Your rights – Deferring your child’s primary school place
Most primary schools expect their new intake of reception children to start school in the September following their fourth birthday. However, many schools recognise that some children might find it hard to spend the whole day at school, with some still needing an afternoon nap, so they offer a flexible arrangement where children can attend school for mornings or afternoons during the first term. However, for those summer-born children, attending school full-time come January can still prove difficult for them, with some falling asleep during class or becoming distressed and upset as too much is expected of them.
By law, you can defer your child’s school place until the term after which your child turns five. The admission authority (usually your county council) must offer parents the option of deferring their child’s entry until later in the school year and the school must hold your place for your child until they start. However, there is a slight exception for summer-born children, who, although their official start date would be in the September of Year 1 (ie the first term after their fifth birthday), parents cannot defer their child’s place beyond the school year for which they applied. So, if you did want to defer your child’s place until Year 1, you would have to make a new application to the school through the school’s standard application procedure (or start them a few days before the end of the school year in reception, before they move up to Year 1!).
There are some parents who may wish to defer their child’s school place for reasons other than age, while others may wish their child to start in the year ahead of their peers. For clarification on how such requests are dealt with, My School Gate contacted Julie Jewers at the Department for Education, who told us:
“For developmental and emotional reasons, parents sometimes want their children to be admitted to a higher or lower age group than their peers. This is a decision for the admission authority and the head teacher to take.* Where there are good educational reasons for a child to be placed in a different year group, rather than with children their own age, we would expect any requests from parents to be considered carefully and decisions to be made on the basis of the circumstances of each case. Parents should be advised to think through the implications of such a request. This is because any secondary or middle (junior) school that the child later moves onto will not be obliged to continue to educate the child outside its normal chronological year group.”
If you are struggling to decide whether your child is ready to start full-time education, but you are worried they may miss out if you defer their place for a term or two, it is worth giving some thought to the following facts. In the latest world education ranking report, PISA, only one of the top ten countries, which include South Korea, Finland, Canada, New Zealand and Japan, expect a child to start their education before they are six (and in the case of Finland, and Estonia which ranked tenth, the start age is 7). Two years is a big difference to any child’s development – it is half the life of a four year old. Perhaps the government should reconsider the expectations it places on our youngest children.
*It is worth noting that neither the head nor the admission authority will have had any experience of your child at the point when they are due to start school, so it is highly unlikely that any decision made by either party could be one based on your child’s needs.
If you have deferred your child’s place or your child is in a different year group to their peers, we would like to hear about your experience.