Following years of complaints from parents of summer born children, the Local Government & Social Care Ombudsman has published new ‘Guidance for practitioners‘.
Unfortunately, the LGO supports the practice of parents applying one year early, for a school place they do not want, so that admissions authorities can make a decision about which year group their 3 year-old summer born child should enter when they turn 5.
This additional layer of bureaucracy was recommended in the DfE’s 2014 (non-statutory) Advice on the admission of summer born children, but it does not appear in the 2014 (statutory) School Admissions Code, contrary to the LGO’s inaccurate assertion (see bold below).
The LGO discounts the 2015 (and subsequent) assurances made by MP Nick Gibb about decisions resting with parents, and children not having to miss their Reception class year, because no concerted action has been taken:
“There was a Ministerial statement by the Minister of State for Schools, in 2015, setting out his intention to amend the Code so that summer born children could automatically be admitted to reception at age five where parents or guardians want this. The Minister has since reconfirmed his commitment to making the change when Parliamentary time allows; but this has not yet happened, so cannot form part of our considerations.”
Instead, it focuses on this, from the DfE’s 2014 advice:
The LGO says:
“Parents or guardians can decide to wait until their child reaches compulsory school age (CSA) before they start school. That is their decision to make and not one the admission authority can overrule.
“Parents or guardians should be able to make this decision knowing which school year (reception or year one) the admission authority considers it would be in the child’s best interest to start, should they decide not to send their child to school until the September after their fifth birthday. This means that the admission authority is obliged to inform them of this when they apply for their four year old child to be admitted out of their normal age group, even if they are not intending to have their child actually admitted until they reach CSA.
“Decision letters should clearly set out how the admission authority made its decision, including how it had regard to any evidence provided by the parents or guardians. We recognise this is a difficult decision, more than one year in advance, but that is the test required by the Code and guidance.”
No, the School Admissions Code DOES NOT require that this decision and/or letter is made or communicated more than one year in advance; it is non-statutory advice only.
The LGO continues:
“The authority can decide it is in a child’s best interests to start with their normal school age in year one, missing reception – each case must be decided on its merits. To do so it would need to explain this decision with reference to any support available within the school.
“Once parents or guardians know the outcome of this decision they can choose whether to send their child to school earlier, before reaching compulsory school age, or wait until reaching compulsory school age.”
The Summer Born Campaign is very disappointed to see the LGO supporting this stance, with no mention at all of the excellent support being given by admission authorities that process Reception class applications for summer born children without battling parents, and without threatening a missed year of school (perhaps because the LGO does not receive complaint correspondence from parents in these cases).
To repeat, the LGO’s view concludes, even where Year 1 entry is decided:
“Once parents or guardians know the outcome of this decision they can choose whether to send their child to school earlier, before reaching compulsory school age, or wait until reaching compulsory school age.“
This is a Hobson’s choice if ever there was one, and admissions authorities know it.
And so it remains as 2018 draws to an end –
despite evidence that missing the first year of school is detrimental, and still no statement from the DfE (or the LGO here) outlining circumstances in which it would be in a child’s best interests to miss their first, or subsequent, year of school,
– 4 years after the (worse than 2012) School Admissions Code widened disparities for summer born children, the admissions postcode lottery looks set to continue.
- Written by author and journalist Pauline Hull
A very Lilly liveried response from the LGO. Discounting the government’s stated intentions upfront does not appear a balanced way of proceeding.
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This is not progressing as it should be and was implied in 2015
The wording is unfavourable and gives local authorities the chance to have parents come up with developmental issues etc rather than focus on the summerborn issue!
As with all legislation changes which aren’t a popularity draw for politicians, the progress is slow and not good enough for the children who are failed by the current system. It’s too late for some of the children who are forced into school too soon but it’s important that the parents who’s children are yet to begin make their stance clear and heard by many. Only then will more people become confident to fight for their summerborn children to start school when they are ready.
This weak and uncertain state of affairs does not help anyone, least of all our children who just need the best chance to thrive at school. This is bureaucracy over common sense – again!
I think a lot of local authorities will use this guidance to their advantage as it explains exactly what they need to do to justify saying no to a reception start. Also they seem to acknowledge that it’s difficult to make a decision so far in advance but still support that stance (and yet have upheld a complaint by a parent who didn’t) – so many contradictions. We can only hope those points are aimed at the DfE and they take steps to change that soon. What I would say to anyone who finds themselves in a situation where support is offered in Y1 rather than a reception start (when their child doesn’t have additional needs) is familiarise yourself with SEND legislation as that’s what it amounts to. Children with actual SEND are struggling to have the support they need funded so I don’t see how they can justify using resources in this way rather than allowing a summer born access reception at CSA.
This is not really changing anything. No clarity
and still too much room for interpretation for
the LA. Disappointed yet again.
On Page 1 of the LGO Guidance it refers to why a parent might request Reception at CSA “This may be because the parent has concerns about the child’s development, particularly for example where the child was born very prematurely” this continues to mislead Councils down the road of looking for ‘development’ issues when Section 2.17A of The Schoool Admissions Code 2014 states that “Admission authorities must make decisions on the basis of the
circumstances of each case and in the best interests of the child concerned. This will include taking account of the parent’s views; information about the child’s academic, social and emotional development; where relevant, their medical history and the views of a medical professional” it then goes on to list other areas to take into account. The Code does NOT require summer born children to have either prematurity or development issues in order to request a Reception start at CSA, so the LGO Guidance is flawed and contrary to the legal requirements of the School Admissions Code.
I struggle to understand why it’s STILL not entirely up to parents, we know our children best. If I believe my summer born child should start reception at csa then how can LA say no, they can’t possibly know what’s in my child’s best interests.