Some of my more regular readers will remember my previous post about summer-born children and whether it affects their ability. Well the news this week has flagged something similar. Ministers are being urged to ensure parents of summer-born children can exercise their right to a later school start without losing a chosen place.
Evidence suggests younger children in a class can do less well than their older peers, and some parents feel delaying the school start can help. But many parents find their children must start reception in September or go on a waiting list for Year 1. In theory, parents can choose when their children start school up to the statutory school starting age – the first term after the fifth birthday. But in practice, Annette Brooke MP says, it is difficult to exercise that right and parents often “cave in”, not wanting to “make a fuss”.
Her Early Day Motion, which is backed by a grassroots campaign group, says: “This House notes with concern the robust and consistent evidence from around the world on birth date effects, which in England shows that summer-born children can suffer long-term disadvantages as a result of England’s inflexible school starting age.” It goes on to say the government should ensure that parents of summer-born children are able to exercise their right to defer their child’s school start until the statutory school start time, if that is their choice. And this has to be “without fear of losing the place at the school of their choice” they have been allocated, it says.
Mrs Brooke adds: “Why should a child born a minute before midnight on August 31 be automatically put into Year 1 aged five? Every child is different, emotionally, socially and in cognitive development, and so it seems reasonable to me that parents should have the choice to ask for their child to be in reception rather than Year 1 when they reach statutory school starting age.”
She warns: “A bad early experience could adversely affect a child throughout their whole education. I want to foster a joy of learning, and that can only be achieved if learning experiences are appropriate to a child’s stage of development. My fear is that parents feel pressured to start their children in September because they fear that their child will get left behind. I just feel that it should be made easier to make that choice.”
This view is supported by Stefan Richter, a father of three summer-born girls, setting up a campaign group calling for more flexibility. He suggests, “Admission authorities present the choice as missing a year, or starting a year earlier than legally required: not a great choice, and the crux of what we’re fighting against.”
Should this be allowed, or do you think this is an overreaction? As I mentioned before I’m a summer-born child, yet I was higher ability than my peers born in September the previous year, so this example isn’t always true for me.