The Summer Born Campaign Facebook Group has seen a flurry of desperate and anxious posts in recent days and weeks as the primary school admissions application deadline approached.
There’s much confusion, anger and frustration as PARENTS OF 3-YEAR OLD CHILDREN ARE FORCED TO APPLY for a September 2015 place that they have explicitly told school and council admissions authorities THEY DON’T WANT.
Incredibly, this is in the same week the BBC has quoted the LGO as saying councils are “pulling out all the stops to ensure there is a place for every child“.
Why is this happening?
Because most admissions authorities are insisting that parents who wish their child to begin school at compulsory school age (i.e. the term following their 5th birthday, which for these summer born children means September 2016) apply for an age 4 school start place first – while the admissions authorities decide whether entry to Reception class at age 5 will be permitted.
In the majority of cases we’re seeing, parents are being warned that without ‘exceptional circumstances’ being proved, their child will be made to enter Year 1 at compulsory school age (and that’s only if there are any Year 1 places available in their local school in September 2016), so out of SHEER FEAR, parents are submitting applications for a school start in the September 2015 academic year and if/when their request for Reception in September 2016 is refused, according to the DfE’s new Code, they will have NO RIGHT OF APPEAL.
If this is not forced compulsory school start at age 4, I don’t know what is.
For those brave enough to wait until next January’s admissions application round, in theory, admissions authorities should no longer be focussing on whether a child ‘needs’ to wait until CSAge before starting school (which should never be in their decision-making power in the first place – this is by law the decision of a parent), but deciding what is in the child’s best interests – a Reception class or Year 1 entry to school – and demonstrating how they came to that decision.
Unfortunately, the problem remains that the DfE’s ‘hands-off’ approach in all this means that as long as these schools and councils are seen to be ‘considering’ the request, and providing parents with reasons why they believe just 6 years of education will be sufficient for compulsory school age summer born children entering primary school, this will suffice.
Parents still have no right of appeal.
Compare this to any other country with legislation similar to ours – providing a flexible entry for the youngest children in any given year, and full parental choice – and England is an absolute laughing stock.
When I tell teachers and parents in Canada, Australia or Scotland what is happening to summer born children in England – forced age 4 entry to school and/or forced skipping of a year later on simply in order to ‘return’ to the 12-month chronological year group that they were born into, they are visibly shocked and bewildered; “how this could be allowed to happen?”
Of course there are some schools and councils that see the absolute fairness and logic in allowing parents to enrol their children in Reception at CSAge, and while this is absolutely excellent news for the children in their catchment area, it makes the situation for those less fortunate families EVEN WORSE, when their children’s personal development and academic outcomes are compared on a national scale…
By Pauline Hull