But the Department for Education’s failure to make necessary amendments to its 2014 School Admissions Code, to ensure that a summer born child can, by default, enter Reception class AT compulsory school age – and remain within that year group for the whole of their education – has only exacerbated an already unfair and inequitable admissions system, and further sanctioned the postcode lottery that exists.
And as the admission application deadline is reached today, we are already aware of numerous cases of highly questionable and possibly unlawful practices. Many admissions authorities are insisting that parents provide ‘exceptional reasons’ and ‘documentary evidence from professionals’ to support their request for a compulsory school age start,
even though absolute age is no reason for any family to be working with any kind of medical or educational professional.
Very little has changed since the production of our Summer Born Report in January 2014 and over the course of the past year we have seen an increase in admission authorities asking parents for information outside the scope of legislation.
The responses from local authorities to the DfE’s Code consultation highlighted disagreement and confusion, the majority of which was not addressed when the new 2014 Code finally passed into law on 19th December 2014.
Indeed some of the language used appeared to demonstrate a relentless antipathy towards parents who wish their children to start school at compulsory school age and not before; Hertfordshire County Council for example spoke of “ammunition” – does the council really feel the need to be at war with parents who have their child’s best interests at heart?
The school responses to the DfE’s Code consultation were equally enlightening; some inferring that they know children, whom they have never met, better than their own parents.
It’s looks increasingly likely that a second Summer Born Report will need to be published, with a view to naming and shaming (and also congratulating) admission authorities and their practices as the new Code is implemented.
By Michelle Melson and Pauline Hull