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
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’.

 

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
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.

SB - Yes - Ewan pic
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.

*          *           *           *           *

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

*UPDATE
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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85 Responses to Postcode Lottery More Pronounced Than Ever

  1. We had a supportive headteacher, and so we got a YES from Northamptonshire – it was still a stressful as I know from reading so many case studies how different it can be. Here’s hoping those dogmatic Local Authorities wake up very soon to see how their colleagues in other areas are following Nick Gibbs’ guidance and listening to parents’ views.

    Like

  2. It is so stressful that admissions departments, head teachers and school governors in some areas cannot understand basic admissions processes. This isn’t even about making changes yet it’s about people not being able to work to the admissions code now. They answer the wrong questions they give their personal stories and they don’t allow a parent to make a decision based on their knowledge of a child. The levels of ignorance and red tape are ridiculous. We have been incredibly lucky to have the means to move but not everyone can do this and something has to change.

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  3. This postcode lottery is stressful and grossly unfair. Why can’t the government make a decision on this crucial issue?!

    Like

  4. Krista says:

    I initially applied for a Sept 2016 place for my August born son out of panic really and not being clear on what was happening with the laws going forward. I immediately realised that I had made the wrong decision and I spoke with our local Church of England Academy school who were sympathetic and understanding and told me I had to go through the lea if I wanted to defer. I phoned them and I was told to send an email explaining my feelings and requests and that they would meet and discuss and let me know the outcome. I had a reply in writing a few weeks later stating that my request for my son to defer and start in reception 2017 had been accepted. We are in Wiltshire.

    Like

  5. nicola says:

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

    Like

  6. Rachel Beirne says:

    Although we achieved a yes, it cost us over £1000 in “evidence”.
    This is not something that should be allowed to have such different outcomes around the country.
    We have been promised a consultation followed by a change in the guidance for summer horns. Since the initial call for this absolutely nothing has been done leaving another year of summer born children disadvantaged.
    Fair access to reception for children at CSAge should not be such a battle in most cases.

    Like

  7. Mcmahontim@hotmail.com says:

    We need the government to move on this ASAP and stop dithering. This is our children’s education we are talking about.

    Like

  8. juliedaniel says:

    I had a Yes from Hampshire quickly and easily. It’s a pity it’s not that as easy for everyone else. No child should be forced into school before Compulsory School Age when they are not ready to be there. It’s time that this postcode lottery needs to change

    Like

  9. Anonymous says:

    It’s outrageous that families should face such obstacles for merely wanting their children to start school at compulsory school age rather than just turned 4. It should be same for everyone.

    Like

  10. Hackney Family says:

    We got a yes in Hackney for our 2011 summer born boy. The process was far from straight forward and we met with ignorance and hostility along the way.

    Like

  11. Clare says:

    I have a May 2012 born daughter and would ideally like to delay her start to reception until 2017. But I have been put off by the wording of the admissions code here in Swindon. This makes reference to needed medical and psychological assessments and evidence to justify a delay. For me this misses the point. She has a fab nursery place for 2 days a week now (7 hours each day) and we would like her to stay in this more play based learning setting for as long as she can (nursery fine for her to stay until 5). Once we know where she has a school place we will approach the relevant head but I don’t feel hopeful at all.

    Like

  12. The council haven’t given us an official answer yet but are not supportive. If they refuse a reception start in 2017 we won’t get into any local schools as the year one places will be filled by the proceeding years reception class so won’t have any choice in where they allocate him a place. If we lived 5 minutes up the road we would be in a supportive council area so my son could start at compulsory school age in a local school and not be forced to miss a year or lose out on school choice

    Like

  13. Mrs Robinson says:

    As a parent of a 2013 summer born I am really nervous about the postcode lottery. Nick Gibbs was really clear but the LEA’s havent all taken it on board. I live in an area where some people get a yes and some get a no. My child is confident and has no special educational needs. But that doesn’t mean that she should go to school a year below compulsory school age. And miss out on vital time playing in the woods, splashing in puddles and exploring life.
    I have everything crossed that by next year The postcode lottery will not exist. And that I will have the automatic right to send my child to school at compulsory school age into a reception class where she and every other child should start

    Like

  14. Amy says:

    Every child deserves fair and equal access to education, regardless of which county they live in and which date their birthday happens to fall.

    Like

  15. Maryam Tavakoli says:

    I have applyed for a delayed entry to reception for my 2012 August born before New year and still haven’t heard back. I had a phone call from Lewisham admissions yesterday advicing me to apply for a place before the deadline today in case my application for delay is refused. I am refusing to do so as there’s no way that I send him to school at 4. If worse comes to worse I’m ready to relocate. BUT it seems so unfair to do so.

    Like

  16. Rajiv Pabari says:

    Completely agree with his article.

    Like

  17. Joanne Stubbs says:

    Have simply not applied for a 2016 place for my son and will wait to apply for a reception start at CSA in 2017. This feels risky (due to potential of year 1 start) but there is literally no summerborn policy to follow from my LEA. Despite chasing them since October of last year and being assured their policy would be emailed to myself upon completion the deadline has arrived and I have still received nothing. I have written to my local MP who
    Is now involved and who has contacted Nick Gibbs and our head of children’s services for advice. It’s too late for me to apply for my son
    now and a reception start at CSA now depends upon ammendments to the code and the hope our LEA and chosen school will be supportive in the end. This has been a long and arduous process that has caused a great deal of stress. I hope that the parents of summerborns from 2013 onwards will not have the difficulties parents of children born before then have faced. My main concern at this point is how many parents of summerborns have been put off applying for a CSA start due to the fact a process to follow and information regarding summerborns was and is simply not available from this LEA.

    Like

  18. J Warrington says:

    Such a disgrace that those meant to protect best interests of the child consider it appropriate to force them to miss an entire year of foundation setting education!

    Like

  19. Lauryn Douglas says:

    This time last year i was advised by the DfE to apply for a reception 2015 place for Isabella we were never going to use. I told them we were starting at CSA but was still advised to apply for the place. We had been told no when requesting her place for CSA already. This postcode lottery needs to end. By April 2015 we complained to our LA and took our case back to our local MP and had lots of support. In AUGUST 2015 a week before the LA were saying she “should ” start school we were given a YES from the Mayor of Liverpool. Please please keep fighting for this cause it is what is in our childs best interests! No child should be forced to miss a year of essential education based on where they live!!! Education minister needs to sort this out NOW why on deadline day are parents still left with no answers or solutions??

    Like

  20. Valerie Faulkner says:

    We are still waiting for an answer from Hackney. It seems so ridiculous that parents still don’t have the right to decide what’s best for their child.

    Like

  21. Rachel Wolstenholme says:

    NO in Wokingham
    For our 2012 August born boy, very disappointed. Our LEA will not budge despite bordering counties of Hertfordshire and Hampshire having already changed their admissions polices. We are now holding out for the government to make the promised changes to the school admissions code in time for Sept 2017 applications. Very unfair postcode lottery.

    Like

  22. Kirsty Willimer says:

    It’s still undecided in Peterborough, and the LA don’t seem in any rush to give an answer either. My son is 2011 summerborn, and really hoping he doesn’t get pushed into y1 this September.

    Like

  23. Jessica says:

    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 lice 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.

    Like

  24. Anonymous says:

    It’s was a vague response from Oxfordshire. We were told to apply for 2016 anyway for our June 2012 daughter, but the responses to my clarification questions seemed to confirm that we would be able to turn down the place later this year and reapply again for 2017. I was also told that we could realign her with her “correct” age group later. This is made easier at our local school because beyond Reception, two year groups are taught in one class and the children are grouped by ability rather than age.

    Like

  25. Marie says:

    Told we needed to apply here in leicestershire regardless. Majority responses to schools visited was a no and although reservations one said it may be possible but that he would have to miss a year later on in education system to ‘catch up with correct year’. They are also well out of our catchment but we’ve been looking at so many to find what we want even though chances of getting in are slim. Desperate for government to get things sorted before September. In adjoining counties they are getting yes’s. It’s all coming down to where you live, it’s incredibly cruel.

    Like

  26. Claire says:

    A yes in Thurrock. Hoping for a yes next year for my April born (I fear they favour late summer borns).

    Like

  27. Jessica says:

    It is completely unlawful that a the future of a child who may not be ready for school, or whose parents feel should not start school until CSA irrespective of the reason is decided upon by their Street address. How is this acting in the best interest if the child? If I was to live 50 miles down the road I wouldn’t have such a stressful fight in order for the local authority to Base their decision on my daughters best interest. Where as in Cambridgeshire it is a very long process where I am pressured to apply this year “just in case” and am made to provide professional evidence. Why? Why do I need professional evidence in order for her to have the same opportunities as neighbouring counties? There are enough counties who now accept all delays and quill allow children to start at CSA in Reception, why can’t they all follow suit? People are moving house because of this. Totally ridiculous and unfair.

    Like

  28. Eleanor Whitaker says:

    It’s crazy that there is no consistency in this and the battles some parent fight is unjustifiable. I can’t understand why it is such a problem expecting your child to start school when they legally should without being forced to miss a year. We are lucky in north tyneside and didn’t have too much difficulty in starting our son in reception at csa (although we wouldn’t have got it without the support of the summer born campaign ensuring we had all the knowledge we needed to be successful). It is the best decision we could have made for our boy, now very happy in year 1 aged 6. I just hope we don’t have any battles in his transition to secondary school.

    Like

  29. Jessica says:

    It is completely unlawful that a the future of a child who may not be ready for school, or whose parents feel should not start school until CSA irrespective of the reason is decided upon by their Street address. How is this acting in the best interest if the child? If I was to live 50 miles down the road I wouldn’t have such a stressful fight in order for the local authority to Base their decision on my daughters best interest. Where as in Cambridgeshire it is a very long process where I am pressured to apply this year “just in case” and am made to provide professional evidence. Why? Why do I need professional evidence in order for her to have the same opportunities as neighbouring counties? There are enough counties who now accept all delays and quill allow children to start at CSA in Reception, why can’t they all follow suit? People are moving house because of this. Totally ridiculous and unfair

    Like

  30. Maria says:

    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.

    Like

  31. Joe Hammond says:

    We also were given no option but to include an in-cohort application alongside our delay request. I wanted to stress that this feels unfair, so wrote this in our delay request: “We strongly believe that the requirement to accompany this delay request with an obligatory ‘in-cohort’ reception application places us in an invidious position. The obligation effectively ‘shoehorns’ us into presupposing that such a possibility could be in our child’s best interests.” A lot of unnecessary stress being placed on families. If all involved kept the ‘best interest’ of the child at the centre of decision making, this whole process would be clearer and fairer.

    Like

  32. Elena says:

    What an absolute disgrace that English local authorities are allowed to get away with this. What for? To preserve bureaucratic neatness, otherwise there is just no explanation why they would be interested in battling this with the parents. Certainly not in the interest of individual children, who are threatened with missing a whole year of education – Year Reception or ANY year into their primary or even secondary education.

    Utterly shameful.

    Like

  33. Alice says:

    An easy yes from Sheffield via email for a csa start in 2017, with just supporting letters from nursery as evidence. Very pleased to have a yes as my son was not going to be emotionally ready for school at 4 years and two weeks. Seems ridiculous other authorities can’t act the same as Sheffield.

    Like

  34. Susan King says:

    Can’t believe this is still going on, changing minds and indesision ruined my boys early school life back in 2010. I really didn’t expect to see the department for education still bungling on in this mess SIX YEARS! Later.

    Like

  35. Gaia says:

    Last year I applied for delayed entry for my 2011 August born, East Sussex agreed to the delay within a couple of weeks, requiring no further evidence. We are now moving to the neighboring county of West Sussex and I have been instructed to complete a new application for delayed entry along with the admissions application. West Sussex have informed me that they will not necessarily agree with East Sussex’s decision and that they usually require evidence. I have no evidence other than a date of birth and I am anxiously awaiting the outcome of my daughters future.

    Like

  36. Caroline fellows says:

    We had a yes in Walsall last year. My son is autistic, so we provided alot of evidence against him starting last sept 2015, from a peadiatrians report and nursery teacher report. He definitely wasn’t ready for any formal learning last year, but having that extra year in nursery is working really well, he actually wants to do some of the work now and is excelling in his numbers and letters. Hoping we will get a reception place for Max this year. Fingers crossed.

    Like

  37. Gemma says:

    I live in Hampshire and have received a yes for my son born 27/08/12 with no SEN to start school in 2017. It took a little while (and a lot of stress) to get there, but it has been worth it. It’s so unfair that this postcode lottery is going on though, surely it’s not in any child’s best interest to push them into education too early.

    Like

  38. Nill says:

    We had a NO in Essex both from LA and the school fr my August 2010 born in 2014 … I was so determined not to lose my child into a ridiculous system , I had no choice but to start him in a private school last Sep at the CSA . I was so right he s doing great and I am so happy fr him even though it meant I had to go back to work to be able to pay his private school fees . Fr this reason I feel so resentful and angry w the system which is unfair and robotic and senseless .

    Like

  39. gill says:

    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

    Like

  40. Anonymous says:

    It shouldn’t be too difficult for the DfE to get on with issuing a timeline for their consultation. Really disappointing to feel they’ve created more chaos instead of less by leaving the issue hanging with no concrete timescales or plan communicated. We aren’t going to ignore this and in the meantime it’s real children and families that are being affected.

    Like

  41. Jeanette marr says:

    Our daughters started at CSA last year. It took us 10 months and £500 to get this through. What a disgrace that this Is such a postcode lottery. Our daughters are thriving. The threat of missing one year later in their schooling still looms above our heads. we will keep fighting until this ‘mess’ is sorted.

    Like

  42. RMBirch says:

    I can’t believe a year after we faced the exact same dilemma the problem still exists. It had seemed the government were going to solve this issue once and for all but we are still waiting. Let’s hope we will not be posting the same comments next year.

    Like

  43. Stephanie Taylor says:

    We have been given a ‘yes’ to a Reception start at CSA by all of the schools we are going to apply to. We are very lucky to live in Hertfordshire where they are approving all requests without any discussion. I wish it was the same for everyone. All children deserve the right to start school when they are ready.

    Like

  44. Clare Corfrll says:

    Yes agreed. We have been asked to apply lengthy evidence with an eventual no looking likely whilst other areas are allowing a CSA start with no evidence needed at all.

    Like

  45. Sarah hall says:

    Still waiting to see if we have be able to get our late August 2011 daughter a reception place for this September. Not sure what we are going to do if it’s a no…

    Like

  46. Vikki Hughes-Swick says:

    The postcode lottery is so unfair. We feel really lucky to have support from our local school and local authority in Havering. It hasn’t been without stress or worry though, so I can only imagine the anxiety of parents waiting decisions or fighting unsupportive AAs. The changes to the code need to be made ASAP, yet we’ve not even seen a draft yet. Hurry up Nick Gibb – these are the crucial years of children’s lives – there’s no time to waste.

    Like

  47. Anna says:

    I remember being there on admissions day myself, 2 years ago, whilst on my father’s death bed horribly stressed and in tears on the phone with both Admissions and DfE because I didn’t even know if I should or could apply for a school place or not! I eventually got my form in but the Admissions authority (having first said we could have a reception place and with the full support of our chosen school) turned around and gave us a Year 1 place instead, which meant we had no right to appeal.

    Like

  48. Florence Bance says:

    Had to apply for a 2016 place that I DO NOT WANT. Waiting to hear from Surrey who have the final say, even though the heads of my two preferred schools have agreed a Reception place at CSA for 2017.

    Like

  49. Heidi says:

    It’s a no in Wakefield they want my daughter to miss the whole of year 7 and go from year 6 to year 8.

    Like

  50. Anonymous says:

    Still having a stressful wait to see whether we are able to have a reception start at CSA in Sept 2017 rather than 2016 for our premature twins with Aug 2012 birthday. It is great that people are having their requests approved in some areas but so unfair that others are turned down just because their admissions authority is not following DfE guidance properly. We have been advised to apply for a 2016 place that we have no intention of taking up – we feel we have to follow the process and hope that common sense will prevail. It is ridiculous that often the decision makers seem to think they know what is in your child’s best interests better than you do! Also worrying is that some head teachers seem to be totally unaware of the changes and the implications! It is time the ‘guidance’ became clear policy to be followed by all admissions authorities – the subjective decisions made based on the views of individuals heading up admissions teams need to stop.

    Like

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