From September, all local authorities will be required to offer children a place in Reception in the September following the child's fourth birthday.
The DfE has confirmed that children after their fourth birthday will continue to have the choice of a full-time place in Reception or a part-time place with another early years provider from September.
Parents will also have the option to request a part-time place in Reception until their child reaches statutory school age on their fifth birthday.
However, under plans that were being considered by the previous Labour Government, parents who chose not to send their child to school after their fourth birthday from September 2011, would have had the option of a full-time funded place - that is 25 hours - in a maintained or non-maintained early years setting (News, 16 December 2009).
The DfE spokesperson said, ‘While the previous Government had considered the possibility of children in effect having a choice of a full-time place in Reception or in another provider from the September after their fourth birthday, the legal position remains that there is an entitlement to a full-time place in Reception from the September after the fourth birthday; children whose parents wish to defer taking their place are still entitled to a free place for 15 hours under the free entitlement.’
Purnima Tanuku, chief Executive of National Day Nurseries Association, said, 'The option for children to remain in a nursery until reaching compulsory school age and be funded for 25 hours per week was announced by plans under the previous Government. NDNA was unaware that this proposal was then changed to a part-time place, with discretion for local authorities to increase it if they wish. It is also extremely disappointing for those parents and early years settings who have identified that a child is not ready for school.
'Although families still have the right to defer their child’s entry to school they can only be funded to do so under the current 15 hour arrangement. This puts parents who choose to remain in a nursery at a disadvantage, as they will effectively lose ten hours of free early education and raises implications for true parental choice. Although we are now aware that this option did not go forward into the School Admissions Code we will be raising it as something for the coalition to consider as part of the current review of the code. It is a key way to ensure that children receive the very best start in life and to meet their personal needs, and in ensuring that there is equality across the sector.'