Julie is mum to a nearly 3 year old boy and step mum to an 8 year old boy. Like most parents she finds herself meeting many unexpected parenting issues. School admissions for summer born children is particularly close to her heart at the moment as she is trying to make sense of the current policies and find the best path for her son and for the family as a whole. Read more at Topmums
Never did it occur to me when I was told my baby’s due date was the end of July (in the end he arrived on the 5th August) that in a few years time I would find myself worrying so much about him starting school. I always imagined this would be an exciting time, and I imagined how proud I would feel of my little offspring trotting off in his uniform on his first day.
Back then I gave no thought to the fact that he would be so small compared to a lot of his peers. I didn’t realise he would still only be three years old when he went for his ‘settling in days’ prior to the start of his first term, whereas some of the others in his class would be about to have their fifth birthday.
Apparently my son is termed a ‘summer born child’ (born between April and August), and as it turns out these kids get quite a rough deal when it comes to school admissions.
It is general practice in the UK for children to start in reception class of primary school in the September following their 4th birthday. For me, this meant that my son would have only been 4 for approximately 4 weeks when he was expected to enter full time education.
Because they are so young when they start school, these summer born children can end up competing with others almost 12 months older than them, and at that age 12 months is a long time in terms of development, both physically and emotionally.
Because of this, these summer born children are more likely to fall behind with their work, become withdrawn, and are more likely to get bullied.
Feeling very unsettled about what was going to happen to my son, I took to the Internet. I have since learned that it is not actually a legal requirement for children to start school at 4 years old. In fact, compulsory school age is not until 5, and parents have the right to choose whether to send them at age 4 or wait until they are 5.
However, for parents who choose to delay school entry until their child is 5, schools can then insist that child enters straight into year 1, missing out reception class completely.
So, this is the dilemma that parents such as myself are faced with. Do we send our children to school before we, as parents, believe they are ready? Or do we wait and send them to school at age 5 missing out an entire year of education?
In fact, there is no actual barrier to these summer born children starting school at age 5 in reception, but each individual school, along with the local council, can make the decision, meaning that depending where you live, the outcome can vary significantly.
I have also recently discovered the ‘summer born campaign’. This consists of an increasing number of parents fighting for the rights of their children to enter school at what they consider a more appropriate age and yet not miss out on that valuable reception year. More and more parents are undertaking a battle with councils and schools to give their children access to the best start to their school life.
It has also recently been announced by the government that they will be undertaking a review into the school admissions policy due to concerns over summer born children falling behind and being labelled with special educational needs.
What I feel is vitally important is that parents are fully aware of their choices when it comes to school admissions. So many people who I have spoken to about this were not aware that there are any options at all. Personally I am crossing my fingers and eagerly awaiting the result of the government review, and hoping that in the future, parents of summer born children will be able to feel excited about their kids starting school instead of worrying.