Citing his Liberal Democrat and Labour peers Annette Brooke and Stephen Twigg inspiration, former Education Secretary Michael Gove has contacted the Summer Born Campaign group to offer his full and unwavering support.
He said, “I watched the March 4th Education Committee coverage and read all the evidence submitted by the campaign and parents of summer born children. I was shocked to discover that our education system and DfE policy has allowed children to lose – or be threatened with losing – a whole year of their education for no other reason than their parents choosing not to send them to school early.”
“Personally, I feel that an early start in school is a good thing, but I also feel that in a democracy where primary compulsory school age legislation and parents wishes are respected, and where all children are given the opportunity to thrive and experience fair and equal access to 12 years of school, without penalty, this postcode lottery must end.”
Mr. Gove added that he would personally contact his successor Nicky Morgan MP and ensure that urgent action is taken ahead of the April 16, 2015 offer day, when he knows parents of 3 year-old children will feel pressure, fear and uncertainty about the year ahead. Continue reading
In a recent interview with the Guardian’s Yvonne Roberts, England’s new Children Commissioner Anne Longfield said, “My mission is to nurture true joys of childhood“, and pointed out that “there is a societal gain from a public investment in having all children doing well. In economic terms, it is not only fair and just; it is essential for us to compete globally.”
The Summer Born Campaign agrees with both of these points, and found this comment interesting too: “I know what can be achieved when a small group of people put their minds to understanding what might make a real difference”.
And on November 11, 2014, the Children’s Commissioner replied to my “urgent” tweet:
@PaulineMHull @4ChildrenUK will look at what support we can give @sb_campaign
DfE Ministers (very likely because they have limited detailed knowledge of what DfE officials are actually doing behind the scenes – though this is no excuse) keep stating publicly that “the key thing is flexibility“; we want to “empower parents” and we “will take action [if schools] are not paying attention to parental demand“.
But the truth is, the DfE has made a bad situation (2012 Code) worse (2014 Code), and even rewritten its Summer Born Advice in a way that gives admissions authorities more loop holes than ever before, and has helped them to ‘legally’ refuse fair and equal access to 12 years of education for our children.
Here’s how: Continue reading
When Diagnosis is Correct
We’ve known for a long time that summer born children are more likely to be diagnosed with special educational needs (SEN), and now the Education Committee has asked the government to “Undertake an analysis of the additional cost of summer born children being misdiagnosed …which might be avoided if there were more uptake of admissions flexibilities for children who are not ready to start school” (an excellent recommendation), but isn’t it also plausible that many are also correctly diagnosed with SEN – and that their SEN is actually caused by the education ‘system’ and DfE admissions policy failures?
Experts in Early Years development and education have been warning the government for years (albeit for the most part falling on deaf ears) that children are in danger of being ‘damaged‘ by the introduction of formal education in their early years, before they are ‘developmentally ready’ (e.g. September 2014 (Hawthorn Press), January 2014 (BBC), October 2013 (BBC), July 2013 (Guardian), April 2013 (Telegraph), May 2012 (Telegraph), May 2012 (Daily Mail), August 2011 (Open EYE).
But arguably nowhere could the potential for damage be greater in England than for summer born children forced to start school at age 3 or 4, or forced to miss their ‘critical’ foundation Reception year and start school in Year 1 at age 5 instead. Continue reading
The Summer Born Campaign group is aware of increasing numbers of parents (whose summer born children were forced to start school early and against their wishes), fighting for their struggling child to be allowed to repeat their Reception class year.
Some have already been successful, and others are fighting to repeat Years 1 or 2, when a summer born child’s difficulties are often even more exacerbated; the parents know there it’s a problem caused by a ‘too early’ school start, but the system, and the DfE’s summer born policy has failed to prevent or protect against these situations.
It Costs Less – in Every Way – to Get it Right First Time Round Continue reading
Two significant things happened in the past week for parents of summer born children with special educational needs (SEN); one culminating in a demonstration to take place in London tomorrow.
Firstly, there was Joanna Kent’s excellent report; the BBC South presenter submitted a Freedom of Information request to every Local Authority in the country regarding their refusal rates for the new EHC needs assessment.
And secondly, there was the Education Select Committee’s recommendation that the government should explore the business case for providing more flexibility for summer born children who are at risk of being misdiagnosed with SEN.
At first glance the two issues seem rather unrelated; however, the underpinning issues and causes of these are similar in more than one respect. Continue reading
Just this week, Hertfordshire County Council has demonstrated in an email to the parent of a summer born child just how the DfE’s (post)Code(lottery) allows admissions authorities to be ‘seen‘ to consider requests individually while simultaneously making it clear that some requests will be deemed more valid than others…
It also demonstrates the extent to which some councils will go in order to retain decision-making powers, even when legally it is an ‘own admissions authority’ school that the parent may be applying to – and it shows how easily parents might despair of fighting even at the first hurdle, and reluctantly enrol their child in school early.
It’s not the first time we’ve seen councils exert pressure and power on both parents and schools, but as an example of some of the problems going on with summer born admissions, this communication is a useful read: Continue reading