Has your child started school, aged four and a few weeks, and you’ve thought it was just too soon? If so, you’ll be interested to read a new report from Flexible School Admissions for Summer Born Children. According to the organisation, “Following months of research, Michelle Melson and Pauline Hull have published the 87 page report titled: Compulsory School Age in England has been Lowered to 4 through an Unfair and Unlawful Summer Born Admissions Process. The report claims 2012 School Admissions Code is not fit for purpose, and calls on the Education Secretary to amend the Code, and use his powers to intervene in all cases of unlawful, unfair and unreasonable admissions practices in the interim – before Reception places are allocated on April 16, 2014. The report contains numerous examples of unlawful and unfair policies and practices; evidence of inconsistency, contradiction and errors in DfE publications and Ministers’ statements; an extensive Glossary of Legislation that relates to school admissions; an insightful and detailed Admissions History; and examples of the experiences of parents.”
Critically, the Government’s 2012 Code doesn’t clearly specify the compulsory school age in England, which is the term following a child’s 5th birthday (for children born between April 1st and August 31 st 2009 this means the term beginning September 2014), though it does define Reception as an “entry class” to primary school providing education suitable for children aged 5 (and any children who are under or over 5 years old whom it is expedient to educate with pupils of that age). But in reality, parents of summer born children are being forced to choose between one of two distinct ‘choices’:
1. If you want your child to experience Reception class, and have access to up to a full 7 years of primary school education – to include the critical Reception foundation year – you must enrol your child in school at age 4.
2. If you wait to enrol your child at compulsory school age, your child must join Year 1, with access to just 6 years of primary school education, and you take the gamble whether there will be any Year 1 places available in your preferred school at that point – unless you can provide ‘documented evidence’ of ‘exceptional circumstances’ to support your application for Reception class entry (and in fact special ‘medical panels’ have been set up in some areas to assess a child’s ‘eligibility’ for 7 years’ primary school education from age 5).
According to Summer Born Children, under this pressure, the vast majority of parents reluctantly concede to Hobson’s choice 1 above, which is school entry at age 4 – and very often a full year before their child reaches compulsory school age.