Postcode Lottery More Pronounced Than Ever

SB picLiterally up until midnight, parents of summer born children were debating whether or not to apply by today for a 2016 school place they do not want, – with many being told they must do this before their 2017 Reception class entry request will be processed.

Some have applied unwillingly, under threat of a forced Year 1 entry in 2017 if they don’t.

While others – whose admission authorities have responded swiftly and positively to the Schools Minister Nick Gibb’s recent call for action and/or communication from the Summer Born Campaign – have chosen freely whether to apply for early entry or wait until Reception class entry at CSAge with an uninterrupted education guaranteed.

More than three years after the Summer Born Campaign first highlighted this problem to the DfE, the summer born admissions lottery remains unclear, unfair and subjective – the exact opposite of everything the School Admissions Code promised to be – and for children and parents like these, the Minister’s promised new Code can’t come soon enough:

SB - No - Alice pic
NO in Walsall
Mum Amy says she’s been forced to apply for a 2016 school place for her August-born daughter after her council refused to allow Reception entry in 2017 without ‘medical’ evidence, and the complaints process was futile: “Yesterday I felt no other alternative than to apply for a school place. I cannot risk Alice missing a whole year of education.

SB - Yes - Leo pic
in Surrey
Leo will enter Reception class in September 2016 at CSAge, but only after a “very long and stressful process” with proof of SEN and ‘professional evidence’.


SB - No - Viola picNOT CLEAR in Bromley
Charlotte was told to apply for a 2016 place she does not want for her August-born daughter Viola. She says various headteachers responded to her 2017 request saying they need to get advice on the matter first, and that “other parents in the area say they’ve been told ‘No, only Year 1 places will be offered at CSAge’. It’s unacceptable.

SB - Yes - Ava pic
YES in North Tyneside
Ava’s parents moved house earlier than planned in order to secure Reception class entry at CSAge for her this September. After a long fight with Merton Council, and then a far more positive conversation with North Tyneside council admissions, the family decided relocation was their only option (and shockingly, they are not alone in taking this action).

SB - Yes - Rudi pic
YES in Lambeth
Tina is very happy to have secured Reception class entry in September 2016 for her little boy Rudi.

SB - Yes - Zach picYES (EVENTUALLY) in Birmingham
Zach will enter Reception class in September 2016 at CSAge, but only following what his mum describes as “a very long and distasteful battle“, and applying for a 2015 place she did not want. She says it took media coverage of their case, MP pressure and contact with local councillors before the situation was resolved – and that Birmingham City Council even employed an educational psychologist to prove Zach’s ‘readiness’ for school at age 4.

SB - No - Alice picNO in Surrey
August-born Alice’s mum Becky says her local academy school has considered her request for Reception class entry in 2017 and concluded that Alice must enter Year 1 instead. She says the school cited self-esteem issues, differentiation challenges, and a new assessment system based on children meeting ‘age’ related expectations. Apparently these are not issues for children born just days, weeks or months later than Alice…

SB - Yes - Ella pic
YES in Hampshire (borders Surrey)
Ella’s parents have received a ‘yes’ to Reception class entry in 2017 from Hampshire County Council, plus headteacher support – with no requirement at all to prove SEN or medical issues.

SB - No - Kyle pic
Rebecca submitted a request back in November 2015 for 2017 Reception class entry when her son Kyle reaches CSAge (demonstrating just how far in advance many parents begin this process). She says she is still waiting for a response, despite chasing, and was told that meanwhile she should apply for a 2016 place she does not want.

SB - Yes - Ewan pic
in Northamptonshire
Ewan has had 2017 Reception class entry at CSAge agreed by his local village Church of England voluntary-aided school (i.e. its own admission authority). His mum says the headteacher was “immediately supportive of our right to request this and stated that she would never allow a child to miss the reception year” – and her school governors agreed.

*          *           *           *           *

Interestingly, another headteacher and a teacher commented on this website just yesterday, expressing their disbelief with the current system:

Headteacher: “As a primary school headteacher I can’t see why a headteacher would say “no”. I’ve quite happily said “yes” to a couple of parents over the last 6 months, but in my LA the final say then still rests with some anonymous person at county hall who does not need to justify or explain their decision. There’s also no right of appeal.”

Teacher: “As a teacher of 15 years and a former university lecturer in Education, with over ten years of academic research in the subject of early education, I am terrified to see this postcode lottery still taking place! No child should be forced to miss a whole year of education! Missing a full reception year IS detrimental in every aspect, as it has been shown by numerous studies and research, the results of which are indisputable. If Reception is not valuable, then why offer it? I do sincerely hope the consultation will bring positive outcome to all parents of summerborn children in this country!

I leave these teachers with the last word, and hope that their sentiments are respected and duplicated throughout ever more schools in England.*

  • Written by author and journalist Pauline Hull

A selection of parents’ comments from the many posted below.

Although we achieved a yes, it cost us over £1000 in “evidence.”

I agree. I have actually planned to move areas if we get a no.”

The postcode lottery indeed continues. Despite a positive reflection of the most recent summer born guidance in its policy, I am now told by my LA thay I will be sent a form to fill in. This is in spite of a 4-page letter already sent, which is supported in writing by the school. I believe it will then go before the SEND panel when we cite no such issues – just being late August. I am lucky to have the time and written skills to keep plugging away. I cannot imagine how families less fortunate stand a chance in all this.

We had no from our la for our August 2011 boy. Despite of everything we sent him to school in 2015, what mistake it was. We are now in process of trying to Dr-register him and apply for reception in 2016.

We don’t know what is going to happen next year. Our council don’t support delayed entry so we are fighting for our child to be given his full entitlement of education whilst starting at the legally defined point for entrance to education. If we lived 5 minutes up the road we would be over the county border and our request would have been granted as the council support parental choice. If we lived a few miles in the other direction our request would be granted as the council support parental choice. We are stuck in a postcode black spot. We are not asking for preferential treatment. We are not asking the council to do anything that is outside of their current responsibility or policy. If our request is denied there will most likely be no available school places left in yr 1. We could be offered a place anywhere in the county or not offered one at all.

I think it is completely unacceptable that each council can make the decision themselves. There should be a rule for England. It shouldn’t matter where you live. So If I was to live 20 miles down the road my just turned 4 year old would have her best interests taken into account and I would be given the choice whether to allow her to wait until CSA, yet in Cambridgeshire I have to fight with every bit of energy I have to persuade the Admissions team that missing Reception isn’t in her best interest. My daughters future, academic success and opportunities should NOT be decided based on the street she lives on.

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86 Responses to Postcode Lottery More Pronounced Than Ever

  1. Kate says:

    Total nightmare and still a shambles. Nick Gibbs great intentions and wishes are blatantly being ignored and, along with that, so are the needs of our children.
    Very hard to be in an admissions authority (West Sussex) so against the admissions code and especially frustrating to see other authorities happily agreeing to a reception start for a summer born at compulsory school age. I was threatened that a year 1 place out of area would be all that was available if I didn’t submit an application, it’s bureaucracy at its very worst when it affects 4 year olds.


  2. Claire says:

    My local authority has said ‘Yes’ in Bournemouth, however, still waiting on all 3 schools that we are in catchment for to give us an answer. All have their own admission policies. One told us they wouldn’t tell me whether my daughter goes into Reception or Year 1 until I apply next year.


  3. Jocelyn says:

    No from an academy in Essex. They believe he will ‘cope’ and therefore it will be in his best interests to miss reception and start school in year 1. I’m delighted that their ambition for him is to ‘cope’. My ambition is for him to thrive, but then my decision is based on his best interests.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pat says:

    This is a total mess, I was told by admission officer that compulsory school age at Kirklees is 4!! My Daughter is born in AUGUST 2012 I told him that According to my information it is 5 and that she won’t be 5 for the whole of the coming school year 2016/17 I asked him for the legislation details so I could check it myself but he omitted the answer. After hopeless conversation I got to the point that I need to apply for home-schooling as he informed me that children whose parents, did not apply for school will be allocated random school around their living place area. Totally disappointed with the way children and parents are treated, they (local councils) just don’t care.


    • you don’t need to apply to home school. If you don’t apply for a school place you won’t be offered one


      • Pat says:

        Thank You Horseshoegroup, that is what I have thought, but the Guy at admission centre quite clearly said that If I do not apply, I will be allocated at random school anyway…Honestly I think they do not know what they are talking about, or they (Council’s representatives) just twist the current legislation to suit them not the parents and children. I have also asked why I have not received any information regarding my options as a parent, because the only thing which was delivered to our doors, was Council’s admission reminder card. It is commonly assumed that 1: All parents want and will send their children to school, and 2: that all of us know what, when, why and where…? What I have experienced so far is that local government will do whatever they can to make you uninformed and to convince you that what you know is not true…I always thought that we should be provided with fair information that will help us as parents choose what is best for the child…. I hope that there are places in UK that respect this and deliver the service that we are paying for.


  5. Me says:

    Home schooling in the end as just had no more fight left in me. Maybe when he’s six or seven he’ll enter school in a stronger position for having the chance to develop at his own pace. The stress and worry this causes parents and children is beyond a joke. Something needs to be done quickly to ensure all LEA’s are on the same page and parents get the overall decision on what is best for THEIR children. Well done to everyone working on the summer born campaign at least I never felt alone in my struggle!


  6. Michelle Carnegie says:

    Such a shame there is a postcode lottery. All children should be able to start school at compulsory school age (CSA) in reception if their parents wish them to. Hertfordshire have been transparent about this and allow you to apply to start when child is CSA. What a stress for parents of children in certain other boroughs.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. srhepburn says:

    Yes for me but a rather mixed picture here in Oxfordshire.


  8. Suzanne says:

    We had full support of our head so the LEA were happy to accept our deceleration request. (Hampshire). Feel very blessed to have been able to make the right decision for our August born daughter who is thriving in pre school another year. We look forward to school in September knowing she has grown in confidence and will be ready emotionally and physically for school. Have read so many heartbreaking story about parents in other countries fighting tooth and nail to do the same as us. Should not be a postcode lottery.


  9. beruskavera says:

    This awfull postcode lottery has brought a lot of stress, worries, tears and anxiety to our house. We have won the battle but we are left with massive wounds and I can’t imagine how the families of children who were forced to skip the most important year of their education are coping. This nonsense needs to stop. The law states clearly that compulsory school age is 5 so let children start when they are ready or at least close to it!


  10. Anonymous says:

    In our request for my August born son to gain access to his reception year of ed at CSage we submitted medical evidence in abundance. This evidence came from his extensive medical team, myself and his child care providers…. & all of it was ignored or refuted by the decision makers. How can an admission authority choose to ignore a child’s medical team??? Our situation shows clearly that some admission authorities will do anything, regardless of the need, to avoid giving individual 4 year old children what they clearly need. All parents are responsible to protect the best interests of their child by law and have to be able to make decisions for them in line with this to protect them. Admission authorities have been able to stand in the way of this decision making of too many parents and force children into school before CSage through scare tactics & against parents better judgement. This puts children in a situation they are not ready for. This has to stop … For ALL children ….Simple. But it is still happening …. When will we hear our children’s needs will be protected from terrible computer says no policies?


  11. Ellena Outram says:

    A reasonably easy yes here from Derbyshire for our 2012 daughter BUT I am sure it was only because of speech delays as the confirming letter mentioned EYFS performance. I really dont feel they have changed their tune from the hard fought yes we had for our 2010 daughter who is “average”. The stress this issue causes is ridiculous when law provides a CSA start. Why, why, why do LA’s insist in so many areas that children must miss reception, there are special circumstances or make parents jump through so many hoopes that without massive peer support they would give up. I feel really let down by the Governments inaction to a promise made to sort this out. Both our children have/will start at CSA but both still have the very real threat of missing a years education at any point. All for what? starting on time!


  12. happygrecian says:

    Phew…. Somerset have said that our 3 year old CAN start in Reception in Sept 2017, provided she get a place at our first choice school…. So, fingers crossed for the next 14 months then!


    • Lisa says:

      An easy yes from Wigan admissions for our daughter born 31st August 2012. Suppose made a little easier by that fact that we know which school she will start (same as her brother). We had been told by admissions that other schools in the area may have said no.
      All such a mess. Hope this legislation gets rubber stamped soon so all LEAs are singing from the same song sheet. Ridiculously unfair.


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  19. rosie says:

    Does anyone have any experience in Gloucester?


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