School age UK

'Confusion' over summer-born school starting age

Image caption Children born in late summer can be almost a year younger than their classroom peers

Unclear admission rules mean many summer-born children in England are missing a year of education or starting school too early, campaigners claim.

The group, Flexible School Admissions for Summer Born Children, says the school starting age for summer babies has in effect become four, not five.

Under current law, children in England must be in education from the term after their fifth birthday.

But the law also allows for pupils to start school earlier.

As a result, the vast majority of children begin their education by taking up a Reception class place at the age of four.

A Department for Education spokeswoman said that admissions rules had been changed to make it easier for parents to defer entry and that schools and councils must make this clear in their admissions arrangements.


In a report, the Flexible School Admissions for Summer Born Children group says evidence suggests that children born in the summer months are not always ready for school and are more likely to face social, emotional and academic challenges.

The report claims a lack of clarity in the school admissions code means that it has been misinterpreted by many schools and councils, which are not sticking to the legislation behind it.

We want flexibility for all summer-bornsPauline Hull, Report author

Consequently, schools and councils have developed their own policies and practices, which have made it difficult for children to start school at any time other than joining Reception at age four or Year 1 the September after their fifth birthday.

"Essentially, in the process of affording parents the choice of enrolling their four-year-old children in school prior to compulsory school age, the primary education legislation that still says parents can wait until the term after their child turns five has effectively been forsaken, " the report says.

The group says it is calling on ministers to make it easier for parents to choose whether to send their summer-born child to start school at age four or in the following September after they turn five.

It should also be simpler for parents sending their child to school at age five to choose whether they join a Reception class (often seen as the final year of early years education) or Year 1 (usually seen as the first year of formal schooling).

The report claims parents who wait and send their summer baby to school at age five are usually forced to enrol their child in Year 1, missing out on the Reception year, unless they can prove that there are exceptional circumstances for their child to join the Reception classes.

The group says this should not be the case and that parents should have a choice between the two school years.

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