SW Londoner journalist Sara Oldfield has published an excellent article today, summarising the plight of four families living in the London Borough of Merton, who simply wanted their summer born children to start school ‘on time‘ without penalty.
She reports that a more flexible approach is now being taken by Merton Council, albeit too late for two families, and only time will tell if it goes as far as Liverpool City Council’s approach.
Summer Born Campaign member Naomi Campbell and her husband moved to Bristol when Merton refused their request, just to ensure their son Sebastian would not lose a year of school when starting at CSAge.
And Summer Born Campaign member Jennifer Deane took the same desperate measures. When her daughter’s access to Reception class was not only denied, but she was also (wrongly) threatened with losing Ava’s EYE funding, the family moved to North Tyneside where the council has agreed to her request.Two other cases are reported in the article too, together with a statement provided by a Merton Council spokesperson that says:
“In view of the letter sent by the Schools Minister to all admission authorities Merton Council officers will take a more open approach to such applications for late summer born children with the presumption that they will be approved as long as there is a reasonable justification from the parents that it is in the child’s best interests, and we have undertaken some procedural checks to ensure there are no known issues that we may need to consider further.
“To make the process easier for parents we will also no longer routinely request specific evidence from a professional, but we will continue to require a written request for consideration until such time as regulations are amended.”
This news is certainly welcome and it looks as though Merton Council are moving in the right direction for children’s best interests to be served – especially when you consider this report in Your Local Guardian on Sunday, which said:
“Merton Council has agreed to change its admissions procedure to allow parents of summer born children to defer their entry until they are ready, after complaints that the process was too difficult.
The council has agreed that it will take a more open approach to applications from parents to defer their child’s entry to school, with a presumption that such applications will be approved.”
We will continue to monitor members’ experiences in the coming weeks and months, throughout the country, in order to identify those areas where Nick Gibb MP’s September letter is being implemented – or ignored.
But what these stories describe – yet again – is the summer born admissions ‘postcode lottery‘ that exists in this country.
Whatever your views on school starting age, flexible entry or chronological age groups, it’s simply indefensible that a country-wide system can allow ‘some‘ CSAge summer born children access to 12 years’ education but penalise others with the loss of one whole year – or pressure parents to enrol their child in school early, at age 4, in a climate of fear.
Written by author and journalist Pauline Hull