Literally 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:
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.”
YES 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’.
NOT 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.”
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).
YES in Lambeth
Tina is very happy to have secured Reception class entry in September 2016 for her little boy Rudi.
YES (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.
NO 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…
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.
NO RESPONSE YET in Norfolk
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.
YES 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.
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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.“