Nick Gibb to Remain Schools Minister

Be Like Nick 1Good news for the Summer Born Campaign.

It’s been confirmed today that Nick Gibb will retain his position as Minister of State for Schools in Prime Minister Theresa May’s cabinet shuffle.

You can read more in the TES and Schools Week reports.

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Minister’s Letter Highlights Again the Importance of Legal Semantics

IMG_0655In September 2015, when the Schools Minister Nick Gibb published an open letter urging admission authorities to allow entry to Reception class at CASge for summer born children, I highlighted the importance of the next School Admissions Code ensuring its legal wording is absolutely watertight: Summer Born Semantics are Not Out of the Woods Yet – Code’s Wording ‘Must’ Be Clear

I was reminded of this again when a parent in the Summer Born Campaign group shared a letter she received from Mr. Gibb a few weeks ago, which said: “I would like to assure you that we want parents who have genuine concerns about their child’s readiness for school at the age of four, to be able to ensure they are admitted to reception at age five. June 28th 2016.”

Yesterday, I wrote to the Minister, expressing concerns about how this might be interpreted to imply that there are some parents whose concerns may be less than genuine, and that someone or something might be expected to assess this. Continue reading

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‘Immediate Action’ Irony Given DfE Delay

SB picTen months ago (a significant amount of time in a child’s life, and a whole primary school admissions cycle that left hopeful parents once more distraught and disheartened), the Schools Minister Nick Gibb published an open letter announcing the DfE’s proposed changes to summer born admission rules and asking “councils and academies to take immediate action.

His letter, and the accompanying DfE 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.

Of course they already ‘can‘ do this, but the 2014 School Admissions Code provided them with the loopholes they needed to refuse, and so the postcode lottery got worse.

More recently though, there have been concerns from parents that communication from the DfE is not always as helpful or supportive as they might expect, given Mr. Gibb’s vehement support in his September 2015 letter, and it is on this point and others that I have written to the Minister and DfE today. Continue reading

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Summer Born Parents Can Complete New University Survey

IMG_0654Professor Dieter Wolke, at the University of Warwick, is conducting a new survey in which he asks for parents’ “opinions on delaying your child’s school entry for a year.

For those of us with summer born children who want our children to start school at compulsory school age, this might be a good opportunity to engage with researchers, and to explain our reasons for making this choice.

There is also a question on your experience of enquiring about or applying for a CSAge start, which will no doubt evidence the postcode lottery currently at play in England.

And remember, Professor Wolke published research in 2015 that showed (despite media headlines) it is detrimental to a child’s education to miss their first year of school.

 

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Postal Delay for Parents of Summer Born Children

SB - Leo2

Leo Awaits School News

While most parents in England found out today which primary school has offered their child a place, for parents of some summer born children, like Leo in Surrey, they won’t find out until the postman arrives with a letter tomorrow (or later in the week).

It’s the exact same story as last year, with online systems unable to process summer born children’s DOBs, meaning parents must apply on paper and be notified on paper (or sometimes they can phone).

  • Also interesting today is BBC News online and radio coverage describing how “Parents of four- and five-year-olds have been finding out which  schools their children will attend next year”. In fact it’s “Parents of three- and four-year-olds” in the main (an April-born 5 year-old could be entering Reception this year).This is important because there can often be a public and cultural perception that children start school later than they actually do, and when ‘shocking’ stories about ‘school-age children still in nappies’ are reported, it’s easy to forget just how many children are still only 3 years-old just weeks (or even days) before starting school.   
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Cambridgeshire MP Supports Summer Born Children

SB - Steve Barclay

Steve Barclay MP

There are a number of councils (and schools) in England that are stubbornly refusing to implement the Schools Minister’s call for action in September 2015, to allow summer born children to enter Reception class at CSAge if this is their parents’ wish.

They say they will only change their policies if the law is changed.

Cambridge is one such area, and fortunately, MPs like Steve Barclay (MP for North East Cambridgeshire, who was actually in the Chamber when Minister Nick Gibb communicated his summer born intentions), are willing to help parents in the Summer Born Campaign group by putting pressure on the local powers that be: Cambs County Council should change its admission policy for summer born children (“I am supporting a Chatteris mum in her bid for a change in school admissions policy from Cambridgeshire County Council, so that it reflects the new thinking in the Department of Education on summer born children rather than being stuck in the past.“).

 

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An Overseas Perspective – Letter to Stephen Hammond MP

IMG_6572As a former resident of Surrey, I have written the letter below to Stephen Hammond MP, as per his invitation via Twitter yesterday. Dear Stephen Hammond MP,

I applied for a Reception class place for my summer born son at compulsory school age – to start in September 2014 – and both the school (which is its own admissions authority) and the council said he would have to go straight into Year 1.

Two local private schools were happy to enrol him in Reception class at CSAge, and another maintained school head teacher agreed to accept him in Reception Class too, but her professional view was overruled by the council. The council even produced a special document for head teachers that emphasized the importance of teaching children in their correct chronological age groups.

The ‘Placement of children out of their chronological age group‘ document that was used to make a decision in our son’s case said, “…it would be expected that they would be subject of a statement of SEN and be subject of an IEP and Annual Review“. Worse, even if we had been able to achieve Reception class entry at CSAge, the guidance made clear that remaining in his entrance year group was not guaranteed: “Parents must request for their child to remain in the out of chronological year group and provide the up to date supporting professional evidence at each of the transfer stages.

I am writing to you now with an OVERSEAS PERSPECTIVE, of how the current postcode lottery affects children like our son, including those in military families. If we decide to return to Surrey, our son would be made to miss a whole year of primary school (as others before him have), simply so that he is educated in his ‘correct’ chronological age group. Continue reading

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