quarters were approved in both years. Some affluent parents were “playing the system”, holding back their children if they failed to get into their first choice school and then reapplying the following year, it was claimed.
I’ve seen what happens to children who start school before they’re ready: they quickly fall behind and require extra support in the classroom. The struggle to keep up is not merely an academic one, but one that causes untold damage to their self-esteem and confidence.
These problems don’t just affect them at the start, they often continue to dog them throughout primary school and beyond. An international literacy test last year showed that by the time children are aged nine to ten, September-born pupils are outperforming their August-born classmates in literacy and reading. Earlier research has shown, too, that children born in August are 50 per cent more likely to be labelled as having special needs than others in their cohort.
I informed the local authority that Madison would be starting school at compulsory school age the following year and I asked that she start in reception; yet to my dismay, they told me Madison would have to go straight into year one. The admissions code states that all decisions must be made in a child’s best interest. How, then, could they justify her missing an entire year of school?
It came as an immense relief. When Madison did start her formal education, in September last year, she was five years and nine weeks old. She was excited about it by this point, and emotionally ready to learn. In her first eight months she has blossomed and is thriving in her new routine. Most importantly, perhaps, she loves school. I know it was the right choice for her. She’s now got a fair chance to succeed.
Would you hold your child back an extra year if your thought they weren’t ready? Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin
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