Ever since I was pregnant with the now 3 years old Baby Belle there’s been a nagging thought in the back of my mind that she’ll be one of the youngest in her class when she starts school. At just 6 weeks past her 4th birthday she’ll be dressed in her tiny little school uniform and off to school in September 2014 and it truly doesn’t sit very well with me. My fellow Little Pickle and sister Selina is in a similar situation with her little Shrimp being born 3 weeks earlier.
We’d always thought our only options were to start the kids part time or delay their start for the year and make her start straight in Year 1. A part time start is at least something, BB attends pre-school 12 hours a week, because that’s all I can find she can manage, suddenly increasing up to 30 hours a week at school is a big jump. Reception is a very important year at school and the one my son, now in Year 9 still regards as his favourite so without extreme cause I don’t want to go down that road.
Selina isn’t one to take things likely and decided to let Hampshire LEA know exactly what she thought of the situation and had a rather surprising, positive reply.
As of July 2013 the Governement/Department for Education gave the following advice
- School admission authorities are required to provide for the admission of all children in the September following their fourth birthday, but flexibilities exist for children whose parents do not feel they are ready to begin school at this point
- School admission authorities are responsible for making the decision on which year group a child should be admitted to, but are required to make a decision based on the circumstances of the case
- There is no statutory barrier to children being admitted outside their normal year group
So in English it means that children must start school the term following their 5th birthday but there is NO lawful reason why the child would have to be admitted straight into Year 1. It also says that it is unlawful to give a blanket response that all children must be admitted to Year 1 when in fact everyone who appeals should be looked at on a case by case basis.
Excellent we thought, if the children had been born just a few week later they wouldn’t be starting school until September 2015 anyway, this could be a realistic solution.
We are lucky that our children don’t currently have any special educational years and they weren’t born prematurely which is another very justified reason for wanting children to start school at a later date, it is more down to concern that children are forced to grow up too quickly and that starting so young they won’t be emotionally equipped to deal with school. Every child is different, some will be ready and some won’t be and we’re the last people to put on the horrible judging cap on but we also want the right to be able to decide what’s best for our children. It seems to be a hot topic as numerous stories appear on the BBC, Telegraph and Daily Mail all quoting stories and figures why summer-borns lag behind their older peers and I don’t want to go throwing my daughter into that situation
On the plus side there is support out there for parents of summer born children.
- Facebook group for Flexible School Starts for summer born children is full of information, success stories and help if you need advice or just a rant.
- Equally so is: http://summerbornchildren.org/home-2/
With all this support and the advice appearing to be on our sides I foolishly thought it would be simple and I hate to say so far its not! Each school and LEA is different, your experience may well be completely different but currently I feel like I’m banging my head against a brick wall.
I started by speaking to my proposed infants schools Pastoral Worker. She’s a lovely lady, known her for years, she took great care of my eldest and had every faith she would be on my side, however when I spoke to her about what I wanted to do I was met with “that’s not how we do things, they go straight into year 1”. Every question I asked, when I spoke to her about the advice from the DFE and telling her they’d said its unlawful to give a blanket response I got “that’s not how we do things, they go straight into year 1”repeatedly.
After recovering from the conversation I thought I’d try the Dorset LEA and sent them a detailed, factual email with clear questions. All I received back was a copy of their Admissions policy with the blanket answer that deferred children go straight into year 1. I have replied again but they haven’t even bothered to reply.
So far, not so good. There are people that have managed to get their authorities to agree so it is possible. Some have had their dream answer, some haven’t but are fighting for other options.
Your childs first taste of school is one of the most important times of their life. If your gut instinct is go against the ‘norm’ then don’t be afraid to pursue it. The facebook group offer’s great support so make sure you join and speak to other parents who are probably feeling just the same as you!
We’ll let you know how we get on!
Written by Michelle and Selina
Sisters with summer born pickles and Baby Show Organisers