Regular readers will recall that last month, a Norfolk County Council staff newsletter incorrectly advised that, “Legally… children must start school in the academic year after they become 4“.
The Summer Born Campaign contacted the council, which to be fair, said, “we’re sorry about this. We’ve recirculated this article to staff and made sure the original version of the newsletter is no longer available… It is a fairly complex system and I know that publishing incorrect information won’t have helped people’s understanding of it“. However, the new information is STILL WRONG:
It says, “children who turn five between April and August must start school full-time, by law, by 31 August – and before the end of the academic year, which is why some summer born four-year-olds are required to take up their reception school place before they turn five.” In fact, Children who turn five between April and August do not reach compulsory school age until 31st August. This is a prescribed day; it is not the week, month or term before, it is the 31st August.
No admission authority can require a child to begin their education before then, 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“.
Also, ‘academic year‘ has the meaning given to it in The School Admissions (Admission Arrangements and Coordination of Admission Arrangements) (England) Regulations 2012; it “means a period commenting with 1st August and ending with the next 31st July“.
Given that admission authorities are not even clear about what Compulsory School Age is, the School Admissions Code is evidently not doing its job properly. There is a pervasive idea that CSA is ‘4 years old’, and this is how the Code is being interpreted.
If Admissions authorities aren’t clear what compulsory school age is, then how on earth can parents make informed decisions about what is best for their child. It strikes me that much of the confusion over the admissions code, and the legal position of summer born children, has been incorrectly woven across time into a series of untruths and misconceptions, which include numerous inaccurate blanket LEA admissions policies across the country.
It’s worrying that after making the mistake the first time around that they haven’t gone out of their way to ensure they get it right the second time. I think it shows an absolute disinterest in the legal position – perhaps Norfolk LEA feel impowered to apply their own ‘laws’. No doubt the mistake will be pointed out again and corrected again but it will still be wrong; children don’t have to start school at any age, they have to be educated which can include home education.
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unbelievable,to get it wrong once is bad but twice is inconceivable. And these are the people making decisions about our childrens futures.