The new 2014 draft School Admissions Code remains unclear, unfair and subjective for the admission and continued education of summer born children.
But it’s even worse for summer born children from poor or socially disadvantaged backgrounds, and for children from homes with English as a second language.
Millions of pounds have been spent on government attempts to close the educational attainment gap between the richest and poorest in our society, only for the DfE to rubber stamp a postcode lottery admissions process for summer born children that pits parents against schools and LEAs in which only the luckiest and/or most articulate and educated parents have a chance of winning the battle. Here’s why:
* Most parents don’t even know what compulsory school age is (in fact many head teachers and teachers don’t know the legal definition either) or that Reception class at age 5 is even a viable option.
* Even those who do know are too fearful of the repercussions in the long-term (being made to skip a year of primary or secondary school later on).
*Many parents don’t know about the evidence on the challenges for summer born children, much less all the legislation that relates to their own child’s education, both of which they would need knowledge of to stand a fighting chance.
*For parents struggling financially, they may be relying on school entry at the earliest possible time to reduce their childcare costs. Even with the 15 hours of pre-school funding still available until CSA, it is cheaper for their child to be in school full-time. They may be unable to afford to give their child the same opportunity as another summer born child.
*Parents from overseas may have language barriers or may not know what their rights are or who they need to speak to; their children may have started school at a different age in their home country but then the ‘system’ in England forces them to join their ‘correct’ chronological year group and miss a year of school.
From Bad to Worse
Summer born children have always statistically faired less well in numerous measures, but now, going forward, with just SOME parental requests for a Reception class start at CSA being agreed to, but not all, the gap for those children whose parents are told, “No” will be even wider than ever before.
On a national level, there will be more ‘older’ children in their year than previously – because of summer born contemporaries who were allowed to start school at age 5.
English schools will consist of a mixed bag of children who were granted the right to fulfil their potential and ‘thrive’ instead of ‘cope’ at school, and those who weren’t. And just consider which parents of summer born children are more likely to be able to afford them the greatest opportunities…
* Live in somewhere flexible like Hampshire (and never move house…)?
* Afford to pay for private schooling, move to a more ‘flexible’ admissions area, or be in a position to consider home-schooling?
* Feel knowledgeable, educated and confident enough to take on the compulsory school age battle in the first place?
* Feel equipped to help their child as best as possible in the event that an age 4 start is forced upon them and they have to make the best of it?
The current Code is a (further) summer born disaster waiting to happen with the most vulnerable children in our society bearing the brunt of it… and it just doesn’t have to be that way. It really doesn’t.
The Code’s 2014 commencement is currently “subject to parliamentary scrutiny” – we can only hope it really is scrutinised.
And don’t forget the cost of childcare also plays a role, as some parents unfortunately come to rely on schools as free childcare, so those in low-paid jobs may not be able to afford to pay for childcare for their 4-year-old child when it’s free to send them to school.
Thank you very much Mimi. You make an excellent point and I have added it to the article above.
Its so unfair, poorer children always get the worst deal, and when a child is summerborn as well its a double whammy. The thing is most parents in the UK don’t have the funds for private education or the funds/sills for home education so most summerborn parents are expected to put up with this unfair system.
The Marmot Review of Health Inequalities in the UK underscores the importance of giving every child the best start in life and emphasises the link between education and both child and adult health status. Allowing the admissions process for summerborns to be so confusing and difficult to navigate puts poorer children at a massive disadvantage. If the government is serious about reducing inequalities in health then they need to seriously rethink their summerborn guidance. It should be possible for ALL children to start reception at compulsory school age – it should not be the prerogative of the rich and well-informed.
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