Before you read on please take this blog post as a ‘here is the information and apply it to your own child/situation/personal preference’ kind of blog post. I am not here to tell you what age your child should start school (jeez I can barely make important life decisions for my own children let along other people’s) But it’s a subject I’m really interested in so if your child is born is a summer-born child and born between 1st April – 31st August this blog post is for you!
Why do I care?
About four years ago a friend of mine posted a status on Facebook regarding her August born son. For various reasons she had felt he was too young to go to school at 4 years 3 days so had asked a County Council that shall be nameless to admit him in Reception at Compulsory School Age (which is the term after a child turns 5) so he would start school at 5 years 3 days. Nameless County Council refused her request, hence a lengthy battle and eventually my friend was victorious after much stress, anxiety, solicitor fees and tears. My friend’s battle really caught my imagination and awareness about the youngest children in my class. Having a July 31st birthday myself I was always aware of being one of the youngest, especially during the ‘everyone can drink and I can’t’ phase but other than that it never to my mind adversely affected me. But I wanted to find out more, so I joined the Summer Born Campaign Group where for the last four years I began watching, listening and educating myself about the summer born scandal that is happening in England.
What is the scandal?
In 2014 the Government changed the Admissions Code to enable more flexibility around school start age for summer-born children. Most children start school the term after they turn 4 years old, however, from 2014 summer-born parents could choose to send their child to school at compulsory school age (the term after they have turned 5) and as long as the Local Authority agreed they could start in Reception as opposed to starting straight into Year 1.
The scandal for parents is that if they want their summer-born child to start school at compulsory school age they had to submit a request to their local authority. Depending on where you live, depends on how sympathetic the local authority is – hence a continuing postcode lottery. Some local authorities such as Wandsworth give automatic approval to all requests for summer born children to start in Reception at compulsory school age whilst neighbouring boroughs do not!
So what is the government doing about it?
The pressure from parents to have flexibility about their child’s school age has reached such a height that the government has now promised to change the admissions code to support parents into choosing whether their summer born child enters school at 4 or 5 years old without having to fight local authorities to do so. They have published guidance for how summer-born applications should be treated: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/389448/Summer_born_admissions_advice_Dec_2014.pdf
When does my child have to start school legally?
It is your legal duty to make sure you are giving your child an adequate and appropriate education when your child reaches compulsory school age (term after they turn 5) so if your child is summer born then that is the September after they turn 5. Remember education is compulsory, school is not! However, most children go to school the term after they turn 4 years old.
What if I have already starting/started my summer born child at four and I’m regretting it?
Well the good news is you cannot be fined if you take your child on holiday during term time if your child is under compulsory school age! Horrah! It is also your right to request and be granted part-time school attendance if your child is under compulsory school age, although schools do often like to work with parents to agree on a suitable arrangement. If your child is already in the school system and is struggling, it is up to the Headteacher about what year group they are to be educated in. In my humble experience Head’s are reluctant to move children already established in their year group due to social upheaval etc… but having a conversation with your Headteacher is the best course of action.
What about private schools?
The admission code only applies to state schools. Private or fee paying schools do not need to follow the school admissions code, so if you want your child educated out of cohort at a fee paying school then you would need a meeting with the Head.
I’m keen to start my summer born child at compulsory school age what do I do?
Join the Summerborn Campaign Facebook Group and see what other parents have done in your area. Talk to the Headteachers of prospective schools, often you will need them on board to proceed with your request as their opinions are taken into account. Educate yourself regarding your rights and talk to your County Council about how to submit a request. Every County Council does things slightly differently.
Why don’t parents just start their children at 4 years old like everyone else?
The reasons parents decide to send their children to school at compulsory school age rather than 4 years old differs in each case. Often they believe that 4 years old is simply too young with the increasing pressures on children in Year 1 and Year 2 make parents want an extra year for their children to mature. Parents know their children best and it is sometimes simply knowing your child would benefit from an extra year outside the school system which makes parents request a compulsory school age start.
Will I need to fight to get a compulsory school age start for my summer-born?
Depends where you live. Hence the scandal!
If you want any more information I recommend joining the Summer Born Facebook Group and reading more information on their website. After following and supporting the Summer born movement both nationally and locally, it is clear that the more educated parents are about their rights the better and hopefully you will get the best outcome for your child whether it is starting school at 4, part time or at compulsory school age at 5 years old