Postcode Lottery Winners here.
Excellent news this week from Liverpool County Council:
“All summer born children whose parents request a deferral will automatically be granted…“*
This was something Summer Born Campaign member Lauryn Douglas, mum of four year-old Isabella, thought she might never hear following a 12-month battle with the council’s admissions department; her request was denied by a ‘panel of teaching experts‘ not once, but twice.
Fortunately, despite a journey fraught with setbacks, Lauryn received overwhelming support from her local MP Stephen Twigg (Labour and Co-operative, Liverpool West Derby) and his office staff, and most recently, Joe Anderson, the Mayor of Liverpool, who offered summer born children his full support. Continue reading
As another example of how easily admission authorities can get information for parents wrong – to the point of being unlawful (underlined below) – and how parents can feel under pressure to enroll their children in school before CSAge, Cambridgeshire County Council’s First Steps Admission to primary school: a guide for parents states:
“When should my child start school? Your child is eligible to start school the September following their 4th birthday, but legally must start the term following their 5th birthday. If your child was born between 1 September 2010 and 31 August 2011 you will need to submit your application by 15 January 2015…
Please be aware that if your child was born during the summer term and you chose to defer their admission to school until the following September, they will be admitted into the Year 1 group, and not Reception.“
If a child is born between April 1 and August 31, they do not reach compulsory school age until the term following their 5th birthday. And if a child is born prematurely during this period, their parents are not entitled to any greater legislative rights when requesting Reception class entry at CSAge, and no extra protection against their child missing a year of school later on, than any other parent – the postcode lottery exists for everyone.
It’s true that new text (specifically requested by the charity Bliss during the Code consultation period) was added to section 2.17 of the 2014 School Admissions Code: “Admission authorities must make decisions on the basis of the circumstances of each case and in the best interests of the child concerned. This will include… where relevant, their medical history and the views of a medical professional…and whether they may naturally have fallen into a lower age group if it were not for being born prematurely“.
But as the Summer Born Campaign has repeatedly warned, by keeping the admission of summer born children within section 2.17, by condoning the idea that a different (‘miss a year of education or not‘) decision might be made for different summer born children (depending on the subjective views of head teachers and/or administrators), and by legitimising the involvement of medical professionals (costly for parents and/or the NHS) by those admission authorities fundamentally opposed to flexibility (while others agree to all requests regardless of ‘special circumstances’ on the principle that no child should miss a year of education), it only made the existing flexibility unfairness worse.
In fact, numerous parents of premature children joined the SBC facebook group desperate for help when their requests were predictably denied, as a “delighted” Bliss welcomed what it called “greater clarity” in the new Code, and a “fantastic breakthrough“. Continue reading
I read the DfE’s latest report on school exclusions in England (2013-14) in the knowledge that summer born children are significantly more likely to be diagnosed with SEN than any other group.
“When controlling for other characteristics, being a pupil with any level of Special Educational Needs provision has a stronger effect on the odds of being excluded than gender, Free School Meals eligibility or ethnicity.” Continue reading
“The Government recognises that this has been problematic in a number of cases…
…children are still being admitted to Year 1 against their parents’ wishes. The minister has, therefore, decided that it is necessary to amend the School Admissions Code further to ensure that summer born children can be admitted to reception at the age of five if it is in line with their parents’ wishes, and to ensure that those children are able to remain with that cohort as they progress through school.
The Department has begun the work necessary to implement that change and will be conducting a full public consultation in due course.“
Callum Gafford is yet another summer born child who faces losing a year of his education as penalty for starting school at CSAge, and his mother Natalie was interviewed by reporter Sean Killick on BBC South Today (02:58-07:59)
During today’s report, member of the Education Select Committee Caroline Nokes said, “I absolutely think that the decision should rest with the parents who do know their children best and that this has to be a decision in the interests of every child not for administrative neatness for a local authority.”
This was followed by a pre-recorded interview with Schools Minister Nick Gibb, who began by talking about the ‘parents calling for greater rights because of conditions imposed by councils‘ when they request Reception class entry at CSAge: Continue reading