Not the First Time? Summer Born Adults Recall Being Made to Miss a Year of School in the 1970s

img_4756Anyone else miss out on a year of primary school?
A few years ago, I came across the discussion forum above.

It describes a chronological reorganisation of children in school, which does not appear to have considered their individual best interests, and includes the anecdotes below.

“…a girl in my brother’s class was suddenly found to be too old for his year, was put up to my year but was the youngest“.

I think it has something to do with them changing the school years from “children born in 1974” to “children born from Sept 1973-August 1974” – as another friend (who I was with in the first year… was born in October 1974 but he stayed behind and completed his 1st year infants and didn’t leave for secondary school until September 1986 – a full year after me.

I had an odd start to infants/junior too. I can’t remember exactly what happened but to start with I was in a big class with loads of kids all roughly same age. Then after a certain holiday (again can’t remember which) we went back and I was in X class, which was the 2nd year infants, and my best friend was moved to a class that was 1st year infants. I was born in August 1974 so that may have something to do with it as you say. My friend followed along school a year behind me, as did some other kids. I always thought it was strange that it happened.

I’m late August – maybe that explains it – all the kids born January – August 1974 and the same for every year were bumped up to the next year“.

So what might have happened?

Politically, 1973 and 1974 were tumultuous years, and there are a number of debates cited in Hansard that demonstrate differing political views about education and schools.

Power moved from Conservatives to Labour (there were two General Elections in 1974), money was tight, and expensive infrastructure and repair projects in schools were as much a focus of discussion as the education itself.

There was also considerable discussion however, about primary school admissions, as highlighted in our 2014 Summer Born Report:

In the early 1970’s there was concern that many Reception classes were admitting children below the age of 5 and that those children were not experiencing a nursery education, but rather a Reception education.

In 1973, Edward Heath was Prime Minister and the then Education Secretary Margaret Thatcher, under pressure from the National Union of Teachers and education authorities, made it permissible to admit children into Reception at the beginning of the year in which they were five. Though Margaret Thatcher felt that it would be better for children below the age of 5 to experience a nursery education, there wasn’t the provision available and she stated, “It is better for children to be in school than not there at all, for them to be where their parents wished them to be. Many parents prefer their children, before the age of five, to go to school part-time, but there will be some provision for full-time education.”

Interestingly, 1974 is also the year that the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) for England and Wales was established.

Social Changes

Finally, some readers may also be interested in the views of Sir George Young (Ealing, Acton), who raised these concerns in 1977, just a few years after the changes began (also cited in the Summer Born Report):

…Nursery schools and nursery classes are the responsibility of the Department of Education and Science. Day nurseries, child minders and pre-school playgroups are the responsibility of the Department of Health and Social Security. One therefore has two Departments which are responsible, one concerned with “educating”, and the other concerned with “caring”. We have somehow managed to institutionalise a totally illogical split in our approach to the under-fives…”

Sir George Young also commented on the importance of parental involvement during a child’s early years, saying,

“A society that places a higher value on the work that a mother might do if she sought employment, instead of staying at home to build up this relationship with her child in his most vulnerable years, is a society that has its values sadly wrong. Looking after children, from society’s point of view as well as the child’s is a far more important job than going to work.”

He continued, “I believe that with the exception of the pre-school playgroup movement, the contribution that the parent can make to the pre-school child’s development and progress is inadequately recognised, and that as a result parents are becoming progressively demoralised and frightened as the professionals take over. We are not, therefore, using properly one of this country’s finest resources, namely, the talents and affection of the parents…”

“My anxiety is that, while it is clear that an incentive should be given to the mother not to go out to work if she does not want to, the Government have been silent on this. They seem to favour the most expensive sort of provision when there is clear evidence that it is not the best. In the voluntary movement, including neighbourhood groups, community groups and the mothers themselves, a little money can do a lot. Is the Government concerned about people helping themselves, or are they more concerned about the State running all?”

Were you born in or around 1970?

The Summer Born Campaign would be very interested to hear from anyone who may have experienced a missed school year in the early 1970s.

It’s worth remembering that the primary school curriculum in 1974 was very different to the curriculum of 2017, and with the immense academic pressure placed on children at ever younger ages, being forced to miss a whole year of education today is not exactly the same as it was then.

And of course socially and emotionally (not just academically), there can be negative repercussions for any child that this happens to.

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

3 Responses to Not the First Time? Summer Born Adults Recall Being Made to Miss a Year of School in the 1970s

  1. Lindsey Thomas says:

    I was born in June 1971, I clearly remember moving to the year 1 class whilst others in my class moved across the corridor for another year in infants.


  2. Dr Jennie Day says:

    I was born in August 1967 in a very deprived area of Liverpool. I only had 2 years in the infants. My brother (born 1962) said it was normal at the time. But I feel I missed a year of education because my parents were not onto the system?
    Not sure what happened.
    In any case I went on to gain 4 degrees including a PhD. So it turned out happy in the end.


  3. L banks says:

    Up until the last year of school me and quite a few others in my class were made to do another year at school, all our class friends moved off to high school and we at to integrate into the upcoming class, and we also at to do the whole year again!!! I’m guessing this was about 76/77.


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