BBC report – Summer baby school delays: Parents face postcode lottery

SB picParents who want to delay their child’s first year of school have varying success rates depending on where they live, a BBC investigation has found.

The Summer Born Campaign’s Rosie Dutton is quoted in the BBC’s article:

It has been over three years since that letter was released by Nick Gibb, and in those three years many children have been forced to miss reception or start school before their parents wanted them to.

We really need this legislation published quickly.

The BBC reports that a DfE spokesperson “suggested the majority of requests for delayed admissions were being agreed in line with parents’ wishes.

Rosie is also talking on these radio stations, and others, today (scheduled times):

BBC Shropshire (7.08am)
BBC Hereford and Worcestershire (7.20am)
BBC West Midlands (7.30am)
BBC Berkshire (7.40am)
BBC Coventry and Warwickshire (8.08am)
BBC Cornwall (8.20am)

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80 Responses to BBC report – Summer baby school delays: Parents face postcode lottery

  1. E R says:

    The postcode lottery for csa starts in reception is ridiculous. For those of us in local authorities who are against a child starting in reception at 5, the time and stress spent battling is horrid and still often unsuccessful. My son has been refused a reception start when he starts school next year, with the council refusing to give any reason why a year one start would be in his best interests (they have actually acknowledged the importance of reception to us, but it appears not for children waiting until csa to begin schooling).


  2. Suzanne Moon says:

    It is still do sad that parents in some areas have such a hard fight to start their children in reception at CSA. Really do not understand why the UK seem to want our children to start school so early. Especially when lots of other countries do not start formal learning until age 7.
    How can it be good for children to start school a whole year younger than their peers? How can that be of any benefit to them? It’s heartbreaking to listen to them saying what their peers can do, learning wise, and they are not able to be at the same level.
    It should be much easier by now for children to start school in reception at CSA if parents wish, when they are at a much better development stage to be able to learn in a school environment.


  3. Sarah says:

    The whole process just blows my mind. When there is so much evidence to show the detriment of being a summer born as well as them having lower expectations set for them, why does there even have to be a discussion. Such a waste of time and, from what I can see, for no good reason. Why fight it?!


  4. Kelly LINDLEY says:

    The postcode lottery needs to end. Why should it be ridiculously difficult in one area for our children to start reception class at CSA in one area where in other areas there is no problem. Those of us who want our child to start at CSA simply want our children to flourish and not have to ‘cope’ with being placed in education at such a young age; which can lead to well- documented negative consequences.


  5. Good luck to all that have been involved in the article release and interviews. Great to see the campaign back in the media spotlight.


  6. The challenge parents of summer borns are faced with isn’t just getting getting approval to start their children in reception aged 5, they are also threatened with the potential prospect of their children having to skip year 7. Surely that can’t be in the best interest of any child – a child should have the guarantee to stay in their adopted year group for the whole of their education!


  7. Rachel Burnell says:

    My August 2012 daughter was fortunate enough to start reception at CSA. It was in her best interests at the time. What would not be in her best interests would be to miss a year of her education at transfer to junior or secondary school. At the minute there is no guarantee this will not happen. The school admission code needs amending to safeguard against this and stop the current postcode lottery. If this was health care and access to a drug it would not t be allowed, why is it permissable in education?


  8. Beverley says:

    The best educational interests of summer born children should not be influenced by where they live. Parents should not have to face a huge, stressful battle to ensure their child gets the best school start possible


  9. audreyjm says:

    This is such an important issue, and so many people don’t even know it’s a possibility! We’re lucky we live in Sheffield and it was fairly easy for us, but it should be an automatic right for all parents of summerborn children.


  10. Alison nevin says:

    Parents should have the right to decide what is best for their child. 4 us too young to start formal education which is why more and more children are being labelled with special needs buy are actually just too young for school.

    I have been a lucky one and secured a CSA start for my Aug 25th daughter. We are enjoying this year playing and being 4.


  11. Sarah Edwards says:

    I have an August-born child and I believe it will be in her best interest to begin reception when she’s just turned 5, as opposed to only being just 4. Though I have seen this possible in some areas of the country, we are unsure whether our request will yet be granted, which is not only a stressful process to have to go through, but one that is unfair on the children who are refused simply because of where they live. Let’s standardise the process of admissions for summer born children and allow their parents a simple and accepted choice as to when they begin their education. No child should have to miss a whole year of education or be forced to begin before they’re ready.


  12. Stefanie Wallbank says:

    I got 2 Summer born children. both born 24th August just one in 2004 and one in 2016. Sadly my first born never coped. he had lots of problems all through out. He caught up with peers but mentally he never did and it carried on all through his life as he could never really connect to his peers. He has got work expirience comming up and as he would like to be a vet he is trying to work with animals but so far no luck as everyone says he is too young having just turned 14 when others have turned 15 already. I am scared now for my 2 year old that the same will happen to her and will try anything to protect her from it! Quick chat to the head teacher of my other childrens school and he was not a fan of it at all and said he doesn’t think it should be a choice.


  13. Sam says:

    My 9 weeks premature, July- born twins should be at school now. But they are going next year instead. It is absolutely the right decision for them, they would have struggled so much this year and are instead enjoying preschool and play right now.

    We are the lucky ones, where the schools and local authority agreed. It’s so very unfair that in other areas our children would have been forced to start this year (at technically still 3 years old) or miss reception class all together.

    The summerborn issue is crying out for a fair and standard procedure. Too much is left ‘at the discretion of…’


  14. Lisa says:

    I have secured CSA reception starts for both my July born children with simply an email and chat to the head. I am a follower of the campaign and I see the agony some parents are put through and the offensive and inconsistent arguments put forward by schools and local authorities. Before I sent my son to school at 5 rather than 4 I would have probably told them it’s not worth a battle – but do you know what – it is! It has made an immeasurable difference to him and it is ridiculous and unfair there is such huge inconsistency across the country. Allow kids to be sent to school when they are ready – it’s a win for everyone surely?!


  15. Sara Santiano says:

    In our area, only one school is currently accepting Summer born in Reception at Compulsory school age; the other four schools refuse point blank even to consider requests. My son was lucky because we are in the catchment of that one school, but other parents who want to send their Summer born children at CSA will have to face the unfair choice of sending them to Reception at 4 or having them pushed straight into Y1 at 5. This postcode lottery needs to end as soon as possible. Let’s not forget that, according to the KS1 SATs national results tables, 30-35% of Summer born children fail to meet the expected standards in writing, reading and maths.


  16. Emma says:

    This is such an appalling system where one council can reject an application and the neighbouring council accepts it!


  17. I was lucky enough to secure a CSA start in a notoriously difficult LA purely because my twins were born 9 weeks early and into the wrong year. It’s been fantastic for them but I am nervous about what will happen when we are ready to transition to secondary schools. They may be forced to miss a year – how can that be in their best interests??


  18. Katherine says:

    Three years of more children being forced to start school early or miss reception, just because they live in an area where the council prizes bureaucratic neatness over the needs of children. And all we hear from the Minister is that the promised consultation and changes will happen “in due course” or “at the appropriate time”. The appropriate time is now, to avoid failing another year of children.


  19. Raymond Clements says:

    The massive inconsistency across postcodes in applying policy is shocking and extremely frustrating. We border 3 authorities and potentially can apply to schools in all 3 boroughs. They all have very different approaches to compulsory school age (csa) into reception. There should be one system for parents irrespective of where they live. Being ‘summer born’ as per the admissions code doesn’t seem to be enough, evidence is required, which shouldn’t be if policy is followed correctly. The amount of times we have been told we are wrong about being able to do this from professionals who we have sought evidence from is disappointing, The departments suppossedly available to support this policy don’t seem to know any of the details of it’s implementation which includes the 0-5 health visiting team, school nurseries and schools themselves. This policy needs to be disseminated much better and support parents in being able to make decisions which are in the best interests of their child.


  20. Kim says:

    Tired children. Crying children. Afterschool meltdown. After school tuition in primary school. Hating school. Hating learning.
    This is the norm for so many 4 and 5 year olds in this country because it’s simply too early!
    More advanced countries start age 7. Happier children. Better results. Need I say more?
    More and more parents home ed, flexi school or unschool. Is this really a surprise when the education system in this country is shutting ears and eyes not just to parents but also global research?
    Summer born children should not be forced to go to school early or forced to miss out on a year of education.


  21. Elizabeth Singleton says:

    I live in an area where we are at the mercy of a local authority who do not approve CSA Reception starts. In correspondence they have stated that they do not approve of out of year requests, unless the child has medical/ learning difficulties.
    Our daughter is a late summer 2015 baby so we need to apply in this admissions round. We are still awaiting for the law to change so that all summerborn children have the right to a fair and equal start at school.


  22. J Fisher says:

    A summer born child should never be forced to miss a year of school when it is in their best interests to start at compulsory school age (CSA). Whilst I was fortunate enough to be able to start my August-born son in a reception class at CSA, I know that there are many children who lose out on this right, purely down to difficult local admissions authorities. This postcode lottery has to end; a clear and transparent stance from the government is required on the admission of summer borns, ASAP.


  23. Rachel says:

    Four is just too young for some children to start school. They are not ready, they may survive but they won’t thrive.


  24. Sam Silvey says:

    I do not understand why it is taking so long to send a formal guidance to schools regarding the Summerborn Reception start.
    Parents should easily be able to make the choice of having a CSA start for their child without having to face missing a year of school.
    It is still very much a postcode lottery in Essex. I am in Billericay where all schools will not even consider a CSA start at reception. You can’t help but feel that the schools have decided together that this will not happen in our town!
    Come on Nick Gibb, get this moving, why should parents who know their child best have to spend so much time and have so much stress trying to give their child the best start.


  25. Carol Davies says:

    Our youngest (William) started school in September in reception at compulsory school age aged 5 years and 4 months. We’re in Shropshire. In the county 14 children have been defered this year and 31 will start at CSA next September so word is spreading whivh is great! At parents evening last night, Will’s teacher said that we’d definitely done the right thing in letting him start school that bit older. Not all children will need to defer their school start date, but for those that do it’s great that Shropshire Council are being conciderate and allowing parents to have their say on when their child starts school. Unfortunately it’s still a postcode lottery as to whether children in some parts of the country will have the same choices, hopefully something will be done about this sooner than later.


  26. Jennifer Hall says:

    Parents must be trusted to know what is right for their four year olds. No child should ever be forced to miss reception and go straight into year 1. This can never be in their ‘best interests’. Three years ago, parents were promised a change to this post code lottery for summer borns. Still waiting.


  27. Laura bradshaw says:

    Our son was supposed to be born in September, unfortunately I developed obstertic colistatisis and had to be induced, Induction failed and c section was necessary

    Due to this out son falls in the 2019 school start, where he would have just turned 4 while his peers are turning 5. He will be a whole years behind cognitively, physically and emotionally.

    He would miss out on the year of play, being a 4 year old and having more time to grow, develop ect.

    The concern isnt just for the reception year but at age 5 when the other kids started reception year he would start year one where formal education begins where he would be expected to have more structure, and be emotionally ready for things he is not…

    Many countries with far exceeding education systems do not start their children at school until 6, I’m not suggesting this but considering this 4 is so very young.

    We live in Nottingham city and they have what is basically a blanket no policy they rarely consider based on the individual child as they are supposed to per the dfe admissions code.
    Their reasons for saying no are often ridiculous such as they may go through puberty earlier than the other .. some of these children miss the next year by hours or days…. It’s so unbelievable this is being used as an excuse…

    Nottingham county council however do go on the best interests of the child but though we have a yes for out of normal age start with their schools we are less likely to get into their schools as we do not live in the council catchment….

    We face possibly having to move house if we can scrape the money together… though it may not be possible…

    If we don’t get a school on our list of mostly notts county schools we are allocated at random city one which as stands they could force our child to skip reception year and go into year one, missing all the vital reception development and forcing a 5 year old to be ready for structured education when they are not cognitively, emotionally and physically ready and haven’t had the slow introduction of reception.

    It’s not fair that it’s a postcode lottery LAs , academy’s and , va/independent schools are in control of our children’s futures and because they want an easier system or refuse to tonthe research or just don’t want it they are forcing parents to send their children to school at 4 or miss reception and go into year one at 5… this is not in the child’s best interest…


  28. Pamela Radford says:

    While there are ‘clear guidelines’ some local authorities choose to ignore them and are not held to account for this. We were told ‘it’s not statutory so we don’t need to apply it’. Clear legislation is essential to ensure all children get the best start at school when it is the right time for them to start.

    Liked by 1 person

  29. Hannah says:

    We have been lucky enough to have a CSA reception start and my little boy is really enjoying school and managing ok. He had settled much more quickly than if he had been forced to go last year. We did what was in our son’s best interests and what was right for him. It is worrying that we will have to apply again to keep him in his adopted cohort as someone may deem it is in his best interests to miss a whole year of secondary school.


  30. I’ve found schools give differing options depending on the Head teacher or governors stance. How can this be fair? As a primary teacher I have delayed my son’s start in Reception until CSA. I have no cause for concern with him, but he was not looking forward to starting school and gets very tired. I think we start school too young and it isn’t long before expectations are put on them, and I know and have seen the Curriculum expectations increase and did not want my son to struggle. He now has another year of play and development to enjoy and will be ready for school next year.


  31. Mrs M says:

    This is so important – children who are ready to learn enjoy it. Why push them into education far too early. This is a decision that should be the parents! It does not make sense to let random council office workers or head teachers who don’t know the children decide this. I am currently fighting for my summer born daughter to start reception at CSA and the decision will be make by the head teachers in each individual school. Apparently her best interest can vary from school to school – it makes no sense! It shouldn’t be a fight, why should she risk missing a year of education because she will be starting school when the law requires her to? It is time the government followed though on this and changed the law to makes this a parents choice. Children across the country should have the same opportunities! Ending this post code lottery is long overdue. Education policy should be based on evidence and not be used as a political points scoring opportunity and random changes to suit political egos.


  32. Suzanne Cooper says:

    We are in the process of delaying our summerborn daughter. Just 4 years old is just too young for the start of formal education. But the process would be so much easier if everyone was treated the same. It shouldn’t even be an issue, how can there be a downside for allowing a child an extra year to grow and develop. The evidence is there in years of research.


  33. Dawn Lambert says:

    We are lucky enough to live in Hampshire so have a CSA reception start agreed my end of August son. However we have no guarantee he won’t be forced to miss a year further down the line. The fact that postcode lottery and child’s education can even be in the same sentence in the UK in 2018 is an abomination. It needs to be consistent nationwide.


  34. Lois Palmer says:

    This is a ‘hidden’ yet pressing issue. Such unnecessary stress for countless parents and, perhaps more importantly, their children! Many parents start the battle when their child is just 3 and are forced to fight it for the next two years. This whole issue must be addressed!


  35. jeanette marr says:

    I was fortunate enough to secure a CSA start for my 10 week prem twins. They are now in year 4 and are thriving even with the additional health issues that they faced in their first 3 years of school. Our local council are now approving more requests from prem families and those with additional needs, but not from those summer borns that are still maturing. I have witnessed the treatment of these children by teachers, other children and parents. Trying to get them to ‘catch up’ to children more mature and able to take on the learning required. Please look at ending this postcode lottery and act in the best interest of the child.

    We are on the border of two councils. Our closest secondary school is in another borough and we will now have to work with them to protect my daughters status, to remain in their year group.


  36. Jo says:

    I feel so lucky to live in an area with schools under Hampshire County Council, who made it straightforward to get a reception start at CSA for my August 2014 born. When moving house earlier this year, I was well aware that just down the road in Southampton we would have had a battle on our hands, as our agreement would not count there, so made sure to avoid houses in this area.

    It is grossly unfair that due to the government’s failure to legislate on this issue, the postcode lottery remains. Despite their proposals made three years ago, some children still face a barrier to accessing the vital reception year simply because they start school at the legally required age and not early.


  37. Sara keeping says:

    My daughter was born 11th August, due to start school sep 2019.
    She does not yet speak, the headteacher verbally agreed that she could start sep 2020 (just after she turns 5)
    I went to get the forms Signed and she changed her mind, I am so upset, I will continue I fight but without the school support, it is hard!
    I don’t know where to turn to now, I called the county council schools admissions and the person I spoke to had no idea, so where do I go to for help and advise about what steps to take next?
    Small Dorset village primary school


  38. Angela Wheeldon says:

    I am pleased that the school we are planning to send my son to has agreed to honour the local authority’s prior decision to let my son start in Reception at CSA (as it has now converted to an academy) – it shouldn’t be this hard, it should be simple! I am also fortunate to live on the edge of that local authority, as the local authority we do live in generally says no!


  39. Andrea says:

    I only had to ask for a Reception start at Compulsory School Age for my son and I was allowed. Furthermore it is stated that he will remain with his adopted cohort throughout his education. It is wrong that some parents are having to struggle and that some Local Ecucation Authorities are ignoring what is in the best interests of the child.

    There are plenty of studies which clearly show that summerborn children (especially boys) struggle, and this summer born effect carries on throughout their schooling. LEAs should trust parents to make the right decision for their child.


  40. Karen Runyan says:

    Our six nearest schools are academies or faith schools. All of them said a blanket “no” to allowing our summer born daughter to start Reception at CSA, despite the LA schools in Hertfordshire allowing it. We both work so can’t manage the logistics of a further away school and we were too afraid of the consequences to her mental health and level of readiness if she were forced to miss Reception and start straight into Year 1 so we reluctantly sent her to Reception just after she turned 4. She’s now in Year 1 and the pressures are intense. She sobbed every evening for the first term of Reception and she’s done the same in Year 1. It breaks my heart.


  41. Jennie Blake says:

    Manchester is still actively barring parents from starting their children at the LEGAL school start age. We are being forced to either miss a year of development or a year of school. How is this equitable access to Early Years curriculum? We need change now, and we need ALL children to have the opportunity to access the full years of school from compulsory school age.


  42. Penny harris says:

    My August 2013 boy started Reception this year at age 5 and a week.
    We are in Kineton Warwickshire
    Getting his deferral was easy the only hardship was I had to do a paper application


  43. Witheld says:

    We successfully started my son at CSA in line with his best interests. Very supportive head. In the next village our Ward Councillor had to get involved because the head there wouldn’t support any applications on principle. And that’s a tiny example of where parents know they want it. More broadly our local authority has a very negative leaflet sent to all playgroup’s about why you wouldn’t want to do it, yet seemingly agrees most applications that actually come in (B&NES). So how about the very many families who don’t know what genuine and transformative benefits the extra pre school year brings and don’t have the confidence to ‘go up against the council’ given their leaflet and even if they did, don’t have the bandwidth or skills to write the letter needed about why it is in their child’s best interests. The whole thing is a postcode lottery and a mess.


  44. Lucy says:

    Every child should go to school the term after their 5th Birthday and any younger should be nursery. All this faffing reception at 4 year 1 at 5 what’s the bloody point. Just send them all at 5 and that’s it, how hard was that? What evidence is there that says that its in a child’s best interests to start school at the age of 4 anyway. We really need to get our education system in check as we’re working from outdated principles and slipping back into world war 2 school systems, kids are suffering more now from stress depression and performance anxiety than ever before, there’s the biggest clue that you need that the system is fatally floored and needs to be massively overhauled. 21st century and we are still arguing the toss about a child thrust into full time education at the age of 4 or 5. One rule for the great unwashed and another set of rules for those who are able to pay to have their own way. Sorry state of affairs.


  45. Victoria Dunstan says:

    My daughter was born 31st August 2016 (due in September). We will be asking for a csa start in reception. I am so worried and stressed my local authority will say no and then she will have to miss reception year. MPs please help us we need this postcode lottery to end. Some authorities are making us fight and still declining us this deferral.


  46. Ayshea Siddall says:

    I had a battle with Sheffield council to get my youngest to start in Reception at 5. After several months they declared it wasn’t up to them because my local school was an Academy, the council had known all along which my catchment school was. But even though the school is an Academy they were still going to follow the council and because they had said No they were going to say No too. Eventually I complained to the council and they agreed Reception at CSA and therefore so did the local Academy. I know of others in Sheffield who got a Yes without any difficulty yet it took months and several emails to get it agreed for my youngest. Even a single council don’t seem to treat everyone the same.

    Although it was agreed and my eldest is due to start Reception next year I worry that they will make him catch up a year. It was mentioned in meeting about him going from Reception to Y2. So even if you get a Reception at CSA the school can make a child skip a year just to be in their “correct cohort”.


  47. Julie Spinks says:

    Due to the success of both my boys starting school at CSA in reception, after some initial resistance by the school, the Head teacher of our school now encourages any child that needs a CSA start , as it not only supports the child it also supports the teachers and rest of the class. An emotionally ready child is focused and ready to learn. Schools nearby are now allowing the same as it benefits everyone. Luckily we have a supportive school and LEA but others do not, this is wrong and it needs to be in the best interest of the child to allow a CSA start in reception should they need it. This Postcode lottery has to end.


  48. Pamela Mills says:

    The majority of admission authorities are NOT agreeing requests for summer born children to start Reception at compulsory school age rather than just turned 4 and many parents face a huge and time consuming battle to get agreement. This should not be required and children should not suffer when they are just not ready to start formal schooling. Endless studies show the damages of starting formal schooling too early. There are no studies showing benefits to starting school too early. In countries such as Finland where they wait until 7, their children are ahead of ours by age 12, and much happier with a mere fraction of the mental health issues such as depression and anxiety affecting countless school children in the U.K. some as young as 4.


  49. Sarah Behenna says:

    My son was born 10 weeks prematurely, so instead of being born in October he was born in July. Some schools in the same local authority (Bristol) had no issue in him starting school at CSA in reception but some fought tooth and nail against us and his paediatrition’s advice that he should be treated as if he had been born in October. Our local authority only agree to a CSA reception start if the head of each individual school you’re applying to agrees with you in writing first, even for exceptional circumstances such as ours. I can only imagine how difficult it must be for some whose child is ‘only’ summer born to get agreement for a CSA reception start. Yet some local authorities agree all requests, and some like Bristol vary within a local authority. Such a postcode lottery and it’s odd how the same legislation from the Department of Education can be interpreted so differently.


    • Adriana says:

      There is so much research to say that summer born are disadvantaged academically when they start at 4 but still there are schools that do not care about this. Dfeducation published lots of papers to explained this, however it’s sad that this is a post code lottery at our children’s expense. The law needs to change ASAP to stop this


  50. Caroline says:

    This campaign deserves to be back in the spotlight. The postcode lottery is ridiculous and unfair. Parents want their child to thrive and not ‘cope’, how it can be any child’s best interests to miss the fundamental foundation year of reception is completely beyond me.


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