When and Why did ‘School start'” become synonymous with ‘Year 1’ start?

Monopoly Chance card: “Go directly to jail. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200.

Essentially, summer born children whose parents want them to start school at compulsory school age* are given a similar message: “Go directly to Year 1. Do not experience the benefits of attending Reception Class. Do not accumulate the invaluable foundation skills that are provided there.

Obviously my analogy stops short of comparing school attendance to being in jail, but there are similarities for a child whose Year 1 start is not progressing well (or their Reception Class start – one year prior to compulsory school age), since it is very rare for them to be released from their original admission group, and allowed to repeat a school year or move to a lower year group.

Current admissions practice clearly demonstrates (more to come on this) that our children’s best interests are being overlooked in favour of what is deemed to ‘best’ administratively (i.e. insisting that children be separated by chronological age in single academic years, and not by statutory school age, which stretches across two academic years), and perhaps even ideologically (e.g. encouraging early age 4 enrollment in all state schools).

“It’s choice, not chance, that determines your destiny.” (Jean Nidetch)

I think there is a great deal of truth in the statement above, but in the context of summer born children, where the statutory choice of starting school age 5 instead of age 4 results in forced entry to Year 1 and the loss of a whole third of their infant school education, it seems to me that a child’s chance month of birth (for most**) might determine their emotional, social and academic destiny more in a way that is wholly unnecessary.

Not for all summer born children, but certainly some.

*DfE lawyers’ definition Oct.17, 2011: “A person begins to be of compulsory school age on the prescribed day which either falls on or follows a person’s fifth birthday. The prescribed days are currently 31st August, 31st December and 31st March, ie the term following the person’s fifth birthday.

**some women plan their pregnancy to optimise their chances of having an autumn born child.

Pauline M Hull


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