The Office of the Schools Adjudicator determination can be read in full here.
In brief, the “objection refers specifically to explanatory note 16.9 in the arrangements which says that:
• there is an “expectation” that, where parents of summer born children decide not to
apply for a school place until their child reaches compulsory school age, the child will start school in Year 1; and
• “substantial and exceptional evidence” is required to be provided by parents who
delay entry for a year and then make an application for their child to start school in
The council’s admissions arrangements said:
“If the child’s 5th birthday is between April and August then they must start school no
later than the following September. The expectation would be that parents have
decided that the child will miss the full Reception Year and they would have to apply for a Year 1 place. Requests for a full year deferral with a retained Reception start will be considered individually. Parents would be expected to provide substantial and exceptional evidence of the need for this to happen (personal views and reference to national research will not suffice).”
The adverse impact of the section in bold is twofold.
First, it is not in the child’s best interests to miss their first year of school, against their parents’ wishes.
Second, applying for a Year 1 place is very different to applying for a Reception place in the normal school entry admissions process. Parents know this, and can feel under pressure to enrol their summer born child in school early in case there is no place available in Year 1.
Journalist David Spereall’s has reported on the case in the Wakefield Express today:
School system a ‘postcode lottery’, parents say, after Wakefield Council policy found to be ‘misleading’
He quotes Andy Lancashire, the council’s director for education and inclusion, who said:
“We accept the view of the Schools’ Adjudicator that some of the language used to explain the council’s policy on schools admissions for summer born children may have been unclear and we apologise for any confusion this may have caused.
“We are amending the wording to clarify our position.
“Our policy remains the same – all parents have the right to apply for their summer born children to start school a year later, if they feel this is in the best interests of the child.”
So an apology for lack of clarity, but a policy that remains the same.
Only time will tell whether the Adjudicator’s determination means summer born children starting school in Wakefield at CSAge will now be able to join Reception class instead of Year 1, without any issues.
- Pauline Hull, author and journalist