In an April 2014 summer born interview, Conservative MP and current Chair of the Education Select Committee, told trainee journalist Fayrouz Shehrezade Essack, “Personally I think that giving parents the right, so that they don’t lose their positions in terms of gaining access to the school by putting them in at five is something worth examining.“
When asked whether the Education Select Committee has discussed the issue, Mr. Stuart responded “It hasn’t been on our priority list so far” (this was before he met with the Summer Born Campaign in May and learned the full extent and scale of the problem…).
Also interviewed is Barry Sheerman MP, who over a period of ten years chaired the Education and then the Children, Schools and Families Committee. He said, “There’s no doubt that all the experts that I know, in terms of pre-school education are very wary about getting children into formal education too early…
“What we really should have is a system where if it’s right for your child to go early, that’s fine, if they want to hang around and be at home for longer, especially for a summer born, that ought to be a possibility too. Of course a good local authority tries to meet those needs.”
I met with Fayrouz to be interviewed too, and said,
“For summer born children, they don’t reach compulsory school age until the term following their fifth birthday and yet the expectation is that parents should enter them into primary school a whole year earlier than they have to, and while they have the legal right to wait until the term following the child’s fifth birthday, what they’re often faced with is a school or council saying ‘no, your child must enter Year 1 and of course if there are no Year 1 places left, then the child doesn’t even get into their catchment school. So it’s a huge worry for parents, it’s very, very stressful and the government really, really needs to make it clearer.”
Interestingly, Mr. Stuart also said, “The vision of this government is that schools are best placed to judge the needs of the children they serve and the general aim is to minimise the number of prescriptions and constraints on them so that they can do what they think is best for the children who are going to attend.”
In which case, the question on the table for the Education Select Committee chair now is whether – on the specific issue of education for summer born children from compulsory school age onwards, – he is convinced that schools are willing and able to judge the needs of our children, and whether they’re truly doing what is best for them?
We hope to have an answer soon.