1. ITV Report

Summer-born children can delay school entry by a year

The proposed delay will see some children who have turned four being taught in classes with pupils up to 17 months older. Credit: Dave Thompson/PA Wire

The parents of children born in summer will get the chance to push back the start of their primary school education by a year.

Schools will be ordered to let children born between April 1 and August 31 to begin reception at the age of five under the proposals issued by Schools Minister Nick Gibb.

Describing the current admissions rules as "flawed", he said the changes would "ensure that no child is forced to start school before they are ready".

Schools Minister Nick Gibb said parents can feel pressured to send their child to school before they are ready. Credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

Children usually start school in the September after they turn four, but summer-born pupils have often been placed straight into year one after missing out on the reception year altogether.

Mr Gibb has written an open letter to encourage schools and local authorities to take immediate action in advance of the proposed changes, which will need approval by Parliament after a consultation.

The code (School Admissions Code) requires the admission authority to make a decision on the basis of the circumstances of the case and in the best interests of the child.

It is clear, however, that this system is flawed, with parents and admission authorities often failing to agree on what is in the child's best interests.

– Nick Gibb MP

Mr Gibb said the number of parents who request their child is admitted out of their normal age group is small, "but for these parents the issue will have serious implications".

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The proposals were criticised, though, by a leading teaching union, who said the announced delay "will not solve the problems".

International research indicates that expecting children to follow an overly formal, narrow academic curriculum at too young an age is counter-productive and damaging to their learning.

The increasingly formalised national curriculum and assessment in the crucial first few years of school are the main reasons many parents want to delay the start of school for their summer-born children, so we urge Nick Gibb to modify these to address parental anxieties.

– Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers

Hopes that the delayed school entry could boost exam performances of summer-born pupils was dismissed by an academic, who said "the evidence does not suggest that this will 'level the playing field' for summer-born children".

Our research suggests that it is the age at which children sit their exams that largely determines why summer-born children perform more poorly in national achievement tests, on average, than autumn-born children.

Accounting for a child's age when calculating their grades would solve this problem, but greater flexibility in school starting dates will not.

– Claire Crawford, assistant professor of economics at Warwick University