Too much, too young for summer-born children forced into ‘big school’

The Guardian is reporting complaints from parents that there is a postcode lottery over when children must start school and, they suggest, new government guidelines have made matters worse…

…Cian will turn five on 30 August – so he must legally start school in September. But because he is young for his age group and has developmental problems, his parents want him to go into reception rather than into year 1, which technically he should do.

Field, who is originally from the US, says she thought a request to Lambeth council for Cian to be taught with children who would be five in the next school year, rather than those who would soon be six, would be a straightforward matter. But it was rejected. When we met, he was still without a school place for September.

The family believe they have been victims of a widespread problem – that summer-born children are too often being denied the flexibility they’re supposed to have under a government code of conduct.

“I thought it would be like the American system, where people would be looking at Cian’s best interests,” Field says. “ I didn’t realise the needs of the system were so important here…”

Meanwhile, some parents continue to feel they are in a postcode lottery, with some councils happy to be flexible and others less so…

Pauline Hull, who runs the Summer Born Campaign and who recently gave evidence to the parliamentary education committee on the subject, believes the government’s new code has made matters worse rather than better. The wording of the code should be more specific, she says – it’s too easy for any local authority to say it has made a decision in a child’s best interests…

More at: Too much, too young for summer-born children forced into ‘big school’

 

Just a brief flavour here of the full in-depth report but this is an issue that keeps getting airtime without any apparent resolution.

Do you think Pauline Hull is making a valid criticism in suggesting the government’s new code may actually have made things worst for parents?

Is it too easy for local authorities to justify a decision that goes against the parental wishes?

If you were to propose a solution to the issue what would it be? Please let us know in the comments or via Twitter…

 

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Comments

  1. sjmccormick76

    It’s far too subjective and far too easy for an admission authority to say they have considered the child’s best interest when in fact they are making decisions to suit their own departments. Reasons for not allowing a reception start at CSA include starting that a child’s needs can be met if they start at 4; that the schools can differentiate work to suit the youngest child at just turned 4. These reasons, whilst they may be valid in some respects for some children completely miss the point… Which is that the parent has requested a CSA start regardless of whether the school or LA think they can provide adequate education from 4. The decisions should be about where best to place a child starting school at CSA and I defy anyone to tell me how it is in any child’s best interest to start in year one at that point!

  2. Sue_A_Wright

    It beggars belief that a child starting school at compulsory school age can be denied a full education simply because of their birth month. Parents who send their summerborn children to school at compulsory school age are not sending them late, they are sending them on time. It is nothing short of discrimination to then deny these children access to the same education as any other child. It is not for any local authority to decide a child should start early or be denied a year of education.

  3. Bentleys mum

    I agree in someways it has made the situation worse.  It is law that compulsory school age is 5 and yet we continue to have to fight for a full education if we utilise this right in law.  The code still does not give an automatic right to substantiate this primary law leaving it to LEA’s to play lip service to the full educational rights of our children.  Head Teachers need to be approached for their opinions for a child who they do not know and who may not even go to their school taking away valuable teaching time.  It is absolutely farsical.  How can the rights of our summer born children be ignored time and time and time again. It makes my blood boil.  We have agreement for one August born child, we now have to start the process all over again with a child who definitely needs it more.  If we loose then we will have to decide if its in her best interests to loose a years education.  The LEA’s have been given local ownership and are supposed to make a decision in the best interest of a child. How can anybody agree that skipping a whole year is in the best interest of a child, or starting a child at school a year earlier than they need to be there is in the best interests of a child. Then if we do apply for a year 1 place they do not get a choice of schools its only the ones that have places available!  So no provision is made.   And yet the DofE do nothing when the LEA’s flaunt it time and time and time again….  Yes it needs to be changed and yes it needs to be changed to an automatic right or even just adopt the scottish system after all we are all the UK.  Bish, bash, bosh.  Done.

  4. HayBee1477

    tinateeto sjmccormick76 sb_campaign when will the Dfe protect our summerborns from beurocrats and dinosaurs :-//

  5. sjmccormick76

    HayBee1477 tinateeto sb_campaign But it’s more than that. Why a child doesn’t have a legal right to YR start @ CSA is beyond me!

  6. sjmccormick76

    HayBee1477 tinateeto sb_campaign My #summerborn is not starting school a day before CSA… The school/LA will be made very aware of this!

  7. sjmccormick76

    HayBee1477 tinateeto sb_campaign My #summerborn is not starting school a day before CSA… The school/LA will be made very aware of this!

  8. sjmccormick76

    HayBee1477 tinateeto sb_campaign And then let them tell me why she is better placed starting in year 1!

  9. Nisha Allen

    The code remains unclear & although there are government
    guidelines, each LEA has the ultimate decision making authority. The
    decisions vary by LEA & this is unfair to parents fighting for the
    right to simply allow their child to start in Reception Year at the age
    of 5.
    A summerborn child can be forced to begin their
    school education an entire year earlier than a child that was born
    before 1 September, which could be a matter of weeks or just a day!

    Parents are advised to provide evidence of SEN to back up their requests but even then, an LEA may reject their request.
    Requests
    to allow premature summerborn children to be able to start at 5 years
    old are also rejected, some of these children have significantly delayed
    development in their gross motor skills & need more attention than
    the teacher-child ratio that is provided at a school.
    With parents
    having to fight so hard for children who have SEN or that are
    premature, the parents who simply wish to start their child’s education
    in Reception Year at the age of 5 (& they have the right to do this)
    have an even harder fight!For the critics out there, this is NOT
    about parents simply avoiding their child being the youngest in the
    class. This is a genunie issue & it is about each parent having the
    right to choose whether their child starts Reception Year at the age of 4
    or 5.  Each child is unique, please don’t forget that!

  10. Nisha Allen

    The code remains unclear & although there are government
    guidelines, each LEA has the ultimate decision making authority. The
    decisions vary by LEA & this is unfair to parents fighting for the
    right to simply allow their child to start in Reception Year at the age
    of 5.
    A summerborn child can be forced to begin their
    school education an entire year earlier than a child that was born after September, which could be a matter of weeks or just a day!

    Parents are advised to provide evidence of SEN to back up their requests but even then, an LEA may reject their request.
    Requests
    to allow premature summerborn children to be able to start at 5 years
    old are also rejected. Some of these children have significantly delayed
    development in their gross motor skills & need more attention than
    the teacher-child ratio that is provided at a school.
    With parents
    having to fight so hard for children who have SEN or that are
    premature, the parents who simply wish to start their child’s education
    in Reception Year at the age of 5 (& they have the right to do this)
    have an even harder fight!For the critics out there, this is NOT
    about parents simply avoiding their child being the youngest in the
    class. This is a genunie issue & it is about each parent having the
    right to choose whether their child starts Reception Year at the age of 4
    or 5.  Each child is unique, please don’t forget that & please amend the code to support the parents fighting this & most importantly, for the children!

  11. RBirch

    I naively thought a change to the code had to be a good thing, summer borns were at last being recognised and parents given more rights. Pauline warned otherwise. Days after the code was introduced we received a no to our request for our son to start reception class at compulsory school age. Pauline was right, the situation was not improved but made worse. As one head teacher put it “the code is ambiguous to the point of obscurantism” Local authorities could interpret the code as they saw fit and the DfE could only advise and stand by and watch. It is a hopeless situation and yet it should be so easy. Parents, not LEA’s or head teachers, know what is in their child’s best interest, it should be up to them to decide, it’s not rocket science.

  12. RosieDutton

    The new code has made it harder for summer born children. Decisions are made at local level which has created an unfair postcode and opinions lottery. Whilst some requests for a reception start at compulsory school age are agreed, others are not, the inconsistencies are huge.
    My request for my daughter to start school in reception at compulsory school age was agreed, quite easily infact. No evidence, no ‘exceptional circumstances’, just summer born. However if we go 8 miles down the road another family has had their request refused and their little boy will be forced to start in year one. What’s interesting in this example is this family had a vast amount of supporting evidence from doctors, health visitors, child psychologist and speech and language therapist, but still receive a no!! How is this fair? It’s simply not. There are examples like this all over the country. Local level decisions simply do not work. In some cases, depending on the admissions authority for the school, different decisions are often made for the same child, one school may say yes, one school may say no!! It’s a ridiculous situation and one the DfE is allowing to happen.
    The solution: remove summer born children from 2.17 of the school admissions code. Allow summer born child the automatic right to start school in reception at compulsory school age and ensure procedures are in place to allow that child to remain in their ‘new’ year group for the remainder of their education.

  13. cathmackinlay

    sb_campaign educationgovuk RDut24 Unsurprisingly, no comment from the DFE yet again; No governance, no democracy, no equality.

  14. spacecowgirrl

    Vague guidance for LA’s and a postcode lottery stop parents doing what is best for their #summerborn children

  15. HayBee1477

    tinateeto sjmccormick76 sb_campaign good for u its ur legal right I just can’t understand why in 2015 the system comes before t child!

  16. HayBee1477

    tinateeto sjmccormick76 sb_campaign it’s discrimination against a specific group. All others can go term after 5! Only SBs different rule

  17. SusanKing

    One of the changes made to the code in 2014 was adding a requirement to take the head teachers views into consideration. for some who found a sympathetic head teacher it was a help but for many it just added another loop hole to the proceedings. In our case the head teacher said
    “It goes against my personal pedagogy to allow any child to be educated out of year group” 
    So, no mention of what was in the best interests of our child just her personal opinion sealed our child’s fate. It won’t end until the DfE amends the wording of the code, it should be a parents right to choose whether their child begins reception at compulsory school age in accordance with the law of this country or weather they send them early at the age of 4. what is the point in the law otherwise? i don`t understand why the DfE are dragging their heals on this issue, they have written non statutory guidance advising flexibility but have done nothing to insure that flexibility is occurring. It will only be a fair system when everyone, despite their birthdate or postcode is treated the same!

  18. fionam

    The new Code is unclear and unhelpful. These parents are not asking for their child to be ‘educated outside of their normal age group’ as the Code says, their parents are trying to have them start school on time at their compulsory school age in Reception and have a full education. This right is the only sensible thing to write into the Code, just as has been done for all children born up to April 1st, who now have the right to start at their compulsory school age under Section 2.16.

  19. fionam

    Couldn’t agree more that the role of the head teacher is unclear and open to massive abuse. I’m so sorry you are in this situation. Frankly they shouldn’t be involved as they barely know the child.
    When I piece together the Code and the Guidance for Summer Borns, I believe that the role is simply to input into whether Year 1 or Reception are in the best interests at compulsory school age. So, no veto and no trying to say that they will be fine at 4 and refusing on that basis. The code must be much more explicit in both their role and also what is expected in the letter sent to parents to explain the decision. Ie that this letter must not be a dismissive rejection because the child will be ‘fine at 4’. It must contain the reasons for the year group decision at compulsory school age and why this year group is in the best interests of the child.
    Better still, stop wasting time, money and effort on chasing a system that could be so simple and streamlined around parental choice

  20. GemmaAdams

    A postcode lottery means some families are able to access a flexible start and others aren’t. This cannot be fair or right for children. The government needs to take control of the situation and set clear guidance which LEA’s cant choose to wriggle out of

  21. GemmaAdams

    A postcode lottery means some families are able to access a flexible start and others aren’t. This cannot be fair or right for children. The government needs to take control of the situation and set clear guidance which LEA’s cant choose to wriggle out of

  22. GemmaAdams

    A postcode lottery means some families are able to access a flexible start and others aren’t. This cannot be fair or right for children. The government needs to take control of the situation and set clear guidance which LEA’s cant choose to wriggle out of

  23. CharAliyeva

    This certainly is a valid criticism. What an absolute shambles, the whole system is a complete joke… except that it is not remotely funny because it is causing major stress and anxiety for families trying to navigate the whole ridiculous process, not to mention it is the process by which total strangers are making decisions about your summerborn child’s future and their right to an education the same as any other child.
    You are given the opportunity to apply for your summerborn child to start school at compulsory school age, so at this point you are given a major dose of hope and you also know that it is written in the primary education legislation and so you would think that it must be perfectly ok for your child to start reception at compulsory school age but definitely not. You then find out there is so much, much more to this and it is just the most awful, absurd situation to find yourself having to navigate. 
    The head teacher may or may not be supportive, depending on their personal views regardless of your child, the nursery may or may not be supportive, the head teacher and nursery teacher may in fact have absolutely no idea about what you are asking and it has happened that they can make ridiculous comments such as ” No, that does not happen in this county”. If you’re lucky your head teacher and nursery may be supportive but the LEA may then say no or they may well then ask for more evidence and you are expected to provide a load of evidence as to why this should happen, this again, is just crazy why should you have to provide more evidence that your summerborn child should start school at compulsory school age, parents of autumn or spring born children do not have to provide evidence.
    You may find that you are pressured into taking the reception class for your summerborn child at just turned 4 because you may be told that your child will have to go straight into year 1 and miss reception altogether so you then have to decide if it is worth taking the risk of not getting a reception place. You may be told that your child will miss a year at any time in their schooling which can and does happen.
    So after thinking about all of this, as a parent you may well decide it is not even worth the battle, especially if you live in area where it is common knowledge that the LEA will turn your request down regardless. So you are pressured into sending your child at age 4 and maybe just a day to school alongside those about to turn 5 to cope or maybe not and they may even get a SEN as a result. And why is this? I’m really not sure….

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