The deadline for school applications is looming. This time last year we were filling in the application for Mini Mumbler, who would be 4 and 2 weeks when she started school. I taught Reception for many years and always knew she was going to be fine academically, but I was slightly concerned a full week of school would be a lot for her. Knowing her better than anyone, we decided overall that deferring her school start for a year was not going to be necessary and are so pleased with how well she has done in her first term.
It is absolutely a very personal choice whether to defer your child for a year if they are summer-born and you shouldn’t feel pressured to make a decision one way or the other. At the end of the day, you know your child best.
Sarah has put this information together for Norwich Mumbler to inform the parents of summer-borns about the choices available to them, and is herself a mum to two 4 year old summer-borns and a nearly 2 year old.
The letter from the council advising you to apply for a school place for your 3-year-old to start school later this year dropped through your letterbox a few months ago and the application deadline is fast approaching. How are you feeling?………Excited? Nervous? Or perhaps concerned that your child is not yet ready for full time school. Maybe they find preschool very tiring, perhaps you feel that they are not emotionally ready for some of the challenges school presents or you feel that at just turned 4, they are simply too young to start formal learning.
If this describes the thoughts going around in your mind and your child was born between April 1 and August 31, there may be an alternative. Children born in these months are considered ‘summer-born,’ and additional application arrangements are available through school admission authorities that many parents are not aware of. Whilst schools and councils are under an obligation to offer all parents a school place for their child in the September term after they turn 4, parents can choose to wait until their child reaches ‘compulsory school age’ (frequently abbreviated as CSA). This is the term following a child’s 5thbirthday, and for summer born children, it can mean a whole extra year at home or in pre-school.
The Government says that all parents of summer born children can request that their child enters Reception class when they reach compulsory school age, rather than going straight into Year 1, where the children who started school earlier would be moving into. In 2015, the Education Minister, Nick Gibb, sent an open letter to parents and admission authorities stating that his Department would be making changes to admission rules, and “immediate action” should be taken. Furthermore, the accompanying press release set out “the government’s plan to make a change to the school admissions code. The change would mean that schools can… admit summer born children to reception class at the age of 5, if their parents want this [and] make sure the children can stay in this year group as they progress through school”. These changes will give parents of summer-born children the automatic right to start their children in Reception at compulsory school age (rather than the current right to request this) and for children to remain in their year group throughout their school career. Importantly, the immediate action encouraged by the Government has meant that many Norfolk schools are now supportive of allowing summer-born children to enter Reception at compulsory school age.
As parents of a summer-born child, you do not have to provide special reasons when requesting entry to Reception at compulsory school age, although it is often encouraged. There is compelling  and statistically significant evidence  that the month a child is born in does on average affect their performance in school and future life chances, with autumn born children, on average, outperforming their summer born counterparts until GCSEs and beyond. In addition, compared with the UK, many European countries do not start formal learning within school for their children until much later, often at age 6 or 7, and frequently outperform us in terms of results. For many parents of summer born children who decide to defer their children until compulsory school age, their decision is not only based on how their children will manage in Reception, but on how they may cope with entering the more formal, desk-based learning in Year 1, having just turned 5. This is an age when many children still want to race around and learn through play. Also, starting school only a few months after turning 4 means that many summer-born children take their GCSEs at age 15, and are being asked to make choices about further education at a younger age than most of their peers. As a result, many parents of summer-born children believe that another year of learning through play before starting school not only benefits their children at the start of their school career, but also means that they should be more emotionally mature as they face high school exams and career choices at the end of secondary school. These parents also argue that their decision has benefits for the teacher, school and other children in the class too, as their child is less likely to require additional support.
Each child is different however, and no single approach is right for every child and family. Unfortunately though, many parents of summer-born children are not even aware that delaying their child’s school entry until compulsory school age is even an option. Providing parents with information about all the choices open to them is crucial. Many parents are also unaware that they can choose to send their child to school part-time until they reach compulsory school age to help them transition. This option is available for parents of all children to consider, summer, autumn and spring born alike, if they feel it is in their child’s best interests and would meet their individual needs.
Lastly, there are a number of myths about sending your child to school at compulsory school age that frequently circulate, so let’s bust some of them straight away! You are still entitled to the 15-hour universal free childcare entitlement for 3-4 year olds, or 30 hours if eligible, if you wait to start school at compulsory school age. You child will be funded throughout their school career and they will not automatically need to skip a year later in their school career, such as when transferring to high school. Any change of year group must be done in a child’s best interests, and in discussion with parents, taking into account the year group they have been educated in to date. The government has also pledged to formalise its commitment to children remaining with the class they join at compulsory school age shortly.
If you feel any of this information may be relevant to you and your child it is not too late to act, even if you have already made your school application. If you are interested in finding out more or exploring this option for your child there is a useful website at: www.summerbornchildren.org and two Facebook communities, where you can access information, support and guidance on this subject. They are Summerborn school admissions Norfolk and Flexible School Admissions for Summer Borns. Your local school or preschool may not fully understand your rights and the proposed legislative changes set out by the government (and can sometimes perpetuate myths about starting school at compulsory school age), so if you are interested in exploring this option, consider joining one of these groups to get informed help and support, including local experiences.
Smith, C, (2013) “The Summer Born Effect” summarising research on the detrimental effects for summer born children of starting school too young:
The Summer Born Effect
When you are born matters: evidence for England; IFS Report R80: By Crawford, Dearden & Greaves, May 2013: When You Are Born Matters
A local Headteacher has provided Mumbler with this link – Summer-born Pupils: What’s the Evidence
Here are some experiences of Mumblers from the Norwich Mumbler Chat Group:
My son is a summer baby (25 Aug) and in 2017 he started school when he’d just turned 4. I did worry about him being so young but really needn’t have! He settled in well, despite being shy, and has grown so much in confidence it’s really quite incredible. He is very academic though so was more than ready to sit and listen and learn, as that’s what he enjoys.
My son is 21st August. We didn’t defer his entry because
1. 100 children could all be born on the same day and all be developmentally different
2. The school we chose were very gentle with the reception entry
3. He had been at nursery for a year with the cohort moving up and he had established friendships with the children
4. He was ready and excited to start big school
He’s in year 4 now and I don’t feel like starting him when we did caused any damage. He is a confident independent reader, he’s good at STEM subjects and generally happy at school.
As a Reception teacher I think it all depends on your child and not their birthday. I have had children born on the last day of August who have been really ready for school and some children born in January who weren’t. You can help them be school ready by taking them to lots of social groups on the lead up to school but some children just grow in different ways. If you have any concerns about your child starting school then please visit local schools and chat to the teachers. You will get a feel for how your child will cope in that setting. We all want your children to be happy when they start school and teachers will always do everything they can to support you.
We have deferred for a year for our July born. I’m not ready to put her into a box and she has additional needs and us adopted. Her social well-being is far more important. She’s been through far more than most adults so needs time to just be and feel secure.
Another reason is that I’m considering homeschooling as I dislike that the education system hasn’t evolved since the industrial revolution. For me being out, playing, learning about our world and nature are far more important.
She attends a brilliant forest school childminder where she is loved and nurtured. She nor I are easy to let go of that yet.
My eldest is 19 Aug and he struggled terribly, my biggest regret is that I placed him in school age 4 ☹️😢 it all depends on your child, if confident then great, if got certain anxieties then not for me.
My eldest is August and was more than ready for school. He didn’t struggle with any part of school.
My youngest however (also August- I know! I planned that well 🙈) has always struggled. I feel he wasn’t ready for school whatsoever. He still struggles academically. He had trouble making and maintaining friends in reception too.
He found the work really hard and was very easily distracted which then lead him to misbehave. He couldn’t sit still like the others and he was always very young- in comparison to some of the others.
He found himself in the “naughty child” role. It took him a long time to break away from that.
He still hasn’t caught up academically and he is now year 5. Given the choice again I would have kept him back a year.
It really does come down to the child, my little girl was 4 in the middle of August last year, she started school three weeks later and has really thrived, she is loving all aspects of it and I am pleased that we went with our gut and put her in after much deliberation over it. The main thing is that your child is happy. My little girl has grown in confidence so much since being at school, it’s lovely to see her excelling and, most of all, enjoying herself.
My daughter is due to start school in September, she was born 3 weeks early on 14th August rather than her planned date of 1st September which put her into a different year group. We are in the process of applying to delay her with a reception start in 2020. She is nowhere near ready to start this year, her speech is limited and we are seeing SALT and developmentally she is around 10months behind, our paediatrician said if she started school she’d need extra support which I don’t think we would get, combined with being 3 weeks early she’s already almost a year behind her peers, the difference between her and many of them is clear to see as well…Every child is different but to have the option to be able to delay is a good thing in my opinion.
My two are also 4yo. They were 9 weeks premature and were due in September. They are very toddler-like compared to their cousin. Behaviour wise, temperament and interests. They have ants in their pants, super energetic and physical, they still have tantrums and big frustrations that they don’t always handle appropriately. They can be tearful at preschool drop off but getting better. They get tired. So so tired. They don’t have any interest in letters and sounds but have great imaginations and create the most wonderful small work set ups.
They are thriving NOT being at school this year and will instead start at 5yo in reception class.
It would be unfair to force them to start school at just 4yo when they clearly aren’t quite ready.
It would also be unfair to force my niece to wait another year, when all she wants to do is go to school.
Choice is the key. Parents know what’s best for their child.
There are more experiences on the thread on the chat group, if you’d like to read more or join in the discussion.