Flexible school starts for summer-born children

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.

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4 thoughts on “Flexible school starts for summer-born children

  1. Glad you did well, really, however as you probably already know, exception is not the rule. Enough data-sets have been scrutinized to identify a trend; summer-borns are at a disadvantage. I have a summer-born son. He’s bright, but at the moment I couldn’t give a monkeys about how academic he may or may not be. I am MUCH more concerned about his social, emotional and non-congnitive well-being; I’ve read too much probably! A good foundation is at the start of learning; bring it on too early and well….. the evidence of the consequences are out there. I’d much rather a happy and confident young child; yes, young child learn through play. I don’t want to, and will not force him to mature beyond his years before he is ready. I’m very, very pleased that an MP has made a stand.

  2. It’s taken 5 weeks for Reception to unravel my summer-born, non-preschooled son’s spirit.
    He has gone from sharing his toys with complete strangers in the park to using his arms and whole body to guard a toy box, removing another child’s fingers from it, and exploding if his goal of discovering the toys for and by himself is not achieved.

    How can this be?
    He was branded as naughty within days of starting. The school will of course deny(no witness). But my son tells me his friends chase him because he’s naughty. I witnessed this happening. Another boy told me my son was “very very naughty” which is why he can go to school part time (then invited him to his house to play). Is this Bullying?

    He was told he was not good at lining up after only 2 attempts (without any instruction) so he was told to go sit on the mat. I witnessed both attempts at lining up and he was great. Another child (I’ve never met before) approached me and said “he can’t line up- he has to go and sit on the mat”. Is this Segregation?

    I was told his speech was difficult to understand: The Speech Therapist report tells me his speech is normal for age 4 and 1 month.
    I was told his social skills are developmentally behind: The Child Psychologist tells me there are no reliable tests to test his social skills, so we can’t know if they are behind.

    As adults should we pin our “weakness” on our work clothes so that we can get taunted at work all day? Try it for 5 weeks, and when someone tells you to sit on your own as a result of your weakness, do it. Ready to explode?

    I didn’t think he was ready, but I trusted that the school would be ready for him. I was wrong to do so.

    1. Hi Helen, thanks for the comment.

      I’m sorry to hear of such experiences. That is certainly quite an alarming shift in behaviour such that I haven’t seen before.

      You mentioned that he didn’t go to preschool before heading into reception. I wonder if part of the reason for this shift perhaps might be he’s not used to playing with other children round his age group? I mean I apologise if I’m wrong but in my experiences of children who did not attend preschool before reception, it does tend to be those children who struggle more with the social aspects of learning, ie they tend to isolate themselves from others, or perhaps be aggressive towards others.

      Speech is an interesting one too. One of my cousins had an issue with speech in her early stages (she still has some minor issues now), but he could be a slow developer in that department.

      From what you have described to me, it seems like there are issues with how the child has been influenced in school early on. I must say I find it appalling that other children are making such comments about his behaviour, and it seems to be allowed. Something somewhere is horribly wrong, and I have everything crossed that things are improving for you and your son now.

      Mr M

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