Find out what the options for summer-born children are when it comes to starting primary school, how you can request to delay their entry into reception and what your rights are…
What is a summer-born child?
The British weather may not have got the memo but in the eyes of the Department for Education, “summer-born” means children who were born between 1 April and 31 August.
Parents of summer-born children can ask to delay their child’s entry into reception for a year so that they start the September after they turn five. You may consider doing this if you’re concerned that your child isn’t ready to start school just yet.
What age do children start primary school?
Most children start school during the academic year in which they become five. So, if your child was born between September 2015 and August 2016 they’d be expected to start in September 2020. But this isn’t actually the statutory school age.
Children don’t have to start school full time until the term after their fifth birthday. (So yes, if you took your four-year-old out of school for a cheeky holiday, you wouldn’t be prosecuted. Your school will likely be cross with you for breaking their attendance policy though and no one wants to get on the wrong side of the office secretary.)
Why do authorities have to approve applications to defer entry for summer-born children?
By law, your child doesn’t need to be at school full time until the term after they turn five. But the school doesn’t have to give them a place in reception at that point – they can put them straight into year one along with the other children in their “academic year” group. You can request to delay their place in reception but there’s no guarantee it’ll be granted.
The School Admissions Code states that admission authorities “must make decisions on the basis of the circumstances of each case and in the best interests of the child concerned”.
- Parent’s views.
- Information about the child’s academic, social and emotional development.
- Where relevant, their medical history and the views of a medical professional.
- Whether they have previously been educated out of their normal age group.
- Whether they may naturally have fallen into a lower age group if it were not for being born prematurely.
- The views of the headteacher of the school concerned.
When the admission authority notifies you of their decision, they must clearly set out the reasons for why they said yay or nay.
A 2018 report by the Department for Education found that the number of requests for delayed school entry for summer-born children has increased significantly over the last few years. Of the 1,750 requests received by the local authorities surveyed for children to be admitted in September 2017, rather than September 2016, 75% were agreed. The majority of these children were born later in the summer – 22% in July and 53% in August.
How do I apply?
It’s strongly recommended that you apply for a reception place in your child’s actual year group anyway. If you do end up delaying their school start date to the following year, it’s easy to withdraw your application.
You’ll then need to submit a request to defer entry. You should be able to find information about this on the school admissions section of your local authority’s website. Rather than navigating the frightening maze of a local authority website and getting lost somewhere in between garden waste and reporting graffiti, just google it to get straight to the relevant page. For example, if you live in Barnet, search for: Barnet school admissions.
If your application is successful, you’ll need to withdraw your current application and reapply for a reception place the following year as normal. Your application will be considered under the same admissions criteria as all other applicants.
What if my application to defer school entry is refused?
You have two main options. Firstly, you can accept the school place that’s been offered to you but speak to the school about whether they’d be happy for your child to start part time or later in the school year. Or you can refuse the offer of a place in reception and make an in-year application for your child to start in year 1 the following year.
Should summer-born children start school later?
There’s no right or wrong answer. All children are different and it’s up to your family to decide what feels right. One August born child may have been born ready for school whereas another might struggle. The same goes for children born in any month of the year.
There’s been a lot of coverage in the media about how younger children are disadvantaged compared to their peers in primary school. In 2018 a report by SchoolDash found that the attainment gap between summer-born children and their older classmates remains significant even at the end of primary school. But a 2018 report by the Department for Education found no statistically significant impact of delaying admission to reception on the performance of pupils in the phonics screening check.
Confused? Us too. What it comes down to is that it’s a personal decision. Whatever your family decide, just remember that the teachers will do all they can to help your little one settle into school life and thrive.