An exchange between Stephen Hammond MP and Schools Minister Nick Gibb, during a House of Commons debate on Monday, highlighted their shared concern that flexibility for summer born children entering school Reception class at CSAge might have “unintended consequences”.
From evidence seen in the Summer Born Campaign‘s group of 13,000 parents and educators, the main problems experienced since Mr. Gibb’s 2015 promise have been a continued postcode lottery, children being made to miss a year of school (or threatened with this), and some parents finding out about CSAge law and admissions flexibility only after their child is already having difficulties in school (communication and information is not reaching everyone).
The beneficial consequences have been considerable, for children, teachers and schools.
During the debate, Mr. Hammond requested a meeting with Mr. Gibb to discuss “unintended consequences”, and though this meeting was neither confirmed nor denied, Mr. Gibb replied that while the government is “committed to making the necessary changes to allow children to start reception at age five where this is what parents want”, it also believes “this will not be right for all children; the majority will do well in reception at age four, and the Government are therefore giving careful consideration to how we will make these changes in a way that avoids unintended consequences.”
Neither minister elaborated further on what they considered these consequences to be, but concern about cost is an issue that has been raised in the past.
Meanwhile, Lucy Powell MP argued that “the best way to get all students, even those who are summer-born, ready for school is proper investment in the early years”.
However, while funding and support in the early years is beneficial, even the best pre-school experience cannot accelerate natural cognitive development or readiness, and for many summer born children, the valuable difference between age 5 and age 4 entry to school (or age 6 versus age 5 beginning Year 1, and age 12 versus age 11 entering secondary school) is simply a matter of time, not teaching.
- To read in full what was said in Monday’s debate, see Hansard HC Deb, 9 September 2019, c485.
- Written by author and journalist Pauline Hull