Summer Born Children: Should School Entry Rules Be More Flexible?

It seems there is an ever-growing concern over the psychological welfare of the ‘summer born child’ when it comes to school admissions.

You may or may not be aware that the compulsory age for starting school in the UK is actually 5, and not 4 as a lot of us believe. It is ‘common practice’ in this country for children to start in reception class in the September following their 4th birthday and, therefore, a lot of people are not aware that this is not a legal requirement.

For parents of ‘summer born’ children (May-August) this means there are options if you are concerned about starting your child ChildStudyingat school so soon after their 4th birthday.

However, for parents who do decide to start their child at age 5, that child would usually go straight in to year 1 and miss out reception class completely.

But now, a growing body of parents with children barely out of nappies and yet expected to enter full time education are coming together to campaign for improved access to what they believe to be more appropriate school entry rules for their children. They are fighting for their children to be allowed to start at age 5 in reception class, with the feeling that this is an important school year, not to be skipped.

It’s not that these parents are against schools, or the teachers who work in them In fact, there is no doubt that the majority of these teachers work more hours than they are paid to do, go above and beyond the call of duty, and want only the best for the children in their care. The concern of these parents is not about schools or teachers.

And it’s not about the argument that these summer born babies will academically catch up within a year or 2. In most cases this is true, teachers can give us first hand evidence.

It is more about the idea that when you have only just turned 4 years of age, life should be about climbing trees, jumping in muddy puddles, eating worms! Instead, these four year olds can find themselves being forced into an education system, which is just too rigid for some children at that age.

Of course, reception class is supposed to be mostly play based, with only short periods of being required to concentrate. However, this does vary from school to school. It has been noted that some schools, especially those in poorer areas, whose outcomes for pupils leaving at year 6 for high school are lower, will crank up the pressure to attain targets right from the start in an effort to improve levels of attainment later on.

Research suggests that too much focus on attaining targets at such a young age can be detrimental. Children as young as 4 are Problems-at-school-2-300x199now being tested, and in some cases, streamed into ability groups. While the intention of this practice by the schools is to tailor teaching needs to pupils; is the outcome of carrying it out at such a young age more likely to be that those placed in lower ability groups feel failure and learn to expect less of themselves?

So, the current concern is the question of whether these summer born children would benefit from a more flexible system for school entry. A system whereby parents are able to decide whether their child is ‘school-ready’, and yet not miss out on that all important reception year if they decide to delay.

With all that is expected from a child at school, even in reception class, it seems so important that the child is psychologically and socially ready.

In the end the decision as to whether a child will be permitted to enter reception at age 5 lies with both the local council and the individual school. And it appears that this is a request being made to them increasingly. And why not? Why should these parents not be fighting for what they feel is in the best interests of their young child?

Maybe if the pressure increases, school entry will become more flexible, and later school entry more easily accessible for these “summer born’ children. Until then, their parents will continue to fight for their child’s right to a better chance of a fulfilling and enjoyable education.




This article has 4 Comments

  1. A well written article. I agree that I think many parents are unaware that they have any option other than to start school full time in the September after their child has turned 4.

    Summer born children (defined in legislation as those born 1st April to 31st August) are disadvantaged from day one and parents are often told if they wait until CSAge they will enter school in year one, assuming there are any places left in their preferred schools by that time!

    There needs to be an assumption of fair abs equal access to reception places at CSAge if that is what the patent wishes for. Even if their reason is ‘only’ that they are too young at just turned 4!

    1. Thank you for your positive comments. I do think parents deserve the right to be fully informed when deciding what is right for their child. As you say, many parents seem to be unaware of the options and I think that is something that needs to be addressed. Hopefully, with the increase in concern and publicity over this subject, more and more parents will realise that they do have choices.

  2. So many parents of summer born children, those born 1st April (not May) to 31st August are battling for the right to send their children to reception class when they reach compulsory school age. For these parents it is not about the academic achievements of their children or whether a school can differentiate the curriculum for the youngest children but as the article suggests it about letting children be children. Children have the right to play and discover through play, a formal education at such an early age is not what these parents want for their children. This article highlights many of the issues faced by parents of summer born children. We are indeed fighting for the rights of our young children and yes, it should be parents that decide, not LEA’s or Head Teachers.

    1. Thank you for taking the time to leave your comment. You are of course correct, summer born children are indeed those born April to August and I apologise for the mistake. It sounds as though you may be currently going through this fight yourself and if so I wish you all the best for a positive outcome.

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