Callum Gafford is yet another summer born child who faces losing a year of his education as penalty for starting school at CSAge, and his mother Natalie was interviewed by reporter Sean Killick on BBC South Today (02:58-07:59)
During today’s report, member of the Education Select Committee Caroline Nokes said, “I absolutely think that the decision should rest with the parents who do know their children best and that this has to be a decision in the interests of every child not for administrative neatness for a local authority.”
This was followed by a pre-recorded interview with Schools Minister Nick Gibb, who began by talking about the ‘parents calling for greater rights because of conditions imposed by councils‘ when they request Reception class entry at CSAge:
“When they do that, they are very often told by local authorities that they have to miss the Reception class and go straight into year one when they do start, which means they’ve missed a whole year of teaching and those essential skills of reading and early arithmetic and that is a problem that many parents have brought to my attention.”
(Presenter Laura Trant) What do you want to see happen?
“Well, I’m concerned about children missing that Reception class, so I’ve asked our department to review the case for giving parents greater rights about when their child will start formal school if they decide to delay the entry for their child in formal education.
So for example if they did decide not to start school when they’re four and they want to wait until the child has actually turned five, then whether or not the parent should be given the right to start that education in the reception class rather than year one, and I’m sympathetic to that view because I don’t want to see any child, regardless of when they are born, missing out on that essential early teaching of reading and arithmetic that takes place in the Reception class.”
(Presenter Laura Trant) Of course and as the MP for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton you must be particularly aware of what campaigners are saying in West Sussex, where they explain it is especially difficult to get delayed entry there, and that is because of how West Sussex interprets the guidelines. So what’s going to happen?
“Yes, West Sussex is not the only authority that is reluctant to allow children to be taught outside their normal age group and it’s that flexibility that we want to see introduced into the education system and that might mean changing the admissions code, it might mean changing the law; that’s what I’ve asked officials in the department for education to review, and once I’ve seen the results of that review then we’ll take a decision about how prescriptive and what regulations need to be changed.”
West Sussex County Council
Meanwhile, Callum and his parents face an uncertain future, and are even trying to apply for school places in neighbouring Hampshire where the council’s position is far more flexible (until the new 2014 Code at least, when head teacher’s views became a critical element of its decision making; now more parents there are facing battles too).
And just so that readers can have a better idea of the challenges parents face when they make their summer born requests to admission authorities, here’s what Natalie was advised in an October 2014 from West Sussex County Council’s Pupil Admissions Manager (note that the DfE confirmed that a blanket policy of Year 1 entry for CSAge summer born children was unlawful even under the 2012 Code):
“Your application for Backclassing should be accompanied by evidence from professionals as to why it is considered necessary for Callum to start school in reception in 2016…
A Summer born child legally does not have to start school until the following September , however if a parent chooses to do this it would be for year 1.
I strongly advise to you to apply for a place in September 2015 ,as if backclassing is refused the school of your preference may well be oversubscribed.
I will send you the backclassing information by post as well.”
Author and Journalist
With thanks to Rosie Dutton for transcribing the BBC South Today interviews.