Neil Leitch, Chief Executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, has formally added his organisation’s name to the Supporters of our Flexible School Admissions for Summer Born Children campaign.
He has given us permission to quote the comments below, which he made during a BBC Radio Tees interview in January 2014:
“I have a massive amount of sympathy for parents of summer-born children. In reality, although flexibility is there for parents, it is difficult for parents to access. To further compound this many schools and local authorities convey mixed messages to parents.
The harsh reality is that summer born children are at a disadvantage in the current system; evidence clearly shows this. Summer born children are three times more likely to be perceived by their teacher as lagging behind in subjects such as reading, writing and maths, they struggle at sports, are more likely to be bullied, and are less likely to attend university. These disadvantages have an impact on the life chances of these children. Any suggestion that summer-borns will at some point ‘catch up’ is not supported by evidence.
There seems to have been a massive move in the last few years to try and push our children into school at a younger and younger age and formalise their education. This appears to be driven by cost; the Government invests less in early years than many of our European counterparts and the Governments solution appears to be to ‘warehouse’ these children into schools. That’s about economies, it doesn’t indicate what’s best for the child and that does worry me significantly.
The Department for Education has said that there is no statutory requirement for local authorities to adopt this policy – that summer borns must start school in reception at age four or skip a year and join Year 1 at age five. I think that the Department for Education could go a step further and say that there is a statutory requirement to give parents the choice to defer for the year and allow these children to go through the full education system from a point when they are socially, emotionally and developmentally ready.“