On March 24 2014, in a response to a Parliamentary question posed by MP Annette Brooke on the problems faced by parents of summer born children requesting Reception class entry at compulsory school age, David Laws, the Minister of State for Schools replied, “If my hon. Friend has any information on the way in which schools are implementing their responsibilities, I would be keen to hear from her, because we will take action if we find that schools are not paying attention to parental demand.”
His response encouragingly echoed the words of Elizabeth Truss, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Education and Childcare, in September 2013:
“What we want to do is to empower parents… It should be the parents who are the primary decision-makers when it comes to deciding which route is most appropriate for their child and which environment will enable their child to thrive. We are absolutely clear that parents should be able to say to a school, “We want our child, who is aged five, to enter reception”, if they feel that that is in the best interests of their child.””
And yet earlier in March, in his response to another question posed by Ms Brooke, Mr Laws appeared to disagree with any such ‘clear’ position, stating:
“There are no current plans to ensure that parents of summer born children can always start their child aged five in a reception class – for some children this may not be appropriate or in the best interests of the child.” Mr Laws added, “Officials are also investigating cases referred to them… to ensure admission authorities are complying with the provisions in the Code“.
But since the whole admissions problem stems from the 2012 Code’s failure to specify provision for summer born children to enter Reception class at compulsory school age, it is arguable that the DfE’s investigations are rather missing the point.
Furthermore, this campaign group has growing evidence that despite numerous requests from parents for practical help from the DfE to ensure that their summer born child CAN start school in Reception (at CSA), and that once agreed, their child will not be forced to ‘skip a year’ later on (which is happening in an alarming number of cases), such help is NOT forthcoming.
The DfE appears to be satisfied that as long as schools and councils consider parents’ requests, officials and Ministers will not intervene if the final decision is NO. Perhaps more so than schools, it is in fact the DfE that is “not paying attention to parental demand…”
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While communication from the DfE to parents remains UNCLEAR and the 2012 School Admissions Code, by the Department’s own admission is “not necessarily clear enough“, is it any wonder that admission authorities nationwide are making completely different decisions for the exact same “individual circumstances” of summer born children, and in many cases, different decisions for the EXACT SAME CHILD..?
This postcode lottery is surely an unacceptable state of affairs for an admissions system that the Education Secretary promised would be fair and simple.
As a parent of a premature, summer born child with a previous deceleration on medical grounds, I can quite categorically assure other parents that there are no plans from the DoE to ensure that if a family moves to another borough/school, that child’s deceleration will be maintained. This runs the risk of their child missing a whole years worth of education, impacting access to the National curriculum and the “expected” progress within it. I would strongly suggest that current statutory policy needs to be amended to ensure that children are not subjected to a post code lottery affecting their right to a continuous education as dictated by the national curriculum. The current statutory guidance and advice is not fit for purpose and compromises the rights of the child in favour of an individual’s pedagogical preference. The area is filled with rhetoric and a lack of accountability in both central and local government. It is simply unacceptable.
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Gutted. Just finished a conversation with Kent admissions team leader and she has told me that Kent are not changing their admissions policy until/if the code is formally and legally changed (after the full public enquiry) and that they have interpreted Nick Gibbs letter to be contradictory and therefore they are refusing to change their stance. I therefore have to get the head teachers, from the three schools I am applying to, to agree to ‘out of year admissions’ as they are still calling it. These schools refused my request last year- what are the chances of them having changed their minds?
Hate the fact that it’s still a postcode lottery and that if I lived somewhere else I could be posting a picture of my daughter still being at nursery for a year with a reception place for next year but instead I am faced with a battle on my hands and the prospect of no place for her this time next year.