When you’ve been working on a campaign like this one long enough, hearing stories weekly – sometimes daily – about parents’ requests for their compulsory school age child’s entry into Reception class being denied, children forced to start in Year 1 and then often missing out on a place in the school they would have had if they started school a year early, not to mention children forced to skip a whole year of their education later on in their education – just to be back in their ‘correct chronological year group‘, – you think you’ve heard it all.
But then two cases come along that are even more shocking than most – especially when you consider that the Department of Education insists decision-making is still best left at a local level when it comes to the admission of summer born children…
In an insightful blog published this week, ‘Summer Born Children Starting School‘, the parent of a Down’s Syndrome child explains how she has had to endure an extremely stressful and wholly unnecessary battle over the past year – just to ensure her child receives equal access to 7 years of a primary school education.
The final decision in her son’s case will be made next week, but the blog’s author also tells of another parent, in the exact same situation (with a 3 year-old son who “still crawls, who has no speech, who has a limited repertoire of signs, and needs constant adult support to ensure his safety“), who has been told that her son must start in Reception during the 2014 academic year – prior to reaching CSA – or he will have to enter Year 1 in September 2015.
She writes, “It is absolutely ludicrous and nonsensical that given all the evidence to support a typical summer born child being delayed entry, if it is in their best interests, that a child with severe learning difficulties ON TOP, would not have been a perfect candidate to have their entry to Reception delayed. I am horrified that this child, is being forced into Reception by one unsympathetic LEA, who clearly are not considering the best interests of the child, or the parents wishes. Other LEA’s are agreeing to admit summer born children with no additional needs – simply on the basis of the month in which they were born.”
Inconsistent rights of access nationwide
What this story also highlights (and this is hugely important) is the fact that DIFFERENT DECISIONS are being made by different schools and councils for the SAME CHILD and the SAME CIRCUMSTANCES – so even if we were to accept the DfE’s application of paragraph 2.17 in the 2012 School Admissions Code to summer born children’s entry into school (which we don’t), cases like these clearly demonstrate that allowing admission authorities to “make decisions on the basis of the circumstances of each case” (as per 2.17), where there is no right of appeal if Year 1 instead of Reception class is offered, IS NOT WORKING.
It is neither clear, fair nor objective.
If you read the story in full, you’ll see that the headmistress of the first school this parent approached “agreed on the spot“, and even said “she wished that more parents of summer born children would delay entry because “the outcomes for many children would have been very different.””
But when the author moved house, “only to a neighbouring county“, the LEA’s “view was to support the child in their correct school year“, regardless of the parents’ wishes.
Even the new school “did not support originally the request at the time which made things even harder. The stress has been unbelievable at times, and the impact on our family, as I prepared for each next meeting has been massive.”
Most of the parents involved in this campaign understand this description of stress and impact on family… but just not the parents whose admission authorities replied with an instantaneous “yes” to their request — no questions asked, no exceptional circumstances to prove, no documented evidence to provide – just a “yes, please apply in the appropriate admissions round and your application will be considered equally alongside all others“.
Why, oh why, is a government department, responsible for the education of children, satisfied that this is an acceptable state of affairs?