Stress Spikes as Deadline for Admissions Application Approaches

IMG_2181With many of the 7,200 members in the Summer Born Campaign group busy preparing admissions applications for primary school places this week, the shocking postcode lottery and differences in admissions authorities’ positions is more stark and stressful than than ever.

Copious letters, emails and telephone calls to many schools and councils as parents fight threats of Year 1 entry and a missed Reception class – or Reception entry with a school year to be skipped later on – with many others allowing a straightforward process of applying in the year of compulsory school age entry (see this article on Hertfordshire’s simple guideline for parents of summer born children).

It’s incredible that another year has passed without the DfE taking appropriate actionagain – and so it continues that for summer born children in England, it used to be When You’re Born Matters But now WHERE YOU LIVE Matters More.

Please read the comments below to understand what parents are facing, and the attitudes that are preventing decisions being made in a child’s best interests.

  • Written by author and journalist Pauline Hull
This entry was posted in CAMPAIGN UPDATES, EXAMPLE CASES. Bookmark the permalink.

31 Responses to Stress Spikes as Deadline for Admissions Application Approaches

  1. Jennifer Blake says:

    It’s 4am and this is the third night I have had less sleep than our 4 month old because I am so worried about our eldest. We have spent the past nine months on waiting lists for speech and language support, working with our nursery to gather evidence, and chasing information from our council, who are often less informed than we are. I have written a seven page letter detailing our reasons, and I am still awake all night because it is likely none of it matters because of the where I live. The current government’s inaction has meant that I am at odds with the local schools and council before my son has been even begun formal education. It is a travesty and an injustice.


  2. This postcode lottery is madness and has to end. The Government’s failed promise to tackle it is extremely frustrating and it’s failing our children.


  3. Sarah Correia says:

    This is taking my sleep away as well. I am in touch with my LA Admissions team leader who is behaving in a very obstructive manner. I emailed her with a question about the form, and she “suggested” I make a late application instead as my child is already 4, and possibly negotiate a part-time place for the current school year. Otherwise, she said she could not “guarantee” that my normal application would be considered. A clear attempt of bullying. Instead of providing me with accurate information, she tried to divert me. I’m very angry about this as this is no way for public servants to deal with citizens


  4. Cath says:

    I’ve just received permission for summerborn twins to start school in Reception in 2018. I’m obviously very relieved and the process was not too difficult. However, the LA’s letter also contains an ‘expectation’ that children being taught out of cohort will be returned to their chronological cohort within a key stage – it does say this can only happen if parents and teachers agree but I’m worried there may be further battles ahead.


  5. Amy says:

    I have applied for a place that I do not want, on the advice of the LEA, and will have to wait and see whether I can get agreement for my summer born son to start in reception in 2018. My HT is currently unsupportive as he has no SEN. School readiness just isn’t a factor here. The postcode lottery is deeply unfair, and I feel so let down by the DfE who are sitting by allowing it to happen.


  6. Rachel says:

    Where to start! Our eldest son who was born in May 2011 started in foundation class In September 2016 at CSA. However we had a year of stress, uncertainty, numerous emails, phone calls and meetings with the council and local primary schools. We were fortunate enough that the headteacher of our preferred school was supportive and agreed To a reception place at CSA but to get to this point was a long hard journey. Now doing the same again with our youngest who was born August 2013. Advised to apply for a place this September (which we haven’t as have no intention of him starting then) and again asking headteachers to put in writing to support Reception place at CSA!
    DfE please get this sorted ASAP, lots of unnecessary stress caused for so many. Parents are just trying to do what is best for their child, we know them best, it shouldn’t be this difficult.


  7. Katherine says:

    The postcode lottery is madness. I feel incredibly lucky to live in Nottinghamshire – I sent one email to Notts county council asking for my late August boy (no special needs, just young) to start school in Reception at CSA. Within 24 hours I had a positive email back, with confirmation through the post a few weeks later. No need to apply for a school place this year and waste everyone’s time, I’ll just apply next year. It’s mind boggling that some councils and schools are so easy and straightforward on this issue, and yet others are making parents jump through hoops just to do what they know to be in their child’s best interests. All children should have the same rights and opportunities, regardless of what month they were born in, or where they live.


  8. Monique says:

    I too have just applied for an unwanted place, as advised by my LEA. I have spent my last few months chasing headteachers from the local schools for their opinion about a reception start at CSA – most refused to answer. I live in London so I have put my top 6 schools in, 3 of which at least replied to my emails with an open mind, the other 3 … who knows?

    Absolutely ridiculous waste of everyone’s time.


  9. Natalie says:

    I held my ground last year and didn’t apply for a place that I didn’t want. We had a year of battles,stress,upset. We were ignored, made to do complaint after complaint, foi’s, subject access request which the still with held information from. 15 months of feeling like you are losing your mind, upset, sleepless nights, but I finally got out agreement for my son. This needs to finally be sorted out as and soon.


  10. Ellena says:

    This is the 4th year running we have played the SB Admissions gauntlet. Twice with our August 2010 and now for the second time with our August 2012. Both times we knew we were not sending until CSA. Our decision was never in question but we had to pursuade our LA. Persuade we did and I still have the emotional scars and stomach knots everytime I think about it. I now spend my time helping others through the muddy waters. Our application is in this year but not without stress as due to the complete and utter inaction of Nick Gibb’s team to protect my daughters on-going education I can ONLY apply for schools where I know we have HT support, otherwise there is a real and genuine danger our daughters could loose a years education at ANY point. I will live in constant stress and worry the headship will change during their primary education. As for secondary I cannot even contemplate that yet… Anyway, our application is in. Our 1st choice is our non-catchment sibling primary, our 2nd choice is 15 miles away! yes 15 miles! I pray to god we do not get to 2nd choice as realistically we would never cope. Our 3rd choice was only reasonably supportive but is closer, sadly the reason it is not 2nd choice. Ironically, we can no longer apply for our catchement school as it is now an Academy and I know longer have the fight within me to take on yet another team of beurocrats. This whole process could be easy the law states CSAge, we just simply want the right to a full and secure education. We do not want two bites of the cherry, we do not want advantage. We simply want the best for our children and in turn the future of our Country. Please Mr Gibb you have the power to change things for lots of small people and make a BIG difference and for once in politics a lasting and decent legacy.


  11. Amy Turton says:

    I live in surrey which is a v obstructive borough
    I have a two year old and am starting to look into schools. Instead of thinking purely about the schools which I like – I’m having to add the additional variable of whether they are supportive of starting reception at CSA. So far none of my local schools seem to be supportive. So I am now having to consider moving in order to get the correct schooling for my son. However I have no idea where to start? To stay in surrey? Or move to a more permissive borough?

    This postcode lottery and the lottery within counties themselves seems so unfair.


  12. Claire Penter says:

    After a lot of blood sweat and tears I’ve just applied for my son to start reception at CSA in sept. He could have started last year, the problem is that because he could, the admissions authority default to say that he should and it was down to us to provide evidence why our son wasn’t ready. 2/3 met with my son and easily agreed he wasn’t ready and supported us, 1 of the schools has so far declined to meet my son and without headteacher support in Kent you can’t apply. But when I was at school there was no such word as can’t so I applied for it as second choice anyway…. Such a lottery. Kcc have agreed it’s in my sons best interests for one of the schools they are responsible for the admissions for, and have so far refused to comment on what’s in my sons best interests for the other. Instead saying that I cannot apply at all for that school without headteacher support. Everything crossed the admissions gods are kind to us and that we get our first choice but it shouldn’t be such a lottery and it shouldn’t be such a fight. When the man In the post office asked if my recorded letter was valuable I reflected on just how important it was to me, and how that’s been almost 2 years of my life, countless emails, countless sleepless nights to get to this stage. Couldn’t have done it without the help of the summerborn campaign and for the help and support I will be forever grateful.


  13. Julie Thomson says:

    Our summer born is now 8 and in Y3. Our application process was stressful and frustrating but we got through it with the support of the summer born campaign. I now try to pay that support forward but it saddens me that over 4 years later families are continuing to experience the same setbacks and barriers which we faced in 2012-2013.
    We were only successful in the end because of a supportive head teacher but throughout his time in school there has been confusion and hurdles to overcome.
    Now that supportive head has left and there’s always the fear that the new head will try to move him up a year (we’re meeting her tomorrow to make sure she has full understanding of the situation). Hopefully those fears will be unfounded but until the DfE make things clearer – not just for admissions but for what happens once these children are in school – we can never be completely confident that out summer born children will receive the full interrupted education that all children should be entitled too no matter when or where they’re born!


    • Kate says:

      julie thank you for your post and I hope your new HT is supportive. Can I ask in your experience do you feel there have been any negatives to having your child taught “out of cohort” i keep being told my son will be taller, mature earlier, won’t be able to compete in inter school competitions and perhaps won’t get accepted into a Grammar… all of which are making me wonder – every fibre says it is better for him start in Reception when he is 5 – but I would love hear your experience if you are still posting…


  14. Lauren says:

    Was refused reception start at CSA for my little boy despite being under paediatrian for understanding delay and under SaLT for speech delay. Sent letters from paediatrician and therapist confirming this but was told by Lancashire that my evidence was ‘insufficient.’ I did not take up his September school place and again have had to send more evidence to try allow a reception place for him this September. It’s hard enough worrying about your child without the added stress of being threatened with his first year of education being taken away. Feeling sick with worry and can’t stand it anymore.


  15. Lianne says:

    My daughter was born into the nicu and being premature, boosted herself into the year above for school. Applying for her to start school is the most stressful event for me and her father since before she was even born. That’s right.. making sure that my daughter is in the correct year at school when she starts is MORE stressful than 87 days in nicu, and the 100 follow-up appointments in the next year. It’s because while under hospital care, every decision made was in her best interest. The stress comes because I just don’t believe that the local education authority does have her best interest at heart. If they did, they would trust the science, the input of the parents and allow what common sense dictates. The fact that I know neighbouring authorities require only a letter of notification only adds salt to the wound.


  16. Rachael says:

    I live in a Local Authority which automatically approves parental requests for reception start at CSA. Straightforward you would think? No, because the current Admissions Code means this can still prove problematic. After receiving agreement from the LA for a Community School, said school announced its intention to convert to an academy. I had to re-apply for permission to the academy’s new Admission Authority. Numerous emails, letters and phone calls just to re-confirm what had already been agreed. A waste of time and resources for everyone involved. If this is what is happening in a permissive Local Authority, imagine the stress and strains of a living in a difficult LA. If the Code had been changed, as promised, this situation would not arise.


  17. Kayleigh says:

    This time last year was one of the most stressful times of my life! So much time spent on researching, visiting schools and having numerous conversations with Head teachers, emails back and forth to admissions, gaining supportive letter from pre-school and childminder, applying for a school place we didn’t want on the advice of admissions, composing request emails and form filling for admissions and then waiting for the response…..chasing….waiting….chasing….waiting.
    The weight of the decision was so immense, the worry of my child potentially missing a whole year of schooling through no fault of her own.
    Thankfully, we were lucky to have our request agreed, and are now waiting for the offer date this year to find out which school we have been offered a place at, and whether it will be in Reception as requested.
    The post code lottery being faced by parents is, frankly, disgraceful. The lies and misinformation being told to parents is so infuriating – we need progress on an amendment to the school admissions code. It has been 16 months since the intentions raised by Nick Gibb were made. Now parents have been stuck not knowing what was happening and yet another school year passes where some parents felt they had exhausted all avenues in their search for reception at CSA yet still were forced to start at 4.


  18. Katherine says:

    And it’s ridiculous that parents up and down the country are having to apply for places they have no intention of taking up, just because their admissions authority requires it in tandem with their application for a reception start in 2018. Going by last year, a lot of them will end up getting offered places that some other child actually wants. It’s stupid.


  19. Laura Marsh says:

    An unbelievably time-consuming, energy-sapping, incredibly emotional process. I’m about to submit my request for my August 13 son and I’ve had months of dealing with misinformed Headteachers and an obstructive LEA. At one point, I had to take a break from it all. It consumed my life, my every woken moment and caused endless sleepless nights. It distracted me from being the mummy I wanted to be. We simply want what is best for our children, why does it have to be so hard?


  20. Nina says:

    I fought hard to get a reception place for my son at compulsory school age. Seeing parents struggle reminds me of the awful process I was dealing with a year ago. My son is doing well at school, he is not over achieving, he is not ahead, he has not missed out on friendships. My son has his fair share of issues in school, I cannot begin to imagine what stress he would be under this year if he were in Year one. He is in the right year group, as parent’s we knew when he was most ready for school. No child should be forced to miss a year of education because ‘every child matters’.


  21. Michelle Carnegie says:

    I feel so fortunate to live in Hertfordshire and to have received an automatic reception start at compulsory school age for my August 2012-born son. He has ASD and we spend a lot of time with healthcare professionals dealing with various needs. To not have to fight with LA and individual schools about when he starts has been a godsend. My son is thriving during his second year at nursery and is looking forward to starting reception at 5. I wish it was so clear for people living in other local authorities.


  22. Allison says:

    I’m sat here with only 2 days left to submit an application I don’t even want to make and my local schools admissions team are point blank ignoring us.We had a really hard time just finding out how to apply on our area, schools admissions tried to convince us it was a bad idea and HT’s telling us our daughter would have to catch up!!! We sent our application for our daughter to be educated outside of age group on 27th October. Followed up this by email twice to no avail.
    Telephoned, was fobbed off.
    Emailed a 3Rd time was told they had not received form, despite me having an email confirming they had received.
    Resent form.
    Telephoned with 7 days til deadline,told admissions manager would call back in the next two days
    Telephoned 2 days later, told admissions manager doesn’t take calls when mentioned we were expecting a call then they decodes he wasn’t in……. put on hold……. A machine tells is to email.
    Emailed again
    Still waiting
    I’m not applying for a 2017 place I don’t want it.
    The stress is unbelievable. All because I want to do the right thing…..


  23. Kelly says:

    I’ve also just today clicked ‘submit’ today for a place not wanted through LA advice.
    I will have to send a separate email to state I’m requesting a delayed start for my summer born at compulsory school age as after enquiring was told to fill the application for this year and refer to the booklet……So very very helpful……
    I know I’m going to face a fight as I’m Portsmouth and they don’t like saying yes!
    I only have 1 headteacher who has given me a yes! 2 others who have said they wouldn’t say no without careful consideration and research.
    But I’m supposed to add ‘supporting evidence’ I can’t just state because “we’re his parents”!
    I already have that sinking feeling……


  24. Kim Jones says:

    We finally got our Reception start after a protracted 6 month battle back and forth. So stressful and still no guarantee that our son will be able to stay with his adopted cohort through his school career. But he is going to Reception at compulsory school age and that is all that matters for now.


  25. Hayley says:

    I am beyond saddened that 1 year on after a long and distasteful battle to have my sons needs met and him receive fair access to a state education at compulsory school age, others are stilll having to face this most terrible of situations. The whole ordeal nearly broke us as a family. This lack of progress and postcode lottery is making an already unjust situation even more damaging for families and children who are born in the summer months. The money that is currently wasted on unnecessary interventions for summerborn and the damage to the child & the rest of the class must warrant swifter movement from those who have the power to whip the most beligerant of LAs into line where they actually get to serving properly the tax payers and people they are support to support. All involved would do well to remember the mantra ….”First do no harm”…… & realise hat inaction is equally harmful . No matter how difficult this situation has to be a priority in an already struggling educational environment in the U.K.


  26. Kate Hughes says:

    I too am in the middle of this horrific process which is giving me a huge amount of stress and worry. It is taking over my life! I cannot understand why the government aren’t doing more to put their promised changes in place to support parents and children. This postcode lottery is just so wrong. Yes schools have to accept children into reception aged 4, but compulsory school age is 5. So why should I feel forced to send my child at 4 years old when I know he is not emotionally or physically ready for full days at school. And if I don’t send him until compulsory age, why should he have to miss a year of schooling? Why should a person behind a desk who has never met my child have the right to make a decision which will affect the rest of his life?

    I am in Stockport, which is a particularly obstructive LA. It has been ongoing for months – I have been given incorrect advice, I have had the school nursery he is at tell me ‘he’ll be fine’ because he’s bright and articulate, failing to acknowledge that he cries most mornings at drop off, has had numerous toileting accidents and is only managing 2 mornings due to his exhaustion. I have had schools tell me that they wouldn’t recommend that a child misses reception, but that they are not allowed to put this in writing to me because the LA will not allow them to send written support to parents. They are obviously doing the communication themselves in order to ask them the ‘wrong question’ i.e to ask them whether they think my child will be ok to start at 4 – when what they should be asking is, should my child be forced to miss a year of schooling, when by their own admission – every day of school missed makes a difference. I haven’t sent my letter yet – but I will do this weekend, along with applying for a place that I do not want to take – but I already know that they have made their mind up so I already know what the answer will be. If it wasn’t for this campaign I would have given up ages ago. They are doing their best to bully and scare parents. It’s got to stop


  27. Charlotte Whitehead says:

    Submitted our application to Dudley Council. Awaiting their panel decision. Have also had to apply for a reception place for 2017 which we don’t want as per their process. Please cross your fingers for us for a positive panel!! Really don’t want to send our son at 4 years and 6 days old with speech and language delays. He will be disadvantaged in every way…
    Good luck to all other families in the same position who just want the best start for their summer borns!!


  28. Sylwia says:

    It is very stressful as the future for our son is very uncertain. He is only 2 and few months but we already know that we want him to start R at CSa.
    First of all he suppose to have birthday in Sept but he was early and was born at the end of Aug.
    Secondly he’s got speech delay and we do not want him to straggle at school because of that.
    And lastly, he will be better of learning through play at his nursery, currently 3 days a week instead of rushing to school.


  29. Louise says:

    I’ve had a few minor issues due to having to submit a paper application as the online system won’t accept my son’s date of birth. However, I am very thankful that I live in an area that seems to accept all requests to start at CSA. I’m still concerned about the future in case we have to move house or if he is forced to miss a year of secondary school. Despite these worries, I am watching my son flourish and gain confidence in his second year of nursery and I have no doubt that we made the right decision not to send him to school this year.


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