BBC Radio 5 Live’s presenter Sam Walker hosted an excellent discussion on the Summer Born Campaign this morning, with guests including Michelle Melson (campaign leader) and Fiona McGuckin (parent of a summer born child).
You can listen to it here (at 40 min, 1hr 55min, 2hr 13min), and below are some highlights from the debate.
Michelle Melson (pictured): “Tinkering with tests is not going to fix the summer born issue. It’s not the answer to children missing a year of school.“
Fiona McGuckin: “We want them to have the same access to education as their autumn born peers.”
Michelle Melson: “From our group, which is over 8000 people… it has taken supposedly middle-class people to push this issue forward and help everybody.”
BBC presenter Sam Walker: “It’s the battle that’s the issue, isn’t it?”
Deborah: “I don’t really know why they don’t want this to happen; surely it’s to their advantage not to have children who are struggling in their Reception classes every year.”
BBC presenter Sam Walker: “Parents know their children, don’t they?”
Primary school teacher Monique: described a situation in her own school where summer born children, who had had a Reception class entry at CSAge agreed, were instead skipped ahead to Year 1 at the last minute, and then “struggled the whole year trying to catch up with these classmates” (one even hitting out physically in frustration) because “they’d missed Reception”. This was because their birth years didn’t fit into the school’s administration system…
Notably, there was no comment from the Department for Education, which ultimately is responsible for the postcode lottery parents and children now face, but Michelle and I continue to communicate with the department, despite disappointment in its failure to commence with its promised School Admissions Code consultation.
Irrefutably, children’s lives (social and emotional wellbeing, as well as academic) are being adversely impacted right now, and the government is failing to support them.
The DfE’s ambiguous 2014 Code highlights why it’s so important to get the legal wording on summer born admissions right going forward, and in the meantime, parents continue in costly and stressful local battles with schools and council.
In stark contrast, parents living in areas like these, where children are not being forced to start school early or miss a year of their education, face no battles at all.
Thank you to everyone in our Summer Born Campaign group for contacting the BBC, tweeting, and commenting here with your experiences.
- Written by author and journalist Pauline Hull
Fantastic to see this important issue being discussed. My July 2012 boy will start Reception in Leeds this September. After a bit discussion with the school, the process was relatively straightforward. Although they did make me wait until June 2016 to hear which felt like an eternity.
Having seen my August 2009 daughter struggle starting Reception when she had just turned 4, I knew that I didn’t want the same outcome for my son. I just wish that I could turn back the clock and defer her entry too?
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I’m so lucky I live in an area that’s supportive of parental choice for summerborns. My daughter has just finished her first year in reception, which she started aged 5. She’s had a great start to her school career, which I’m sure wouldn’t have been the case had she started aged just 4. At that point she disliked being in large groups of children and wouldn’t talk to grownups she didn’t know, but now she has good friends and is looking forward to year 1. It saddens me that so many admissions authorities are ignoring what parents believe is best for their children, for no better reason than bureaucracy.
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I am appalled at the amount of time and money being wasted by councils fighting parents’ requests to start they children in reception at age 5.
It is unbelievable that anyone can claim that it is in a child’s best interests to start school and to be put straight into year 1- yet this is what is happening in some parts of the country.
The government needs to give clear guidance that this is unacceptable! Please stop councils from preventing parents from deciding what is best for their own children. There is no downside to starting school at 5 and going into reception. There is no upside to starting school before a child is ready or being forced to miss reception.
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So glad to hear this issue brought to the fore again. The councils who fight the parents have the most ridiculous arguments and justifications for children missing Reception and going straight into Year one.
I have a 2012 summer born who is due to start Reception at CSA this September and it is exactly the right thing for him. He will be a more settled and cooperative member of the class and is so excited for his school career as a result. We have got to get this resolved for other parents and children who haven’t the support from their area or schools to make the distinction and act in the best interests of the child.
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This issue needs to be sorted at Parliamentary level and written into law to avoid the incredibly unfair postcode lottery that exists at local authority level. We are currently in the complaints process with Kirklees council after they denied our application to start our premature summerborn twins in reception at compulsory school age. Some children just need that extra time to be emotionally and mentally ready for the rigours of school. Especially at a time of such severe austerity measures in education.
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We fell victim of the ambiguous 2014 admissions code & the resulting postcode lottery. We had a reception start at CSA agreed in a very straight forward manner by Lambeth Council, only to relocate to Leicestershire, have to apply again & have it refused (just 2 weeks before the start of the school year). We held firm, refused to send our late August born twins before CSA & with the support of our local Academy head teacher a reception start was eventually agreed.
This took months & months of research, letter & email writing, stress & head space, trying to understand the legsilation & processes. We were misled & given false information by LCC & had we not been able to educate ourselves via the SB Campaign group we would never have managed to navigate our way through. So when arguments like ‘it’s only middle class parents who can afford to do this’ are put forward I get very upset. The current system is discriminating against parents who may not have the skills or means to do the type of research & construct the type of arguments that are often required to ‘win’ a start in reception at CSA, never mind even being aware that this option exists in the first place!
This is simply unacceptable & the DfE need to do what is required to make a reception start at CSA available to ALL who want it & they need to advertise it openly as an option.
This is simply about giving children the best possible chance to thrive, at school & in their lives thereafter, any argument against this is incredibly short sighted.
I live in Essex and gaining agreement for a Reception place at CSAge was a real battle. Our initial request was refused, and our complaint was not upheld. A complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman resulted in Essex County Council agreeing to reconsider our case and we now have a Reception place offer for our child. He will be 5 years and 1 week old when he starts school in September and he is so ready this year compared to a year ago. The battle was long and extremely stressful but we have the right result for our son.
I live in London and my August 2012 son will start Reception in September aged 5. It was a straightforward process to arrange this and 100% in his best interest. We are lucky but it’s so unfair that it’s a postcode lottery. I don’t understand why the Government is stalling.
We are from South Gloucestershire and were lucky that our June 2011 boy started Reception aged 5. It was a long battle, we were drained emotionally and physically. At the end, thanks to a lot of research and help, we were allowed to start at CSA. So unfair that the system is not there for parents but most importantly for all these children who are in their right to have same years of schooling as others. Shame that it can work for someone and not the others.
So glad this issue has been highlighted. We were lucky living in a county that allows this easily. However less than a mile down th road it’s a totally different story. We still have the fear that at some point someone may try to move him up a year but we are willing to take that risk! Wish the government would just sort this out to make it fair! Parent choice!
Well done to Leeds Authority, another satisfied resident here who found a supportive school and a council that follows the policy properly, working with parents and schools for the best interests of children. It should not be a postcode lottery – other authorities should take note.
The current admissions code is vague and grossly unfair. As a result parents of Summer-born children are being forced to send them to school PRIOR to compulsory school age if they wish for them to experience reception year. A breach of primary legislation.
My local authority, Lancashire, are one of those forcing children at compulsory school age to miss Reception and go straight into year 1. My son will be forced to do this should he start at compulsory school age in September 2018. How is that in his best interests? Lancashire claim that it isn’t in his interests to miss Reception but say it will be my fault if he does. BULLYING and SHAMING parents is apparently the standard
If the school admissions code was not so vague this would not happen. A change in a few words would make the world of difference and end the postcode lottery.