Norfolk County Council, in its May 21, 2014 aptly titled “Improving Times – Children’s Services” staff newsletter, has laid down the law on school admissions for children – without realising that the real law (primary legislation) says something different entirely.
If the following isn’t proof that admission authorities look no further than the School Admissions Code for legislative guidance, I don’t know what is, – and it demonstrates why GOVE’S CODE NEEDS TO BE MUCH CLEARER THAN IT IS.
Norfolk: “Recently we have received challenges from some parents looking to defer the start of school for their summer born children. Legally in England and Wales (not Scotland), children must start school in the academic year after they become 4 – but schools do have the ability to stagger admissions, so that younger children attend part time up until the Easter term.
As a local authority we can, and do, grant exceptions in medical cases, or where there is a developmental delay, to defer. However until there is a change in the law, other year long deferments are not something local schools are happy to consider and we will support them in this.“
Note to Norfolk:
- Compulsory School Age (CSA) is the term following a child’s 5th birthday, but the law allows for children to be admitted to school earlier than this.
- Parents of summer born children seeking access to Reception class at CSA are not requesting a ‘deferral’ but what is called a ‘delay’ (though not everyone agrees that the word delay is appropriate given the legal definitions of CSA and Reception class).
- Yes, schools do have to offer deferral, and admission arrangements should make clear this flexibility to parents as per paragraph 2.16 of the School Admissions Code, as confirmed by the DfE: “Parents cannot be required to send their child to school, or to ensure they attend full-time, before they reach compulsory school age – so a school could not refuse a parent’s request for their child to be admitted part-time or to be admitted later in the academic year.“
- Our campaign group has been advised by parents in Norfolk parents that they have found supportive schools but that these schools are being over ruled by Norfolk CC. We have also seen correspondence showing that the Schools and the Children’s Support Services team office say its out of their hands, and Norfolk CC just won’t allow it. It would appear it is more the case that Norfolk CC are not happy to consider entry into Reception class at CSA – rather than all local schools…?
June 12, 2014 update.
Response from Norfolk to Summer Born Campaign via Twitter:
“You’re right, there was incorrect info about the admission age in the newsletter, we’ve recirculated new information to staff and have made sure that old version isn’t on the web anymore. We’re sorry about this as we know it may well have caused some anxiety.”
Unfortunately, so much of our campaign work results in admission authorities tidying up what they have ‘in writing’, while the ‘practice’ of denying entry to Reception class at age 5 – or children being made to skip a year of their education if this is allowed – still continues.