Its new report, When You Are Born Matters: Evidence for England, makes very interesting reading, and will likely lead to vigorous debate among policy makers and education professionals. I’d like to quickly share a few things that struck me almost immediately.
The authors clearly state that their findings do not directly address flexibility in school starting age; yet they confidently assert that such flexibility is unnecessary.
* “While our findings do not directly address the issue of whether parents should be allowed to delay (rather than defer) their child’s entry to school, we would argue against introducing such a policy…”
** “It is not necessary to give parents more flexibility over the age at which their children start school, as it is clear that this is not the main driver of the differences in attainment between children born at the start and end of the academic year.”
The timing of such a statement couldn’t be stranger, as the Department for Education has steadfastly confirmed to me that flexibility and legislation ALREADY EXIST to allow summer born children entry into Reception Class at age 5, and has even published clarification that the assertion below is a MYTH:
“Where the parent of a summer born child wishes to defer their entry to school until they reach compulsory school age, they must be admitted to Year 1 rather than Reception.”
Nevertheless, confusion evidently remains; the IFS told me yesterday that the statement below, which appears in its report, is based on the DfE’s School Admissions Code:
“…within the confines of the current education system – in which parents can defer their child’s entry to primary school until the term after they turn 5 (i.e. so that they join the same academic cohort a year later) but not delay it (i.e. hold them back a year so that they join the subsequent academic cohort)…”
The admissions system for summer born children appears to be in such disarray that we find ourselves today in a position where a major IFS report – that did not directly address admissions flexibility in its findings – recommends against giving parents admissions flexibility that the government says parents already have.
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As a summer-born child myself, I can state absolutely that even if the child can already read, count, water the garden, etc. the smaller, less-coordinated child cannot compete in the dreaded compulsory sports at school nor fit well into the childhood social scene, not to mention always considered “too young” to be allowed the same recreational activities classmates enjoy. Starting school too early is simply a recipe for misery.
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