Nick Gibb pledges action to help summer-born children

Ministers have pledged to tackle the issue of some summer-born children being forced to miss the Reception year of school.

Campaigners for summer-born pupils say that if parents feel their offspring are not ready to start school in Reception year because they are so young, they should be allowed to enter Reception the following year.

But some local authorities and schools insist that children should stay with their chronological age group and say that if they are held back they will begin school in Year 1.

Now, schools minister Nick Gibb has vowed to take action on the issue. In a letter to the Commons Education Select Committee, he writes: “I am concerned at the number of cases in which it appears that children are admitted to Year 1 against their parents’ wishes.”

He adds that the revisions to the School Admissions Code made in December last year are intended to ensure that children’s best interests are paramount and that there is transparency for parents.

But the minister says: “Unfortunately, as yet there does not seem to have been any reduction in the number of contentious cases. I have, therefore, asked officials for advice on how this issue may be resolved.”

Most children in England now enter Reception in the September after their fourth birthday. For some summer-born children this could be just days or weeks after they have turned 4 – although children do not legally have to be in school until the term after they turn 5.

Mr Gibb’s letter also points out that, in the past, summer-born children have been more likely to be identified as having special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), although they are likely to be behind their peers “simply by virtue of being younger than them”.

But the letter adds that changes to guidance on identifying SEND has cut the numbers of children recorded in this category because of low attainment.

Neil Carmichael, chair of the select committee, said: “It’s very encouraging to see that the minister recognises the issues raised by the previous education committee.

“Parents told us that there is still a problem here, despite previous work on the School Admissions Code which aimed to clear this up.”

Pauline Hull, who runs the summer-born children website which campaigns on the issue, said: “This will not go away until we are simply allowed to choose whether a child enters school early at age 4, or if a parent wants to wait a year.”

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