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Monday, 14 September 2015 19:22

Summer Born Children

Mr Nick Gibb, Government Schools Minister, sent out a Consultation document last week proposing the admission of summer born children to Reception Year in September of the following year if their parents wish this, allowing such children to stay in that year group as they progress through school. Initially, this may sound a great idea and would be welcomed by many parents who have been pressing for the change.

There is clear evidence that summer born children are currently academically disadvantaged against their older peers in the same classroom, so this will help many of those who take up this opportunity if it is approved. Unfortunately it sees them replaced at the bottom of the heap by two other groups of children who would then be the most disadvantaged, so no net gain, as well as introducing a complex structure that could be a nightmare to administer at a time in an area like Kent, as pressure on places at popular primary schools becomes ever fiercer.

Currently Kent County Council has a very sensible policy placing the needs of the child, which are often medical, at the fore and this article goes on to look at the current situation and possible scenarios, although I recognise it will be highly unpopular with those parents fighting for their own children’s benefit, as of course they should....

The new Disadvantaged Children
It is all very well arguing, as Mr Gibb does, that only a small proportion of children wish to take advantage of the current regulations but it is inevitable that if the rules change, a much higher number will wish to take advantage of it, predominantly from those who can afford to keep their children at home or in nursery for an additional year. They then become oldest in the class. For those who remain in the proper age group, the youngest will now be joined by children up to 17 months older, a key point I made on BBC SE this evening. This younger group would then become even more relatively disadvantaged, not only educationally but socially. The statistically poorer academic results they would achieve become even worse.

Whatever scheme is introduced, there will always be youngest children in the class who are disadvantaged in examinations and the other factors that have been highlighted in many arguments. If it is not to be those born between April 1st and August 31st, then it will devolve onto children born between Christmas and March 31st to take on this burden if the former begin in a later year.

There is no solution by changing age of admission to Reception class that is fair to everyone, but the current proposal would certainly increase social inequality, although it will be very popular with those willing and able to go down this path and to the advantage of their children.....

Kent County Council Current Policy
The process for requesting an out of year group admission in Kent is that  families approach their preferred schools and seek their agreement to accept the application. KCC would expect Head Teachers to agree to an out of year group application where it was in the child's best interests. Once at least one school has agreed to accept the application then (KCC issues a letter confirming that where it is the Admission Authority) the child will be considered on an equal basis with other children applying for admission the following year. The parent is then able to apply for that school (and others which agree) through the main application round for the appropriate year of entry.

This contains no guarantee of a place at that school, for this would be unfair on other children applying, although it already has the effect of reducing the number of places available to them. If in the meantime the school has become an academy, then the letter would have no validity as KCC would no longer be the Admission Authority. Each Academy can adopt its own policy.

A classic example where delay is unequivocally in the interests of the child, would be a premature birth followed by significant delay in development although even here, there is no guarantee of a place at the specified school. KCC records that “Please note however, that all the information provided above is based on applications to mainstream schools for children who are not subject to a Statement of Special Educational Needs or an Education, Health and Care Plan. Children who are subject to a statement or plan would not go through the main admissions round and their admission to school would be handled by the Special Educational Needs Team”, so a number of such children’s issues would be resolved in this way.

KCC has not kept historical records of previous cases, but is aware of one child admitted on this basis in September 2014, the number rising to seven this September.

Currently also, some parents make a unilateral decision to delay their child’s admission to school by a year, but will then have to find a place in Year One, both having missed out on the all-important Reception class, but also fighting to secure a place in what is probably an already oversubscribed school, with little chance of success unless there is a school nearby with vacancies.

If it were become a matter of choice, then children from two different age years would compete for the available places, with a potential fifteen month age span across each class, lasting throughout each child’s career. Some other European countries adopt a more flexible approach to the issue, often promoting children on the basis of their performance in class, but this would require a complete reorganisation of our school education structure, which could be a long term programme, but is certainly not being suggested by the current proposal.

A fairer solution?
There is a possible way forward available, which is fairer to all. It is a matter of fact that many summer born children are disadvantaged, educationally and socially (by being the youngest in the class), but not all (it certainly did not do me any harm!). The Pupil Premium currently goes to provide extra support for many children who are disadvantaged by deprivation measures. There is a clear case of disadvantage by age here, and so additional (or more likely diverted) funds should in any case be provided to provide support to counter this issue, at the discretion of the school to find the most appropriate way forward.

Last modified on Tuesday, 15 September 2015 23:13

12 comments

  • Comment Link Tuesday, 11 October 2016 14:10 posted by Faye

    Summer born children are at disadvantage in many ways. They already lack time in pre school as they only gain 3 terms of pre school funding compared to 5 terms of a winter born child. How is this fair when they all have to start school together? Not only are they younger in some cases 11 months younger which is a massive difference at the age of 4 but also get less time at pre school ! Being born in the winter months has a massive advantage. The preschool funding should be fair to all going on when you start school every child should be entitled to the same. PETER: I acknowledge the disadvantage, but I repeat no solution has been put forward that will not disadvantage other children. .

  • Comment Link Saturday, 08 October 2016 20:45 posted by Ebonee

    Are you kidding?! Nick Gibb's letter is spot on and I wonder why the children just shouldn't be allowed to start later on if it's in their best interests, without being 'penalised' by having to miss out on Reception for it.

    Kent's education system is responding to his letter and advice disgracefully by blatantly ignoring it and the legislation. PETER: Comments in a Consultation by an es-Minister hardly amounts to legislation! So can you remind me of the legislation that followed the Consultation which Kent is ignoring. I have actually followed the consequences through, rather than adopt the simplistic view. I am sorry that benefits other children rather than yours.

  • Comment Link Saturday, 08 October 2016 12:09 posted by Claire

    So you then believe summerborn children should miss a year of school for going to school at compulsory school
    Age? The correct age?
    It is not about being oldest or youngest, that's a rather juvenile standpoint. It is about being ready, and not missing a year of school because of your birthdate. PETER: I have actually followed the consequences through, rather than adopt the simplistic view. I am sorry that benefits other children rather than yours, although such rationale is hardly juvenile.

  • Comment Link Wednesday, 16 September 2015 22:02 posted by Jenny Martin

    A large portion of your argument rests on the idea that children are disadvantaged by being the youngest in their cohort. There is no evidence for this. The evidence suggests that children are disadvantaged by starting school at an age at which they are unable to access the curriculum. Assuming the curriculum remains consistent there is no reason to assume spring borns will be disadvantaged by the inclusion of older summer borns in their year group.

    Education is not a competition against your peers but an opportunity over a long period of time to acquire skills and knowledge that will enrich your life and help you to contribute to society in some way. Starting school later allows summer born children more opportunity to do this. It doesn't affect other children (other than freeing up resources which would otherwise be used offering additional support to children who are simply too young to be there). PETER: You are wrong. Actually there is considerable evidence that the performances of all children are disadvantaged by the distance of their age from September borns. Both the Kent and Medway 11 plus tests standardise children's performance by the month of their age, with children born in the spring months given additional marks as against older children, so clearly they do perform less well even after 10 years of age. If they were not disdavantaged, no age related standardisation would be necessary.

  • Comment Link Wednesday, 16 September 2015 19:50 posted by Shelly Thompson

    Peter: We do actually have flexibility built into the system. For summer-born children who would be the youngest in the year the flexibility is supposed to exist to start school at 4 or at compulsory school age which is 5. This is a similar level of flexibility that exists in Scotland, Germany, USA etc. Unfortunately some educational authorities, KCC being a prime example, refuse to honour the intention of the admission code and have been routinely forcing these summer born children to start school before they are ready or miss a years education.

    Your point that spring born children will be disadvantaged is entirely without evidence. Unless the syllabus is changed there is no reason to suspect that their level of attainment will be any different just because some summer borns are deferring. In fact they are likely to receive more teacher time which would previously be taken up by summer borns who are struggling. As I pointed out children are disadvantaged by being taught at a developmentally inappropriate level, not by the presents of older children within their cohort.


    All the evidence suggests that the later the starting age the less the correlation between academic success and birth month. So spring borns are less disadvantaged than summer borns and their level of disadvantage is likely to be unaffected by the choice of summer borns to defer. (A choice that should already by law be available to them). PETER: I have consistently made clear there are flexibilities in the system, with KCC policy stating that where the child has clear developmental issues, as distinct from simply being the youngest in the class, "KCC would expect Head Teachers to agree to an out of year group application where it was in the child's best interests". I remain surprised the number is not higher, but if headteachers are not implementing the policy correctly this is the issue that needs to be addressed, not introducing a knee-jerk policy that has massive unintended consequences some of which many people including myself will cause serious problems affecting many more children. You are completely wrong to say that there is no evidence that there is no evidence that spring born children would become disadvantaged. There is a massive industry in age standardised assessment, seen most starkly at 11+. This has established without contradiction that the younger the child, the more there scores in any form of assessment need to be upward age adjusted.

  • Comment Link Tuesday, 15 September 2015 21:23 posted by Sarah

    You've totally missed the point.

    Children do not by law have to start school until they are Compulsory School Age. That means by legal definition, the first term after their 5th birthday.

    So we already have a nice tidy line drawn in the sand right there. Nothing wrong with it. If you want to send your kid early, as long as they turned 4 after August 31st, go nuts. But feel free to wait until they're properly 5.

    BUT. If you choose to wait and send your child at CSA you run the risk, under the previous system, of your child having ONE LESS YEAR of education that everybody else. If they're born from April onwards, they'll be artificially moved up to Year 1 when they start school.

    Surely that's just plain wrong.

    We have a starting age. It should be where they start. Any child going to school for the first time at 5 years of age (or earlier if parents wish) should be allowed each and every year of education. Start at the beginning, and proceed to the end, don't miss any in-between.

    THATS what we're asking for, and that's what Nick Gibb has agreed, after listening to thousands of parents whose children the current system is badly failing. PETER: Thank you for suggesting I have totally missed the point. Actually there are many points to be considered, not just this one. If as a country we agree that sending children at age 4 to school would be to "go nuts" why do we allow it for anyone. Simply raise the age of entry to school a year,far fewer will be "not ready", we are more in step with the rest of Europe, and there will be plenty of classrooms spare to ease the current crisis in school places.Of course there will be a cries of rage from those who wish to send their children to school at this age to make the most of their education, and crisis upon crisis in nursery provision which, in Kent at least is currently not coping with demand. I can't actually see that the free for all that Nick Gibb is proposing to get a quick fix, without looking at the wider implications, makes any sense at all. For reference, the current Kent proposals allow children t remain out of age appropriate year for their whole school career. Its only those children whose parents don't follow the process who are then face the often impossible task of finding a suitable place in Year One, not a route I recommend.,

  • Comment Link Tuesday, 15 September 2015 17:49 posted by Steven Rowe

    Refreshing perspective on this, which to me seems like a sledge hammer to crack a nut. My brother was born 31st August and he's done a lot better for himself than I done (September born).

  • Comment Link Monday, 14 September 2015 22:03 posted by Sandi

    PETER: Apologies, I accidentally deleted your point as I was responding to it. Please feel free to re-send it. KCC already has a clear policy that: "KCC would expect Head Teachers to agree to an out of year group application where it was in the child's best interests" and if, as you assert, this is not working we need to understand why. If the proposed free for all is introduced, there will need to be some sort of process to manage what will be a very complex issue for the benefit of all, not just the summerborns, some of whom I freely acknowledged, are a currently disadvantaged group of children. I make it clear in my article I am not against flexibility throughout the school career of children, and there are examples in other countries we should surely examine first. In particular, I talk with many families moving from Europe who are in such a set-up, who cannot believe the pressures our school system is under, and one thing is clear, they simply have difficulty in comprehending the problems we currently endure with a crisis in school places, which means flexibility for all will simply not work at present.

  • Comment Link Monday, 14 September 2015 21:56 posted by Claire Penter

    As a parent of a summerborn, I don't think the issue for me is oldest of youngest in the class. Certainly the curriculum is progressive. If it starts at an appropriate level and progresses to A levels and beyond then it certainly gives everyone a fair chance. Providing of course they are ready to commence that education. My son was born on 31st August, has a phonological speech delay and was emotionally and socially not ready for education aged just 4. He consequently didn't meet his reception targets and is now struggling in year 1. Compulsory school age is 5 and no child in my opinion should be forced to start a year early. Everyone should be entitled to the same education regardless of whether they choose to start early at 4, or at compulsory school age. I think those who focus on being the oldest or youngest in the class are assuming that all children develop at the same rates and that parents are so narrow minded to delay their children simply because they want them to have a head start. For me it simply isn't about that. It's about wanting to send my children and not set them up to fail because as it has been, asin my sons case, too much too soon. I will fight for my aug12 son to have the education he deserves because I go to sleep every night, sad that I let my 31aug 10 son down. PETER: Surely the KCC policy I have outlined above, if operated professionally should have seen the interests of your son taken into account. I am surprised and concerned the numbers are so small. Is it that the policy is wrong,, it is not working properly, or simply that only a small number are coming forward. Your own experience would be useful. As I have stated in the article: "KCC would expect Head Teachers to agree to an out of year group application where it was in the child's best interests". Why did this not happen in your case?

  • Comment Link Monday, 14 September 2015 21:52 posted by gill

    This is ridiculous. The children who wait this year week free up places for the children who waited last year and Parents will no longer forced to apply for places they don't even want! It's not about being the youngest. All children In class will benefit of children who are not ready are not forced to be there, taking up teachers time and funding that won't be necessary if they just wait until the legal age to begin their education. It's about being too young. Compulsory school age is not 4! PETER: Whatever my view is, it is not ridiculous and the arguments put forward are supported by many in the profession who can see the full implications. There are many sides to this debate, not just that of the parents of the summer born children who are rightly working to remove the disadvantage to their children. I have tried to put a number of points rationally and if you read the article carefully you will find considerable sympathy for your plight. However, any decision as to whether to allow all children to enter school whenever parents wish has, whatever you see as the in the interests of your own child, much bigger implications for all children and needs to be thoroughly examined. I can see nothing in the proposal to suggest this has happened, rather it appears a knee jerk response to one of the many problems that afflict provision of school places.

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